When I was young and finally got a go on my Dad’s ZX Spectrum I quickly became bored of playing games and wanted to see what else I could do with it.
Well, it wasn’t long before I got addicted to programming and was spending nearly all my spare time creating little graphics and making them bounce around the screen, and drawing pretty patterns with lines and mathematical equations.
My parents thought it was a fad and that I was spending too much time on it and confiscated the computer. I did the wrong thing here, I rebelled and dropped out, so much so that my parents and I clashed in a big way and I left home. I was feeling bored and frustrated and only recently realised why. I had found something I really enjoyed doing, and enjoyed learning about without being forced but it was taken away.
I’ve read articles on other programmers that became succesful whos parents did a similar thing as they also thought it was a fad, but these people went behind their parents back and found a way to continue programming and tinkering. I suppose it helps having friends who where in to it too, having somewhere else to go and continue their own studying, but I didn’t have that when I was a kid. I was from a council estate where not many people even had a computer.
I can’t blame my folks. I’m not a Christian but I like some of the things the bible has to say and I believe in honouring your mother and father. Rebbeling made more more sociable, I learnt to be creative in other ways by playing the didjeridoo and hand-drums and will have a go at most other instruments and find fun in it. I play the guitar a bit too. I can’t imagine what I would have been like if I’d stayed in front of the computer, although I do know that it is unlikely I would be as skint as I am now.
I can’t help though, but think what life may have been like had they not taken the computer away when I had so much enthusiasm for it. Had they known how digital the world would become I doubt they would have done the same thing.
I wonder if there’s anyone else here that had a similar experience with their parents and how did they deal with it?
I had similar but different experiences to you when I was growing up.
We got our first computer (coincidentally also a Spectrum - ours was a Sinclair Spectrum +2 with 128k RAM ) when I was just 4 years old. Even to this day my Dad will tell you how he was sat there fumbling with the instructions and I just picked it up and managed to get it working (I think you had to type “LOAD” or something like that. I just read the first part of the manual and went straight for it). I was obsessed with computer games when I was a kid. I was obsessed to such an extent that it was quite unhealthy at times. I didn’t like socialising with other kids my own age, and instead preferred to sit infront of my computer playing games all the time.
I wanted to understand how the games were made, but this was before the internet and I had no idea what I was even looking for. I didn’t even know what the term “programming” really meant, as I had nobody to ask, so the games that appeared on my screen when I inserted a disk into my beloved Amiga 500 were a complete mystery to me.
There were times when my computer was confiscated from me and I actually started to come out of my shell a bit. The weird thing was though, as soon as I started becoming more outgoing, my mum would give me the computer back, and I’d end up doing the same thing all over again. By the time I got to uni I was getting better at socialising with people and it wasn’t as big a problem, but I still deliberately chose something non computer related (I studied History at uni) so that I’d (hopefully) be forced to go out and meet girls
In the end I got my degree, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I had a friend who was a professional web developer (this must have been about 6 years ago now), and when I was round at his place one night and we’d been drinking a bit of beer, I asked him how a website understands who a user is when he/she is logged in. That turned into a brief introduction from him into PHP/Mysql, and from there I started building my own sites and grew in knowledge and experience over time. I moved to Wales with my Dad and brother about 5 years ago, and after moving down there called up loads of web development companies. Nobody was interested in someone with so little experience, but some took my number and one of them did actually call me back maybe a month or so later. I somehow manged to do some freelance work for them from home (and made more money doing that than I was making in the crappy call-centre I was working in full time), and eventually, when I moved back home to Manchester, I managed to get a job doing it (after briefly trying to set up my own business with the same friend who gave me that early introduction to web development - turns out we both sucked at sales though).
Since then I’ve had a few more jobs and I’m now a senior developer and doing alright I guess, although I always want to push myself further.
I responded to one of your comments earlier today (yesterday actually if you wanna get technical about it because it’s now 12.20am hehe), and I feel a little bad now because I criticised the code as being messy. The thing is though, it was actually messy, but please don’t stop reading because I’d like this to be a positive message to you. I had a little look at some of your other posts and you seem like a really nice guy who has a passion but for whatever reason hasn’t (yet) been able to capitalise on it.
I thought it might be good to give you some constructive criticism, because there’s nothing stopping you from getting a decent paid job doing this stuff and working with other like-minded people on cool stuff.
You mentioned above that you often wonder what would have happened if your computer hadn’t been taken away when you were younger and you could have obsessed with your programming. Here’s the thing though - you now have access to something that didn’t even exist (certainly not in its current form) when you were a kid - the internet itself of course. The vast amount of information you are now able to access is mind boggling. You can learn whatever you want to learn and you can push yourself to become better at anything.
