Whats your "long story short" journey to programming/design/biz?

Syrinj

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Did anyone else here ever go on IRC chat rooms (think mIRC) back in the 90s-early 2000s? I was like 12ish years old at the time getting my first exposure to scripting when I saw people online running macros in chatrooms and talking about how mp3s were going to replace wav and midi tunes. I started looking up mIRC scripts and running basic script kiddy attacks on other users until i got banned.

Then my 12 year old self started visiting "warez" sites and experimenting with DDoS, brute force attacks, and trying to use some credit card number generators (never worked) to buy porn. I didn't know what I was really doing. It was all playing in the sandbox to me honestly.

Years later, i would be in middle school building WYSIWYG websites (never finished a single one) and learning how to use Adobe Audition (it was called something else back then) to cut loops out of songs so i could host them on my Apache server and d/l them to my flip phone (I could have made a killing. My friends were all over me for this one).

In HS, I was on deviantart showcasing my "creations" I built from all sorts of tutorial sites that all collectively taught me how to use my (jailbroken) Photoshop. I was immediately hoisted into my HS newspaper when they found out through me that you could set typography and import external content in InDesign that would update for you every time you modified the source file and, most importantly, that I was a beast with Photoshop and even knew how to calibrate color settings to the paper being used and the printer's offsets. Immediately, we beat out all the other school newspapers in our county.

Then I got addicted to drugs, got expelled from and arrested at uni, failed again at community college, went to rehab, been riding the life rollercoaster clean ever since. Finished college. Fell into despair about the fucking waste of time and money it was, lucked into the federal government, and now I'm here picking back up the HTML/CSS and learning JS and trying to decide whether I should pickup C as my first programming language or Perl like a friend of mine suggested.

What's your long story made short? (OK, shortISH)
 
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Haha I'll bite since our stories sound kinda similar and now I'm wondering if it's like a pretty standard path...

It probably started around the same time as you - middle school, playing around with Flash games on Newgrounds. This was back when you could download the free trials from Adobe, plug in a serial from a keygen, and voila, you've got Flash for free downloaded straight from the source. I learned more and more and I think by like 7th grade I was teaching the Flash section of my computer class. I was also building real estate property slideshows (outsourced from my brother-in-law) for like multi-million dollar properties all around the country - funny stuff.

I didn't really keep up with that stuff in high school, but my brother-in-law's neighbor at the time was an old head and put us onto WickedFire - I wouldn't put anything into practice until way later, but I lurked with the best of them for years.

I went to college with no plan whatsoever, partied too hard, turned into a nervous wreck, and cut all ties with my family back home for like a year while I lived in east Cleveland on like $800 a month bussing tables in Little Italy.

When I finally moved hom, I answered a CL ad for like an office manager position at this 4-man lead generation shop. It's crazy - I can remember waking up to my phone buzzing and feeling really conflicted about whether to answer or go back to sleep. My life might have been drastically different if I hadn't picked up.

Anyway, this old '80s boiler room stock guy is running this investment lead gen network of like, hundreds of domains and turning over near a $1M+ in yearly revenue. I started working with the webmaster there, automating social stuff and converting custom PHP sites to WordPress. Like 4 months in, the webmaster goes to get retina surgery and just sends back an email that says he can never work with computers again. I'm suddenly in charge of this huge lead gen network. (Funny enough, he sent in a resume to a job I put up a year or so later - I don't blame him for wanting to get out, that place was a trainwreck.)

So for the next two years or so I cut my teeth on everything I could; I had free reign to do whatever I wanted and the whole network was such a shitshow there was nowhere to go but up. The disorganization and the fact that the owner and I were polar opposites personality-wise finally got to me and I had to leave.

I followed a girl out to the west coast; we broke up but I stayed. I got an agency job when I moved here and I've been doing that for three years and change. This past year I've been focused on moving off on my own and that's been exciting; I've had some cool opportunities to build high-profile sites, and now I have the chance to do it completely under my own name. Plus, on my own I can pretty much double my earnings, even after taxes. Maybe if I can halve my workload and keep the same income, I can finally get a project of my own off the ground (yeah right).

So anyway, there seems to be this arc of like a lot of early promise, then a sort of crash-and-burn, and then a redemption, if you could call it that. I know for some of the older guys, this cycle has even repeated a few times. I wonder if it's a common thread for people who get into IM.
 

SmokeTree

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Warning, major TL;DR alert

I started with computers at age 12 or so back in 1984-85. My first programming language was Commodore BASIC (Vic 20 then C64) which was actually based on Microsoft BASIC. My first "Hard Drive" was a special cassette recorder that I saved my programs to. My first programs were little text based adventure games and experiments with creating and moving "sprites". I decided early on that I wanted to work with computers and be a programmer. It wasn't hard to see that personal computers were "the future" and I was addicted to programming from the beginning.

