Learning the Web

Today I went to Barnes and Noble for the first time in years. I really didn’t need anything because I’ve been getting all of my books online, via Amazon mostly, but I was in the area and decided to drop in and check out the programming section for nostalgia’s sake. You see, back when I was first learning how to be a programmer my options for literature were a little limited. I didn’t have internet access at home, and the local library didn’t have any programming books, and even on the public computers with internet access the articles on programming were few and far between, so I would sit for hours in the local Barnes and Noble and read a chapter at a time, sometimes writing code on napkins or in a notebook to take home. (And I don’t mean netbooks either, I’m talking Mead Composition notebooks crammed in with my Algebra assignments).

It was here I read all those Andre LeMothe books, Sam’s Teach Yourself C++ In 21 Days, and the O’reilly books – curled up in the aisle, feeling slightly criminal, especially since it was years before I ever actually bought a book.

Anyway, when I went back today, you know what I saw? Only a single shelf for native C++ developers.

And you know what else? It’s not just bookstores. Look at LinkedIn job boards, or any major software development career page. Web development is the place to be and engineers who don’t know at least the basics of relational database theory or some PHP or Java or Flash / ActionScript are at a real disadvantage in the current job market. That’s not to say there aren’t any jobs for us native coders, but it really does close a lot to doors for you.

Now, I’ll be honest, there was certainly a phase in my life where I looked down on web developers with disdain. The 13 year old Howard would turn up his nose and laugh at those script kiddies and their PHPs and SQLs and whatnot. Real programmers wrote native code! But the truth is, an older, wiser, and less-of-an-asshole Howard realizes that the mistake has been his all along. Aside from being an elitist prick, I had inadvertently violated the single cardinal rule of programming:

Never stop learning.

It’s simple really, I’ve avoided learning any web technology for over a decade. Sure, I wrote PHP back when it was PHP3. I think I used it to use “includes” in my otherwise HTML webpage. I used java once to rotate a banner. I learned HTML before

tags were popular (actually, I’m still a little fuzzy on how that works exactly, I just used raw tables). For all intents and purposes, despite the many years I’ve considered myself a good programmer – I’m a miserable excuse for a web developer. I’ve stagnated. I found a place where I’m comfortable, and I’ve dug myself a rut.

Nothing gets you out of a rut quite like public embarrassment.

So I come before you today a noob web developer looking to cut his teeth and learn to write some web technology. It’s going to be shockingly revealing, a little bit shameful, but hopefully a little entertaining and educational along the way. It’s going to be part oped, part tutorial, and part diary – and with any luck at some point, I might actually be able to count myself among the web development community.

See you soon!
-Howard

2 thoughts on “Learning the Web

  1. Interested idea, as someone planning to learn native programming this summer, after starting off with web languages I never thought of it all like this! I still cant really call myself a wed programmer though, sure I know html & css. But my PHP doesn’t go far beyond making WordPress themes. That was my comfort zone where I dug myself in.

    1. Thats better than me! Wayne and I did a bit of a hack job on this word press theme, maybe I should start with getting an RSS feed link working…

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