For that reason, I thought I’d give you some pointers on how you might be able to turn it around so that you can actually get a job doing this stuff that you love so much:
Firstly, and I think you might not like this one, but I’ll say it anyway: drop the livescript stuff. I know you’re clearly proud of your achievements with it, and while it is a cool thing to have done, nobody in the industry is going to want to employ you to write livescript code. The effect you have on there (loading elements dynamically without refreshing the whole page) can be done easily with an ajax capable library like jQuery these days. You’re holding yourself back by sticking to this. Trust me.
I’d also say that having seen some of your php code, it’s quite messy and not well organised. Now I don’t mean this in a nasty way, so please don’t take it as some kind of personal insult. You would do really well to learn about object oriented code, and to learn how to organise your code so that it is tidier and more modular. It’s great that you’ve spent so much time getting the page load times down on your site, but when we’re talking a difference in milliseconds, unless you are facebook, it really doesn’t matter that much. A far greater business need (and something that is more likely to get you a job) would be being able to write code that can adapt to changing conditions in a neat way. It is possible to write such code (btw I still feel like I’m learning this all the time myself, and while I can write code that I consider to be scaleable and neat, I’m sure in a year I’ll look back at what I’m writing now and wonder wtf I’m doing).
I’d recommend investing some time learning a modern MVC based framework like Zend. Just try going to a jobsite like reed.co.uk or monster.co.uk and search for “Zend” there. Loads of results will come back. There’s a reason for it, and if you invest your time and efforts into learning something like Zend instead of working on your livescript stuff, you’ll not only find your mind being blown by some of these great new concepts, but you’ll be learning skills that could result in getting a job and finally being able to do what you love for a living.
And this: PHP mentoring - these guys will assign a mentor to you who will give up his own free time to help you out and help you build up your skills. It’s a really great resource and I hope you’ll look into it.
Finally, chin up old chap! You’re really not that old - I have a friend who worked with me until recently. He was 45 years old when he got his first php job (started teaching himself at 43), and believe it or not he’s just got a job as a Senior Dev at a place in Sheffield. It’s never too late to push yourself forward matey
I’m not going to continue the discussion on livescript here. I’ve been working with it since before 2005 and shown you a tiny snippet of what I do with it. Believe me, in the future my main project will not work without it. Well, it will but will require too much extra work.
I was only trying to offer the guy some friendly advice. He was saying how he’s not had much luck finding a job, so I gave him advice that would help him out. It’s his own fault if his stubbornness is to blame.
My parents were quite busy to worry much about what I did… thank goodness that I was such a good girl
The truth is that there were too many people in my house and they didn’t have to worry about me feeling isolated… on the contratry, I’ve always been looking for peace and quite even today. I guess because the amount of noise that we had… we were loud, believe me. And we were a large family so no way to escape and have a little time to yourself.
It also had its good points. I started with computers because my older brother brougth some home in the early 80’s. He wanted to open an academy… I got to play with them and was really curious about the whole thing. All I did was playing (they didn’t really want me to touch them, they were for work so…)
I always liked computers and always have curiosity about them in all the ways possible (hardware, software, programming…) I’ve worked in and out of the computer world, jumping from one job to the next. Sometimes I worked with computers, sometimes I didn’t. Still, I always tried to help when a colleague had a problem with his computer and of course, at home, I would play with them and learn something new.
Now I’m in a period when I’m working with computers… but again my role is a bit strange, I can’t say that I work as a programmer although I’m programming most of the day… but I can’t say that I’m in Customer support role because althoguh I do that too I only do it in specific days… Like in most of my jobs… I end up doing what’s necessary right at that particular moment, doing something completely different in the next
I guess having older siblings that were in the computer business helped your parents realise there was a future in it. How did your parents react to your older brother’s interest in computers before they became as popular as they did?
My parents are from the steel industry, my dad worked in a foundry with molten metal all his life. I think they were hoping I would follow in his footsteps but with the industry in such decline in the west I’m glad I didn’t!
Well, I think that they were kind of happy that there was something that could give them a little bit of free time… there were 10 of us!
On the other hand, they were quite open minded as long as it didn’t hurt anyone and they have quite a bit of vision. My father was a scientist and computers involved quite a bit of math if you headed for programming careers so they thought that in the worst case scenario we would know our maths
Wow, that’s a big family! One of 3 myself, and I was the only one good at maths, always one of the top and occassionally the top of my year at school. Did your dad show interest in what you did on the computer? Mine didn’t, and I think that’s what pushed me a bit in the early years, thinking ‘if he didn’t like that, he must like this’, but he never did. He didn’t seem to have the time to even look. Had they taken an interest I don’t think they would have confiscated the computer
Love web pages that have mathematics in though. My zooming map zoomed from mouse position before Google and Bing who centered and zoomed which is a lot easier (they both do it now though), and my online guitar used to use the mathematics for compound interest to pitch shift 6 notes to make the other 39. I’ve had to change it now though to 45 notes as speeding up a track doesn’t change the pitch anymore
My mother’s started to show some interest now which was why I went for mashupmaze rather than mishmashmaze for my next project. Got to honour the parents no matter what eh