Back in that day, there was no "Internet" but what we did have were BBSes (Bulletin Board Systems) which were basically message boards with a few other features that normally allowed only 1 user online at a time (very few had multiple lines) and we called the BBS numbers and connected directly to the modem on the other end. If you were on the BBS, no one else could connect until you disconnected. You could chat with the Sysop (System Operator/Admin) if they happened to be there at the time. My first modem was a 300 baud modem which I later "upgraded" to a blazing fast 1200 baud Hayes. 300 baud is so slow that I could pretty much read faster than the text would print to the screen. Despite the speed issue, one of the good things about the BBS world was that the Sysops would put up Warez for download and I was able to get quite a few games. I started learning Assembly so I could crack games and give myself infinite lives/ammo. I had mixed results but learned a lot about how the processor worked and about programming on a lower level in general.

Fast forward a few years to the 90s. I continued to learn programming on a 486, starting with C then adding in Visual BASIC (VBA) soon after. I got a job at a pretty big company that needed someone that had experience in Microsoft products like Excel, Word, Access, etc. I started building small Access apps for the various departments because there was a definite need to move away from pen/paper and filing cabinets. The coolest thing I built back then was an Excel/Access app that enabled a mostly blind employee to work in the Call Center at a speed sometimes surpassing that of her coworkers. I was able to interface with hardware that would physically display Braille under her fingers as it read the screen as well as speech synthesis software created especially for the visually impaired. Another app I was particularly proud of was a complete Time Clock and Payroll app that the company used for 2-3 years until the HR department outsourced the payroll. I was also just starting to learn about Networking and becoming familiar with Routers/Switches/etc and also learning about UNIX as there were a couple of SCO and HPUX servers there running various systems used by the company that were supplied by 3rd party vendors. I learned a bit of COBOL too but never put it into much practice, thankfully.

The branch office I worked at closed and we moved to a new corporate office building. I continued to write more and more sophisticated programs and scripts as well as configuring/managing network equipment (Mostly Cisco) for the 15+ branch offices connected with point to point T1 lines. Working with UNIX lead me to PERL which I used to automate various Sysadmin tasks. Later on when Linux became a "thing", I started to write small "Web Apps" that would interface with various Oracle Databases and generate reports for the Execs. Next stop was PHP and MySQL which I used to write an Intranet and Leave Management system for the company. I was also getting into JavaScript at the time as well as C# for Windows desktop apps. I've never been one to restrict myself to only the technologies I currently know, that's how people become obsolete and end up with technical tunnel vision. I will go for what I truly think is best even if it means I have to learn a new language in the process. Hell, I could have stuck with UNIX and never made the transition to Linux and you can see where that road would have lead me...

I used PHP for a few years until I found Ruby (and then Rails) in '04-05 or so. Ruby brought everything I knew full circle and instilled a love and desire for truly "clean" code and use of the DRY (Don't Repeat Yourself) principle that is still a foundation of my style today. I also started using revision control with CVS followed by Subversion then finally Git. A couple of years later, I left that company and started working as an independent developer/consultant where I developed C# desktop apps and Rails apps as well as helping many people and companies configure/harden custom Linux servers.

Today, my languages of choice are Elixir for fault tolerance and concurrency, Go for speed and Nodejs (JavaScript) for all sorts of utilities. I plan to use this combo for years to come. Although I've been working as a "one man show" for years now and have built everything from e-Commerce to automated scraper/leadgen systems, I'd love to find someone to work with on a project or two, preferably a SaaS type thing.
 
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Ryuzaki

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I was always stuck to the computer growing up. The earliest I remember was using Windows 3.1 and playing games on floppy disc. I recall when we finally got the internet and a 14.4k modem. I used to be jealous because my grandmother had a 56.6k modem and she never used it. I never could get my parents to upgrade. Eventually I learned a lot of it was up to me and I began adding RAM and things like that to suit my needs. I used to get in trouble when my parents realized they hadn't gotten any phone calls all day (because I was tying up the phone line all the time).

During that period, literally in my parent's dark grimy basement, I built my first sites on the WYSIWYG Geocities and Angelfire editors. I wish I knew the dates. I was 13-14 years old. I started learning simple HTML & CSS then.

Eventually I started messing with film and film editing, which led to me wanting to overdub music and voices on some of it, which led to me ultimately building a website for a business I was starting surrounding that. That led to me building a pretty successful forum and then e-commerce site where I sold my own projects. Back then it was care free, and coincidentally I did fairly well since fear of failure and focusing on money had nothing to do with it.

Ultimately I was distracted by college, finished a degree and quit a career path, went back for a second degree and dominated in another career path. During that time, I was able to go full time with internet marketing, mainly SEO. I've been full time since, which I'm guessing has been... 7-8 years. It's hard to keep track without referring to dates where I've moved to a new home.

