In spring of 1995, while using a borrowed computer (I didn’t own one myself) in the undergraduate lab, I noticed a new icon in the main window. It was a blue globe with a snake-like S shape around it. It was labeled Mosaic. It was an early version and you couldn’t type addresses in the URL field, so I took to just navigating from the start page, which was some generic NCSA welcome page. It was difficult to get very far, but eventually I found all sorts of things that interested me.
In Fall of 1995, I had a BS degree under my belt but felt I needed to know more, so I started work on a Masters. My parents bought me the first computer I’d had in many years, and with a Netcom dialup at home, I began to explore. Soon after, I felt I could do more than simply read stuff online — I wanted to create stuff as well.
About a week before christmas, I searched for HTML books and ended up buying Creating Your Own Netscape Web Pages for myself. On a lonely Christmas night, I cracked open the book at 11pm and began to read it while seated at my desk, in front of my computer. It was the only computer book I ever read every single page of, from start to finish, in a single sitting. It taught me HTML, the basics of FTP, Paint Shop Pro, and the Hot Dog Pro text editor.
There’s this moment somewhere around 3am on December 26, 1995 that I can recall vividly. I’ve only had a handful of moments like this in my entire life. I’m sitting there writing code for a couple hours. A bunch of special words bounded by greater than and less than symbols — stuff that seems meaningless. I press save, open a web browser, and suddenly it’s a rich and colorful page with all sorts of stuff on it. My first web page wasn’t a simple Hello World — I had graphics, backgrounds, colors, and loads of links. It took a few tries to get just right, but when it was complete, I was transformed.
I recall a similar moment the first time I used two-point perspective in a 9th grade art class. You follow some rules and go through some motions that feel mechanical and suddenly you end up with art.
By 6am that morning, I was exhausted and went to sleep. Soon after that night I remember telling a friend that I wasn’t sure I should be in grad school — that maybe this new web thing was taking off and I could somehow make a living building websites. I finished grad school, but soon after I got to quit my first job and do just that. Follow my dream building websites.
It’s now been ten years since that day and thanks to a mixture of luck, patience, and perseverance I’m in a wonderful place. I’m happy, content, and fulfilled. My personal and professional life are better than they’ve ever been.
And I’m still spending much of my day, every day, building web pages.