What Made Me a Coder?

So recently I was asked an interesting question by a friend, and I want to really explore the answer to that question in this post.

“So why do you like technology so much… I mean what led up to you being a coder and choosing Computer Science and you know… all things techy?”

At that moment, I didn’t really know how to answer the question because I had never really thought about it. So I gave a general, “I don’t really know, guess I have never really thought about it…” type response. A few days later, this little conversation popped back into my mind, and I felt that I really should know the answer to that question. I feel that it is a valuable use of time for one to reflect on the events in their life that led up to who they are today. So let’s get into it.

Chapter One: Childhood

When I was a wee little chap about eight years old, my focuses in life were quite simple: fun, school, fun, friends, eating, fun, pets, and more friends. I was active all the time, and I was the typical neighborhood kid who was always riding around on a bike with friends going here and there on any number of adventures. As an only child who was home-schooled since I was three, I had a unique lifestyle. I started off the week doing as much of my studies as possible, because I had a set amount of progress I had to make, and if I completed a weeks worth by Tuesday, I could spend the rest of the week doing other things that were usually more enjoyable.

Most of my spare time in these early years was spent with friends, but something amazing happened around this time in my life, the discovery of video games. I had been introduced to the likes of Super Smash Bros Brawl, Lego Star Wars, Robots, and my favorite at the time, Halo 3. I enjoyed these games with my neighborhood friends on a PlayStation 2, and the original Wii, in between our adventures making bamboo swords, playing with Pork-Chop the pot-bellied pig (one of my friend’s pets), some encounters with alligators in the marshes of Southeast Georgia, and of course, making fortresses of sand to the detriment of the grass in our backyards.

At this time, my main interactions with computers consisted of sneaking to the computer early in the morning before school, and playing with a few programs and games that just fascinated me. Specifically, I remember playing numerous platformer and power-ranger games in Internet Explorer (RIP IE). The most notable program I spent time with was Pivot (a stick figure animation app).

The type of basic animations possible with Pivot.

Another fun experience around this time was my first encounter with Linux. One of my Dad’s coworkers came into a situation where he didn’t need a laptop anymore. It ended up being given to me as a gift. I truly didn’t understand the concept of laptops at the time, so I was like:

That laptop was running this weird operating system that made zero sense to me…. Ubuntu. Looking back, I wish I had clung to it and used it as an introduction to Linux, but I never used it and clung to my familiar Windows Vista.

Chapter Two: Simulators

Another fun part of my childhood was my Dad’s work. My parents have a history working for the Government as law enforcement officers & park rangers over a great deal of the United States. At that time in my life, Dad worked at a federal training facility teaching advanced driving techniques, and one of the resources he used was particularly fascinating to me. He used fancy driving simulators which I was able to see and interact with on numerous occasions. These monsters had three huge screens, a whole car dashboard, and they made it feel like you were actually driving a car. Over a few visits and sessions with the simulators helping Dad test training scenarios, I learned how to manipulate the simulations in a couple of ways. Dad taught me how to drive cars “out of the map” and fly them over the simulated cities, but I learned some tricks on my own as well. I learned how to change the sun, wind speed, vehicle type, and other hilarity-ensuing aspects of the simulations. Given the chance, I could turn the road in front of a driver into ice, move the sun to the most blinding position, and burn out the brakes. I found it immensely satisfying to blow cars through the skies with over 9,000 miles per hour of wind, and to drive stop signs, bushes, and rabbits around the city as if they were vehicles.

What it might have felt like if you were inside one of my crazy simulations.

Now you may be wondering why I spent all this time and effort explaining this. I did this, because I believe these events started to show me that computers can do awesome things. Once someone makes that discovery, it is easy to see why their ears might perk up at almost anything computer related. Soon after all this, I realized that through my life, I would always keep learning new cool stuff I could do with computers.

Chapter 3: High School

Let’s fast forward a few years. I am now at the lovely age of thirteen. A little more of a gamer by this time, I have moved to a PlayStation 3, and a bit on PC. I mainly focus on Team Fortress 2, Black Ops 1, and am about a month or so into my exploration of playing MineCraft with friends around my home (which has been in North Carolina for about a year and a half).

