The Teacher Link to heading

I had a teacher in elementary school who bravely embarked upon a bold educational experiment: they showed an entire class of single-digit-aged children how to build a basic website with no tools other than Notepad, the built-in Windows text editor.

This was cool: as a child, I felt like I knew how to build a website, even though I had no idea how the internet actually worked yet.

My early “Adopt a Monster” page

In hindight, this “Adopt a Monster” page was the first multi-page javascript form flow I’ve ever worked on.

It wasn’t long before I’d replaced our family PC’s default homepage with a simple query, asked by a scrolling text banner at the top (as was appropriate for the era): Where do you want to go today?

Selecting the “Normal” homepage would take you to Internet Explorer’s default Microsoft-hosted portal. Selecting “Oliver’s Custom Homepage,” on the other hand, would bring you to my hand-built portal, complete with autoplaying music, a marquee scroller, and even a discrete password box at the bottom for super-top-secret functionalities. Oh yes, and a comic strip I’d made in 1995’s flavour of MS Paint.

Oliver’s Tentacle Cartoon

The fine comic talents of an 11 year-old who was given access to Microsoft Paint

Exposure to what was driving websites of the time was significant: “code” didn’t seem scary to me as a kid. Instead, it seemed cool.

Many computers at the time was that many games were still DOS-based. This meant that sometimes you had to execute commands to run a game, occasionally even exiting the Windows environment entirely. Being stuck in DOS entirely before launching the game could be a scary place, and I definitely remember getting totally lost in the black command prompt - unable to figure out how to even get back into Windows without flipping the power switch on the PC off and on again.

Let’s be honest, as a child, a black screen with a blinking cursor is a bit scary. But when one of your teenaged peers types in a few magic commands and fires up a game like DESCENT, suddenly, you really have a new motivation to learn what commands to type to get the game running.

Next in the Series: Self-Studying Software Development in the 90’s Link to heading