From there, I got penalized by Google. I had built 30 micro-niche sites, immaculately built with customized pre-built themes. I then took care of all the content myself. But ultimately you realize you don't have time to build links to 30 sites, so naturally I had turned to spamming to recoup some of the time and labor on those sites. I lost them, of course, but made some nice money in the meantime.

Then I took the last bit of money I had and started a PBN and sold it as a service, and folded all the money back into it to grow it. It got pretty huge and was very secure in terms of footprints, but it got busted after people I vetted to purchase later turned to shoddy PBNs and got mine caught up in the mix. They also started spraying the worst spam on the planet at my PBNs, using them as Tier 2's. I made a lot of money there, refunded a ton at the end, and completely moved to the White Hat arena.

I had already been in the White Hat world, but because my PBN activity was so bad Google ended up penalizing everything I had built, including unrelated stuff and even sites I didn't own any more. I eventually got the good ones unpenalized and earning and sold them for a nice chunck of change. Fast forward a year...

It was then, with culmination of me learning all about the front-end design world that I started my current main project, where I coded everything from the ground up. It's earning me my livelihood now, but people watched me go from zero cash flow and bootstrapping the entire project on here to a full time income in a matter of a couple years. It's very possible with SEO if you grind hard, and even quicker if you have some starting capital and marketing chops. I had zero capital.

During this whole fiasco I was working on front-end design and mastering Wordpress. Then I flexed my skills on my own site while also earning extra cash by building sites for others, spreading by word of mouth. That leads me to the next stage that I'm preparing now which will ultimately be a more formal website building business, while continuing to work on my own projects. The idea is this will provide a ton of cash flow in order to start getting a team of content people together for my project.
 

turbin3

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My first start with computers came at the end of the 80's, with a 286. A 386 followed shortly thereafter. I cut my teeth on DOS, probably 4.0 or so. The first game I remember was a golf game, probably one of the first DOS games ever. I was instantly hooked.

My first programming language was QBasic. Along the same lines as so many others, I first started by trying to hack up games to make them do what I want. Gorillas was the first. Manipulating the exterior ballistics of banana throwing trajectories was my drug. I'm overselling that, but it was fun for a short period of time to hack around with some of those DOS games. It really drove home the point that you can make things with computers and they can have an effect.

It was around this time I got Windows 3.0. I was so excited, but the command line was and always will be my home. It was sometime between Windows 3.0 and 3.1 that a 1200 baud modem came along. Oh how sweet the sound of dialup!

It was during this period of time, at the beginning of the 90's (probably '90-91) that I was introduced to BBS. I value that experience more than any other. It was a point in time and experience we, as a people, aren't ever going back to. I do feel a bit sad that younger generations never had the chance to experience those simple pleasures. Stuff like spending 48 hours downloading an INSANELY large shareware demo (1 megabyte. No joke. LOL). They get to grow up experience their own unique tech things though. No better, no worse, just different.

BBS was a revelation to me. You could do things and create things. And other people could see them. They could even talk with you about them. You could even "chat" about it. It was crazy to think I could be there in my home, connected to a box in a university on the other side of the country, sending messages to another user in an entirely different country! Those dialup phone bills were just as glorious. Like over $1,000 (sometimes) glorious... :wink:

One of my regrets is that it took me a long time to find my focus and accomplish anything. I started to get a bit more focus in the mid to late 90's, first starting with HTML and CSS. I did more with that than anything else for quite awhile. Static sites of course, which I think it's safe to say I have a passion for.

Towards the end of the 90's, I was introduced to Java and JavaScript. At that point in time, the whole thing pretty much put me off of programming for a number of years. To this day, I still hate Java with a passion. Only more recently have I started to make peace with JavaScript since it's certainly not going anywhere anytime soon.

Overall, I've done more with PHP and Python than anything else, as far as actual programming languages go. I never really liked PHP for OCD reasons. Python has been, by far, my most productive language, though it has its idiosyncrasies too.

PHP with forums and Wordpress sites is what I've made the most money with. Awhile back I sold one of my longest-running assets; a site I built over nearly 10 years. It was a bittersweet ending, but the time had come to move on.

More recently, I've been interested in getting back to basics and simplifying (hopefully) certain things. For example, OS distributions are getting insane these days. I've quite liked the idea of getting more heavily into the BSD realm. The UNIX philosophy, as well as its tools and BSD-derivative tools are refreshing to revisit in contrast to the framework and language churn that goes on these days.

For example, people think they need to spin up AWS clusters to do even basic "big data" analysis these days. In some cases, maybe grep + awk + sed or other UNIX-like tools could get the job done on the command line. In some cases it might even do the job far faster. I like that.

Anyways, I think what the near future holds for me is getting back to the basics. I see myself getting back into a handful of static sites I will build for the long term. I do have ideas for a saas-type platform, but the ideas have not matured enough so I'm keeping that on the backburner.