My Coding Journey

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My Coding Journey

Andy Milne's photo
Andy Milne
·Oct 5, 2021·

6 min read

Table of contents

  • Intro
  • Where it all began
  • Homebrew
  • Living the Dream
  • WTF!?

Intro

I realise that writing my first blog post to talk about my career is perhaps a bit self-centred, but my reasoning behind it is quite simple - I have been in this business for a long time, and maybe this post will help explain my future posts, and some of the decisions I've made with my projects.

Where it all began

I have been a coding professional for over 15 years (at the time of writing this), but that's not where my journey began.

When I was a child, my dad used to take us to work with him on days we didn't have school. He was a haulage driver, and would travel the country delivering building materials to construction sites, and carrying office furniture. He worked on big office moves such as EA, Bullfrog (if you remember them, kudos to you), and even Microsoft. And I'll never forget the way he described these 20-something-year-olds who worked for these companies in the early 90's. Ripped jeans, baggy T-Shirts, and driving Ferraris. They were rock stars! And they made their money by sitting at a desk and mashing away at a keyboard. As a very impressionable kid, I was awe-struck when he was telling me about these "slightly older kids", as he put it.

Then, on one fateful "bring your kid to work day", we were having a break at a greasy spoon café in a random pocket of London's lower-class slums. While we were waiting, something caught my eye. Something moving very fast, and something very blue. It was an arcade cabinet with the Sega Mega-Drive (or Genesis, depending on where you're from) edition of the mighty Sonic the Hedgehog. I didn't play it, we didn't have enough time, but I watched the game play itself with it's idle demo, and I was amazed. I had never seen anything like it! I asked my dad if we could get one (an arcade cabinet), and he said "we'll see what Santa brings you for Christmas".

Well, Santa definitely delivered! I spent the next few months playing Sonic and Sonic 2 whenever I had the chance. I became obsessed with the little Spike Ball. To this day, Sonic 3 & Knuckles remains one of my favourite games.

But from the moment I saw that arcade cabinet, the glowing screen made up of a whopping 256 colours, that incredible 30FPS that made Sonic's movement seem lifelike, I knew that was my calling, that one day I will become a game developer, and become those office rock stars who drove super cars and wore baggy T-Shirts and ripped jeans. That's the life I wanted.

Homebrew

I spent the next 6 years drawing my own characters, baddies, levels, logos, everything, to make my own video game. My dad was lucky enough to get hold of a copy of the incredible "Klik and Play", a simple drag-and-drop, event driven game creation kit. It blew my mind. For the first time, I was able to make my ideas come to life! As time went on, I bought newer, more powerful game creation tools, such as "The Games Factory" (Klik and Play's successor), and DarkBasic. This was my first venture into the world of programming. And it changed my life.

While DarkBasic certainly was a powerful language, there were certain limitations that made it difficult to reach my career goals. For instance, the IDE was actually a game window, stuck in 640x480 resolution, which on my 1280,1024 resolution monitor, was a bit of an eyesore. So I upgraded to DarkBasic Pro, and bought about half a dozen "teach yourself how to code in 21 days" books, ranging from C++ to HTML, to Flash (RIP old buddy). From the age of 15, I became a self taught programmer and web developer.

Unfortunately for me, at that time, and in that corner of the world, there was very little I could do to fulfil my dream. I couldn't afford to host a website (despite my vast portfolio of projects on GeoCities), nor could I start working with a professional company, thanks to child-labour laws. So upon finishing school, I went to college, and earned a BTEC in Software Development, with Distinction. This effectively meant I could go to any University in the country. But instead, I opted to work. In 2006, the same college offered me a role as an internal web developer. My dream had finally come true.

Living the Dream

I was there for 7 years, and I learned so much, more than I learned at college, more than any books could have taught me, and it was an amazing, and educational experience (not just because it was at a college). On the job, I learned Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, C#, SharePoint, ASP.NET, and more. I dabbled in a bit of freelance work too, helping colleagues with work beyond my pay-grade, and building websites for friends' businesses.

I even spent time learning Unity and Unreal Engine 3 during my spare time, creating and releasing 3 (admittedly awful) games. My thirst for knowledge and the latest coding techniques was insatiable.

I loved my job. My career was going great. I had several clients for freelance work, as well as my stable, full-time, and well paid job. But as time went on, the politics of merging companies meant it was time for me to move on.

So I joined the Fire Service. No, not as a fire-fighter - I lacked several requisites for that, such as being physically fit, strong, and not a complete coward. But working there gave me an incredible sense of family and unity within a working environment.

However my tenure there was short lived, as I was only there for 11 months, due to a death in the family. The silver lining there was it meant I would relocate to the beautiful Cornish countryside. After taking a short break to renovate my new abode, I went to University to study Computing, Networking, and Software Development. There, I learned how to build, and maintain a Network using Cisco technology (something I have yet to use since, but that’s through choice - networking is not my forté!), which again, I achieved a Distinction in.

Afterwards, I became full-time employed for a company that specialises in healthcare and clinical software. Again, I learned a lot of new tech and tricks that helped further my career. And then the Pandemic hit.

WTF!?

Like many people, I was affected by it, with the loss of my dad - the man who helped me achieve all of my goals and ambitions, who believed in me every step of the way, was cruelly taken away by Covid19, and it hit me a lot harder than I could ever have anticipated.

The regular lockdowns didn’t help matters either, and so I thought it would benefit me and my family if I stopped working full-time to focus on my children, and help them with their home-schooling, because honestly, at this point, I was pretty much burned-out. The thought of getting up every day and sitting at my computer was filling me with dread.

A year has passed. I have that fire in my belly again where I am ready and willing to learn new technology, build new and exciting websites, and have fun with code again!

So that’s my journey! I hope now you have some sort of understanding of where I’ve come from, what I’ve done, why I’ve done it, and where I plan to go next. I don’t know what the future holds, but I can’t wait to find out!

Thanks for reading! I promise my next blog post will be more educational and tech-heavy, rather than a personal history.

See you next time!

 
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