How I Became a Software Developer Part 1

I don’t know if it’s all the nostalgia for the 90s going around lately, but I’ve had a bunch of conversations with other developers that got me thinking about my early years in web development. Back in 1998 I made tons of random websites with hilarious CSS, absolutely insane JavaScript, and crazy background wallpapers. I made them mostly with Geocities and Angelfire, and they were part of so many web rings.

I had lots of sites, but my main sites were my Xanga and LiveJournal. Those were the ones people actually knew about because everyone had a Xanga or a LiveJournal, or sometimes both like I did. I remember them being like mini-social networks.

It’s a little bit harder to remember when I made the first app or app-like thing. I don’t think it got made until 2001 or 2002 because around then I managed to get my own domain name for free. I think I got it by taking a survey about the internet. Can’t remember the specifics though.

I had been getting tired of the design constraints of Xanga— there was only so much you could do with it. The thing I made is considered a pretty classic first app these days: a blog app. Thing. App-thing. I say app-thing because it wasn’t exactly an app— it was a tiny bit of PHP with some vanilla JavaScript thrown in to make it easier to use. It had no database and I’m 99% sure it wrote directly to some files on wherever I was hosting it. It had no admin view, but it did have basic auth and wow was that ever unsafe because it sent the password in plaintext.

This was before the days of responsive, so it had a fixed layout made of a big image and a smaller repeating background image that I blended into a solid background color. Most likely I used tables to line everything up correctly. Clicking the link to add a new post resulted in a pop up window, which sounds horrifying now, though I remember it as standard for the early 2000s. Later on I got fancy and added pagination and an edit post option. There was also a basic commenting system that I made from scratch.

To this day, I have no idea how I pulled it off with the knowledge I had at the time. I wish I still had the code, but it disappeared with my beloved old Gateway 2000.