Hello, World! An Origin Story
To be honest, this post feels a bit weird to write (type?) as it's just about me and I find it pretty awkward being self-reflective and even struggle remembering how I ended up here at times, but hopefully it serves as an introduction into who I am, where I'm from and what has shaped me - all of which affects how I see problems and how I solve them.
My fascination with technology stems back to my early childhood - my family had a Commodore 64 and my first exposure to gaming was through Pong and Frogger. I was probably a bit too young to really grasp the concept of what I was doing at the time, and little did I know that it would spark a lifelong love of video games which in turn would evolve into a passion for computers and programming.
Once I hit primary school, I must have been a painful child and heckled my parents a lot because I remember having pretty much all of the different consoles at some point in time. I think I was about 6 years old and we got a Sega Master System - my dad was the Alex The Kidd guru and even managed to finish it, which still blows my mind because he was never a huge gamer. Through the earlier years we had a NES (complete with Duck Hunt and the gun), SNES, Mega Drive (Genesis) and Gameboy - I have so many fond memories of playing the old RPG's that graced those systems, getting lost in the virtual worlds and vibing to the 8-bit music.
We got a PC at some point in this period but I can't remember exactly when, but it definitely wasn't a Windows machine as it had a strange operating system that escapes my mind, but did allow me to play games like Doom and Wolfenstein 3D. I had some year-older school friends who lived close by and were really into PC's - they introduced me to titles such as the Ultima series. I was always on the hunt for 3.5" floppy disks I could borrow off people to go home and fire up my A: drive and start gaming.
Along with gaming and computers, I was also obsessed with surfing and music - two passions which have persisted to this day. I competed in a fair few surfing competitions in my youth and did reasonably well at times and managed to snag a few sponsors, but being a pretty anxious human by nature, the pressure of competing and the brutal expectations I'd place on myself were a bit hard for me to handle and I never pursued it intensely. I have some good friends who did and have done very well for themselves on the world stage, so I get to live vicariously through them and their accomplishments.
I have a love for heavy music, so naturally I wanted to be a guitar hero, and I particularly wanted to emulate my musical idol Slash (from Guns N' Roses). I started playing guitar in early high school and got lessons and have played relatively casually ever since. When stuck with a coding problem now, I routinely grab my guitar and play some random riff repeatedly in a meditative-like state until some kind of solution pops into my head.
During high school, I distinctly remember going to one of my best friends Angus' house and playing Metal Gear Solid on the PSX for the first time. It was that experience where my whole perception of gaming changed - it went from being a fun, whimsical thing where nothing was too serious - to a mature, immersive and cinematic experience. I was drawn into the story and characters in a way that I'd never felt before and I started to realise how much a meticulously crafted experience could affect you on such a human level - pulling at your heartstrings when a beloved character suffers a cruel fate, or the feeling of elation of "saving the world" when you take down the tyrannical final boss.
My mind was made up. I wanted to make games.
Not long after this time and in the final years of high school, it came time to choose our electives for grade 11/12. Our school offered a unit called "Software Design and Development" which I took and I loved it. We used to learn basic computer science theory and how to approach pseudo-code, and then we'd use our knowledge to make programs using Microsoft Visual Basic 6. Some classmates and myself would use the constraints of that visual editor to make our own (very rudimentary) games, such as a racing game where we turned regular form buttons into cars and input labels to create tracks, and trying to figure out the logic behind creating a control scheme using our math knowledge. I'd also toy with animation software, game building programs and anything else I could get my hands on - I was a sponge for anything new and exciting.
At university I started off studying a double degree of Information Technology and Accounting. I liked numbers and thought some crossover with finance would be a good fit, but after about a year I realised that it wasn't what I was passionate about and decided to go all in on the IT degree, in which I majored in Software Engineering. We got experience in Java and C++ and were exposed to many and varied computer science topics which taught me how vast the landscape of computing really was. You could spend your whole life studying a tiny subsection of one branch of computing and still only scratch the surface of what's possible - and that is what (to me) is so appealing about technology in general. There is always something new to learn, with things advancing so rapidly that you always feel 1-step behind at all times. Some consider this a curse rather than a blessing, and the pursuit of staying relevant/current certainly can be taxing, but it's refreshing to be involved in an industry where you'll always have something fresh to be excited about. I like to think it helps keep you young at heart, even if you lose all your hair trying to find that one typo in your code...
While studying at uni, I also embarked on a pretty wild personal adventure. During the last year of high school, a few of my friends had pondered if it was possible to go surfing every day for a year. I decided to take up the challenge and on the 1st of January the following year, I started surfing every day. It took a little bit of getting into the routine of going each and every day, but 1 day turned into 10, 10 turned into 100 and before I knew it, I had (somehow) managed to surf every day for a year without missing a single day. I was proud of myself for being disciplined enough to go regardless of how bad the surf was, how bad the weather was, or how sick I was feeling (luckily very infrequently), and since I had no reason to stop - I kept going. I ended up surfing every day for about 4 years and 9 months straight before I pulled the pin. Roughly 1700 days after starting, I consciously decided to not go one day after the reflection that it had turned into a chore and I was losing interest in one of my lifelong passions. Aside from the surfing practice I got during that time, the main thing I had proved to myself was that I could do whatever I put my mind to if I wanted it bad enough.
Since leaving university, I've basically been obsessed with the web. I love the idea of creating apps that can run in the browser, making them cross-platform and even able to be used offline when using progressive web app technologies. Anyone with a good idea can build a solution and potentially reach millions of people from all walks of life and in all corners of the globe. The possibilities of what we can do on the web is advancing day by day, with technical committees advancing specifications and browser vendors adding new api's. We can target native device functionality which helps to slightly bridge the gap to native app performance, and PWA's can now be added to (some) app stores.