This is just me retrospecting how I learn to program.
Somehow, I don’t remember much about my (very) early years on computer. But let me try to remember some that I do remember.
6-7 years old (1996-1997)
The first computer I saw was in my grandfather’s house which is just next to my house.
At that time, I did not know English, not by much. But I know how to pronounce “Window” in English, and “95” in my mother tongue language (Malay). I forgot how old I was at that time… maybe I was 6 or 7 years old?
I didn’t start programming at that time.
It just me starting to know what computer is all about.
9 years old (1999)
Maybe when I was 9 years old, my father bought a computer, costing around MYR5,000 (if my memory serves me right) at that time. AMD K6 Duron is the processor if I’m not mistaken. That’s when my hand started to play around the computer. I plugged and unplugged, deleted, and then since I thought the computer is too slow, I tried deleting the Windows folder hoping that the computer go faster.
Obviously it didn’t.
There’s so many dll error missing when it booted up.
I did not have internet at that time.
Got myself a Pokemon season 1 CD in the nearby night market. And that’s my first CD that I popped into that computer.
And then the computer disappear and I don’t know where it went.
Just some boy trying to play around the computer.
Don’t have Internet here. So it’s just me trying to explore the computer.
11-12 years old (2001-2002)
When I was around 11 years old (2001), my father bought a computer where it was situated near the telephone. But then, at first, we did not have Internet line.
I saw that the telephone plug is similar to the one behind the computer. I plugged it in. Wow. It fits!
So what’s next?
I tried changing the settings. Ah, that sound of “something”. I don’t know what that sounds is all about.
Maybe I’ve read somewhere or talked to a friend, because after that I know that it’s used to connect to the Internet.
Somehow I asked a friend of mine, is it possible for me to connect to Internet using his username/password? Because he has internet access.
And yeah, somehow, he gave it to me. And that’s my first time online, through the Internet, courtesy of my friend. At 4 cents per minute.
At first I used it to download Counter-Strike’s map into my computer. It took a few minutes to download few MB worth of maps. Tried playing online as well with 300+m/s ping. But somehow it felt, liberating.
But the bill is too much, and got a scolding because of that bill.
I probably stumbled upon HTML around this time.
I did not remember where I read the tutorial, but maybe there’s a lot of websites that I refer too. There’s this http://meyerweb.com/eric/css/edge/ that I always looked at.
I think I uploaded one of my first web pages up into Geocities and I do my tinkering there.
So I did some digging, learning about table, table header. <b>, <i> and the likes. I think I copy pasted CSS too.
Another language that I played around with is the Visual Basic 6. ActiveX control. I never thought it is easy to make your own browser using IE control! with VB 6 I horsed around the GUI, and maybe downloaded some source codes too. I tried and just see the codes. What works? So I just see if there’s anything that I can make out of reading those lines.
I think I first encountered PHP around this time, but my understanding of English is not advanced enough to actually install it and play around with it inside the computer. I tried copy pasted the example but it doesn’t work inside my computer. I started wanting to host my website so I search for free web hosting. The first one doesn’t have any MySQL database. So I keep searching. I don’t remember any details though, because I’ve tried many and there’s not one that sticks to the memory.
I probably installed PHP Nuke around this time though. Playing around with the addons and such.
I think I learned about emulator too around this time. (Or earlier). So I kinda used the search engine to find out about it. I played Harvest Moon for PS1 on my computer.
2004-2007 (14-17 years old)
When I was 14 years old, I was involved with a forum of a web hosting. WebDiscussion. Actually, there’s an earlier one, but I forgot the name. But here, the free web hosting basically has more mysql databases that I need so I tend to remember this.
In that forum, I also in contact with a Singaporean and an Israeli where we discuss about technology, file sharing, history, and stuffs. All of these are done through MSN Messenger. I just take their contacts from that forum and just started saying, “hi” and chatting away.
This is where I started to explore more with PHP. I don’t think I really dig deep, I am more into editing the configuration files and tinker with whatever I stumble into at that time. I think my house got our first broadband at that time. Wow. 1mbps per second. It sure is fast for us.
I’m not sure when I started using XAMPP. (I think I started using WAMP way after that)
But then, it makes things easy. So I can do my development inside the computer.
I guess I liked trying things. I played around with Photoshop, Illustrator, or whatever things that I can download off the Internet even though the family’s computer that I used is just a Pentium 4 computer.
I downloaded tutorials, scripts, and software. I tried things.
Internet access become one out of two ways for me to get information, besides the newspapers. I learned about making money, business, religions, philosophy, and many areas of life. I became acquainted with self-development, learning how to learn, and whatever my mind takes me to, I probably googled it.
Sometimes when you take a look at things broadly, it means you don’t really master it well. You know more, but you don’t the specific thing that well.
But, there are things that I keep going back too, like Visual Studio as well as PHP.
I probably pay for my first domain around this time too, I blogged about anime and comics that I watched and read every time I went back from school. I am using WordPress for my blogging purpose.
Another thing that I started learning is copywriting. Persuading people through words. I don’t remember how I stumbled into it. I probably read it somewhere and decided to click through those affiliate links given on those emails or websites.
2008-2009 (18-19 years old)
Around this time I messed around with WordPress a bit more deeply here. Plugins and themes. I tried and tested them.
I edit the WordPress theme to suit my needs here. Somehow I am more interested in doing business around this time. Learned how to make a “minisite” too (a simple one page site that people use to sell things – if you saw one of those extremely long one page site, I make those around this time).
2010-2013 (20-23 years old)
I was in the university here. Just play around with PHP here. Somehow I didn’t play with Visual Studio around here.
I also bought some domains more thinking that I could make money from it. Well, I made few cents from Adsense.
I keep myself updated with technologies through blogs. I read Smashing Magazine and Copyblogger a lot around this time.
In my 5th semester, my friends and I entered an innovation competition. We create a ticketing system except that it’s for the bus. In Malaysia, it’s kind of hard to buy a bus ticket online. So we were thinking, what if we combine the easiness of buying a cinema ticket and buying bus ticket? So we create a system that is just 4 steps to buy a ticket.
We present that and we won the best prototype award.
(Sidenote: you can see the similar concept by Catch that Bus http://www.catchthatbus.com/, should have pursued this idea to MVP!)
I landed an internship with a software vendor company. One of my tasks is to create a WordPress plugin. A membership site WP plugin.
I also migrated a website of a well known Korean cafe franchise from Malaysia to Singapore.
When I think back, I do a lot of WordPress customisation from my internship. I also created a website for a research company when I interned here.
But there’s one time where I need to create a whole system from scratch, and I need to do it in C# .Net. The system is a clinics appointment system. Fortunately I managed to do it.
I guess the way I learn is to tackle things whatever I faced. Instead of saying no, I somehow say, “let me figure that out”.
I looked up tutorial on how to make apps. At first I started with a hybrid kind of app (HTML, CSS, JS) but now I make native apps. Right now I also started to get deep with all the languages I am using right now which is Java.
There’s this satisfaction of making things that people use. Something of value. Something that I think can bring value to people out there.
I still remember the feeling when I submitted an app to Play Store. The feeling of joy that I got out of it. It’s like I got my part of work is done and I can see what people think about it. What I think I do is that I try to understand and after that, I try to implement. I think I am just someone who try to understand and build something that I believe is good.
And that’s how I learn programming and the adventures around the computer.
But obviously it won’t stop here. Right now I am more into developing apps, but I think I’ll learn about JS with all these new developments too. There’s so much out there – and I can learn about it.