When I first learned to write HTML

December 3, 2023

Today is a milestone day. It is my fifth anniversary of working for LGND. I started my relationship with LGND in August 2017 as a contractor. But I did not join the team as a full-time employee until December 3, 2018. I shared that story before in a post last year where I celebrated 5 years of working with LGND.

Because I have already shared my LGND story in the past, today I want to share the story of how I got started on this journey of working on the Web.

It was June 1997. My wife and I were preparing to move overseas to Hungary in three months. At the time, we were missionaries with Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as Cru). We had been fully engaged in fundraising in preparation for our year-long assignment. We had shared a need for a laptop computer to take with us and one of our partners gave us an older company laptop that they were replacing.

We had just returned home for fund-raising when the computer arrived in the mail. The computer we had owned was a Mac Classic with a 24-baud modem. The new laptop had a better modem and an operating system that supported a graphic Web browser. I signed up for CompuServe and was now able to surf the Web at home instead of having to go to a computer lab on campus (we were at K-State at the time).

I had been interested in learning how to build a webpage ever since I browsed in a computer lab on campus two years earlier. I had no idea how to build a page or if you needed a specific software program to build one.

One of the first days that I logged onto CompuServe, I found a series of tutorials on how to build a webpage. All I needed was Notepad and a web browser. It was much simpler than I had realized. I learned some very basic HTML. I would write code in Notepad and then open up the page in Internet Explorer 4. It was so exciting.

I have done some computer programming in the past. I participated in a two-week summer program at our district’s Vo-Tech school when I was in middle school or junior high. The most memorable thing about that experience was playing a text-based adventure game at the end of each day. It was a game that would ask you to make decisions and then describe to you what happened.

During my senior year of high school, I took a computer programming class for a semester. I even had a Radio Shack computer at home that I enjoyed playing around with.

But this was much more thrilling. I remember that I got lost in it (flow) and before I knew it, the entire day had gone by. When I finished the tutorials, I bought a book written by the same author at the bookstore in our local mall. The book was Creating Cool HTML 4 Web Pages by Dave Taylor. I spent a lot of time over the next few days consuming the book and having fun creating my pages.

I have been keeping a journal for over 30 years. I recently found the journal I was writing in when I learned how to program with HTML. I said very little about the experience but did mention I was having a lot of fun. I probably didn’t write too much because I had spent so much of the day lost in learning this new skill. Makes sense that I didn’t make time to write about it.

But I wish that I had. I wish that I could relive the excitement and joy that engaging in this undiscovered country had brought to me. I wish I had written more through the years about the experiences I had when I learned new things and discovered new tools that unlocked more creative expression.

This post was inspired by the first chapter of Dan Cederholm’s book, Twenty Bits I Learned About Making Websites. I read the book over a year ago but recently picked it up to reread it. In the first chapter, Dan shares the astonishment of seeing someone “talk” to a computer on his first day of working at an Internet Service Provider. It made me think of the astonishment and wonder of the first times that I built Web pages.

I have continued to have moments of astonishment over the years working on the Web. I remember the astonishment when I built my first responsive site. I remember my astonishment when I learned how to use CSS Grid for layout. I continue to have those moments as I encounter and learn how to use new tools and techniques that continue to expand my creative vision.

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This post is part of my attempt to write something every day for a month. I was inspired by Michelle Barker, who recently participated in National Blog Posting Month.

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