MineCraft, was an interesting game. After accruing a somewhat embarrassing amount of hours in game, it started to feel repetitive. Building, playing, sneaking, blowing stuff up, it was all fun, but I needed a change. My good friend and I, created a server of our own, and to do that, we needed to delve into quite a few configuration files that looked a lot like this:

Once we made a server of our own to play together, we had to modify it. We added a ton of mods, and the configuration files got crazy. This long lasting experience of modding MineCraft got me started using commands to control things in computers and editing files for something not school related. It wasn’t really coding, but it felt like it to my muggle mind. I continued playing MineCraft fairly often until my Senior year of High School (and yes, I am proud of that fact #goMinecraft).

Picture courtesy of Minecraftore.com

So, I have just started my first semester of high school and community college through an Early College program. Life is so different than when I was home schooled. I had to start devoting what felt like 120% of my time keeping up in school, and then I had to make an extra 20% to be with friends, family, and of course, play video games.

By this time, I had seen a few websites that looked relatively crappy, and I was curious why. So I put myself through a basic HTML class on Codecademy. As can be expected, it made almost no sense to me. It would be quite a while until I started to understand HTML. Through the entirety of my highschool years, I had made it a habit to pick up different hobbies for a month or so and then move to try something new. Here is a list in a general order of the things I tried over time, and the bold ones ended up sticking with me:

  • Video Gaming
  • BMX Riding and Tricks
  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Gymnastics (totally broke my left arm, kinda halted my interest here)
  • Skateboarding (this also went kinda horribly)
  • Knife Throwing
  • Blow-dart guns
  • Knife collecting

Side Note: I promise I wasn’t troubled or violent, the knives just intrigued me and were kinda cool to have, and somehow these hobbies did not end up horribly.

  • Airsoft Wars
  • Drawing
  • Trumpet, Saxophone, Piano & Drums
  • Website Creation
  • DIY Interesting projects and Artsy things
  • Snow and water skiing
  • Four-Wheeling
  • Reading (Stuck for a while, but kinda fell off Sophomore year)
  • General Knowledge of Computers
  • Photography
  • Off-roading
  • Sound System Technician
  • Longboarding
  • And so many more

So I tried a lot of things, and it became obvious computers and technology in general made sense to me, and more importantly, I enjoyed them. I decided after a year at high school that I wanted to know more, I wanted to know everything I could wrap my head around.

Chapter 4: The Righteous Road

So I like computers, yet I don’t really know much and I’m only 14 and a half. How do I fix that lack of knowledge, while balancing, school, extra curriculars, family, Church, friends, gaming, and this relatively new desire to learn about computers? It was interesting balancing these things at first, and it truly took me until Junior year to get the hang of it.

So we fast forward to Graduation, I have learned quite a bit, I know basic HTML, CSS, and JS (the coding languages to develop websites), and I have done numerous lessons on Codeacademy, I have also watched countless hours of YouTube tutorials and videos about coding and general computer related knowledge. I have made it practice to build little websites for jokes, and have built a website for my parents to use for their business. Not to toot my own horn, but I am proud of what I made considering my skill level back then. I have went back and improved upon the site, but you can find it here for reference:

I had just graduated from early college at seventeen, and am heading for university. Any guesses at what degree I’m shooting for? You guessed it, it’s Computer Science and Engineering.

Chapter Five: Where I Am Now

Now I have a year of university under my belt at one of the countries most prestigious engineering schools. I have learned more in this past year than I can even try to put into words! Classes in UNIX terminals, general Computer Science, Java, and Calculus all went well. Had a few issues with the Physics, but nothing that can’t be overcome. Went back and refactored a ton of old projects I’ve done for people. Made a Personal Github account, explored into genetic algorithms and basic AI, now love Linux and use it for a host of development projects, joined a social community of developers called devRant, and I am now selling my services online as a Freelancer.

Hit Me Up if you need a website or some other techy stuff, odds are that I can help, and I'm cheap. 
My old avatar on devRant

I think I can finally call myself a developer, and as expected, I am always striving to be a lifelong learner. I can’t wait to discover all the ways I can help people, through the use of computers.

Originally by Seth Parrish at medium.com/@Setherizor on May 13, 2017.

Wish you the best

- Seth