Over the years, my coding journey has been sporadic at best. It’s been all over the place as I’ve worked in other careers, mainly illustration and animation. The timeline looks something like this:
I first learned to code BASIC in an early (experimental) elementary school program. That was back when the only computers in the classroom were calculators. That’s right, kids. Writing H-E-L-L-O upside-down in numbers was some pretty rad tech.
1983 – 1990
There was no coding. I may have set the time on a few VCRs, but that’s about it. I didn’t own a computer and my only friend who owned one just wanted to play a flight simulator game. I also watched paint dry once. It was almost more exciting.
I had just joined the USAF, I worked in Air Transportation. You know those ginormous C5 Galaxies where the whole front end swivels up? I used to load pallets of cargo, Hummers and even Apache helicopters onto them. In the warehouse, we had a computer to create a manifest so the crew would be able to calculate fuel, load order, capacity, bearing, etc. The program we used was dead simple and looked like a terminal. There were a few commands we had to learn, so it wasn’t coding, per se.
Later on at another base, we had one of the first Windows 3.x PCs. Because I worked on grave shift, our supervisor who used the office wasn’t there, so we took turns messing around on the computer. I messed around in DOS mostly and played (yup) DOOM. Again, not really coding. Getting there.
My wife and I got our first PC, running Windows. At this point, the World Wide Web was still the Wild West. I had a GeoCities website (ugh, I know) and I learned to do a few things with HTML. From there I decided to build a website from scratch (HTML tables and frames, ahoy!). I was hooked. I loved tweaking and breaking things and I learned a lot.
My passion was still animation and I got a job as a graphic designer for a brand new sign shop. It was a start, anyway. I mostly had the run of the place and I built the shop’s first web site. In fact, I think I spent more time tweaking the shop site and my animation portfolio site than I did actually making signs. Oops.
I won’t spend too much time on this, because this is really about my coding journey. But after a lot of struggle and rejection, I finally landed a job at Nickelodeon in NYC. Woot! So for many years, my focus was on storyboards, animation and video.
But, I started working on a Mac (yay) and I would create and trade little Apple Script applications with my fellow animators. Fun.
2000 – 2007
Still in animation, but I was getting into Flash in a big way – back when it was Macromedia. At the time it was all the rage. If you really wanted to do anything in Flash, you had to learn ActionScript (I put that link there for you kids who are scratching your heads right now).
I first started using WordPress in 2009. Not a lot of code being written early on, but over time I picked up an understanding of how it worked on the back end and became really comfortable with MySQL. At least if someone gave me troubleshooting instructions or a hack, I wasn’t afraid to get into functions.php and do some tweaking.
2012 – 2020
I started a screen printing business. Yup. Again, not a lot of code that needs to be written in the printed apparel biz. I worked freelance graphic design and animation jobs while building it up to a place where it could sustain our family. Mostly.
2020 – present
In the “new normal” of a pandemic where we never really landed on a true normal, I began to take a look at where I was at in my (what some might call) a career. I like screen printing, it feeds my artist’s soul. It’s also very similar to programming where if you’re doing something new, you spend a lot of time debugging. As in, why the hell are those prints washing out?
Also, I turned 50. And while I’m in excellent health, I started thinking about how my body recovered after a hot day of printing 200 shirts. It wasn’t like I was feeling old. It’s just that my shoulders know that I’m not 30 anymore and that message was kinda slow getting to my brain.
I have a friend who travels around the world, working wherever he wants (Malaysia, Brussels, wherever) with his laptop as his only tool. As the world moved into a more commonly remote working situation, I was seeing that the reality for me was working that way myself. I looked around at all the equipment in my shop and all the physical labor it takes to make tees and realized that I can’t do it forever. At some point, I need to hand it off to one of my kids or someone else who really wants it.
So I started writing again, which was great. I have a steady freelance writing gig with more on the way.
My ultimate goal is to learn software development, so I’ll be moving into Python and also Dev methodologies like Agile in the coming months. I’m also learning Computer Science through Brian Harvey’s book and lectures at Berkeley (they’re posted online for free).
That’s my journey up to this blog post. I’ll be writing more about my journey here as I progress. I hope this inspired you a little bit, or at least helped you learn that printing t-shirts is really hard work.