I was 5 or 6 when my parents bought our first computer. A Sinclair ZX Spectrum +2. It came with a light-gun, and a joystick. No monitor – back in those days these things were more like consoles, and connected to your TV. It had a whopping 128 kilobytes of memory.
We traded games in the mail with my brother in South Africa – my first exposure to game piracy.
And I learned to program.
Finding My Feet
After arriving in Perth, while browsing the shelves of the local library, I found a ZX Spectrum book. Not knowing exactly what it was, but realising the book was for to the computer we had at home, I asked The Mothership (my mother) about it. We borrowed the book, and that was the first step in a life long journey.
Over the following weeks, The Mothership walked me through the principles of programming. She had used computers in earlier jobs, and so had a good understanding of it. By computers I mean hulking mainframes that filled rooms and required government funding to buy. She also had the same ‘well that works, but what if I do this’ mentality that I have now. It wasn’t enough to know something worked. We had to know how it worked, and why.
So together, The Mothership and I learned to program in Sinclair Basic. We made text-based adventure games. We wrote “screen savers” that drew shapes on the screen at random.
And I was hooked.
Starting with Visual Basic 4, I began writing Windows applications. I made CD Burning software, custom email clients, and interactive music/video applications. I moved on to creating websites for friends and family, and although I loved it, I never dreamed that this passion would be something I could make a career of, so it took me a while to take it seriously.
While doing work experience in high school I found a placement at the Fremantle Maritime Museum – I was still set on being a deep-sea diver, exploring shipwrecks. I spent more time fixing scanners and Mac computers than I did anything related to Maritime Archaeology. But it didn’t upset me. Instead, I realised this was what I wanted to do.
I changed focus at that point, shifting from history and world geography to IT and Computing. I applied for a Computer Science major at university, but swapped to a Multimedia/Communications major instead – I didn’t want to work with hardware or networking, just software. While studying, I took a job as a junior system administrator and developer for an ISP, and that’s where my career began.
The Long Run
I’ve now been working in web development full-time for 10 years, having been a casual developer for the 10 years more than that. I love what I do. It’s creative, it’s structured, and logical, and it’s expressive.
I wouldn’t be the geek I am today if it weren’t for The Mothership though. She instilled in me a curiosity for knowledge, and nurtured a love of technology.