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For the Love of Code


Chris Wanstrath of github fame wrote a very intriguing gist the other day, which was picked up on proggit and other geek news sites. Naturally, being a geek myself, I picked up the feed via RSS on my phone, and started geeking out.

Chris starts out with a laundry list of tips on how to become a famous blogger and Rails rock star, and I hate to admit that he had me with the first paragraph. Being an obscure, faceless blogger I was totally eating up his ideas and making a big, long mental checklist of TODOs, planning out my trail to fame and glory as I followed his sage advice. Let’s see… I need to work on my blog template, get a domain name, start contributing to open source code, go to Ruby/Rails conferences… some other stuff… and whammo! I’m a frickin’ rock star!

Yeah, I was pretty into the blog post, having already spent my geek cred before it hatched. Or something.

Much to my surprise, Chris did a quick 180 and started talking up the true Ruby heroes, those who care about the code first and blog as an afterthought. Those people are the real rock stars, the people who are in it for the pure, unadulterated love of code.

Personally, I look up to the good developers. The people who don’t care about their RSS subscription count, who blog as an afterthought. People who aren’t concerned with how many Twitter followers they have and work on their pet project every week because they love it. Who’ve contributed to Rails for years because it’s their passion and aren’t overly concerned with their speaker’s bio.

People who care about code, first and foremost.

This paragraph hit me like a baseball bat to the temple. The way he crafted the post was so masterful, I literally groaned out loud… I walked right into that one.

Anyways, the rest of his post is fascinating and motivating, you should go read it right after you finish this page.

Thinking about Chris’s post and coding for code itself made me think about my own experiences with code, specifically how I got started and how I got hooked. So buckle down, strap in, and keep reading – queue a long boring personal story… right… now.

My first exposure to programming was about 15 yrs ago, when my little brother came home from the library with a stack of computer books. We sat down in awe and flipped through the mystical pages filled with illegible characters and symbols, and finally settled on a sample program written in QBASIC. We spent a good half hour typing up the sample program in edit.exe, and gave it a whirl. Now QBASIC is a ghastly language written to confuse and befuddle those unfortunate enough to come within 100 yards… seriously, it has got to be one of the worst languages on the planet. But I digress.

The program was supposed to be some kind of logic puzzle, you would input the dimensions of a cube. Then the computer would calculate the surface area and tell you how many other boxes could fit inside, or some other stupid thing.

I was surprised and dissapointed by the program, I kept waiting for it to pop up a 3D picture of the boxes and graphically show how to stack the boxes inside each other. Instead I was greeted by some ugly text in the DOS terminal, and that was lame.

I mean, the program was at least 75 lines, that’s enough lines to do anything with a computer, right?

I walked away in frustration, vowing to never code again.

Two years later, my brother got into ASM fires (anyone remember those? Good ole days) and I was hooked. We spent hour after hour hacking on the pallettes, experimenting with different blending techniques, etc. QBASIC logic puzzles? Meh. ASM fires and voxel engines? Now that’s hot. We spent an entire summer once writing a 3D “tank wars” clone, and that was awesome. I had become hooked on code.

But it really wasn’t until years later, after numerous more programs, successes, and failures that I realized I had grown to love code. Code is a language, a culture, a way of living. Once it gets under your skin, it’s there to stay. You can take a coder away from his computer, stick him on a desert island, and he’ll count the days by marking notches in the nearest tree branch… in binary.

Great code comes from the minds of those who code for code itself, from projects driven by passionate, motivated people who love the code they write.

So here’s to coding… for the love of code itself.

If you have a great story about your first experience coding or with code you loved creating, post it below for old time’s sake 🙂

Atto

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