Why I Code

I’ve been wondering recently what the first line of code I ever wrote was and I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t know and I can’t even remember why I started coding in the first place let alone what I wrote. 

I assume it was some HTML (if that even counts), it was probably around 8 years ago and was likely to be able to make a film review website. Back then coding was simply a means to an end, I really wanted to show the world my thoughtful and hilarious take on niche and blockbuster films. However, my frustrations with CSS’s float property quite quickly put a stop to that. Instead WordPress was enough to scratch my movie critiquing itch so anyone unlucky enough to find my site would still have to put up with my dubious writings. But like my interest in coding, that review website fizzled out and was eventually lost forever. 

There was then a few years where I never wrote a single line of code until my first year at university studying Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE). We had a module where we were taught C and suddenly it all started to make sense.

I’m quite a technically minded person, I like computers and am always asked by family and friends to fix their endless list of “techy” problems. But I’d never really been able to get a computer to do exactly what I wanted. Not until those C lessons during my first year. I suddenly became able to create things and get the computer to fulfil my exact wishes. If I wanted it to continuously print out random obscenities until it crashed I could do that. It was my first taste of the real power of coding. 

That interest continued to deepen and then I stumbled upon Python. A simple and intuitive language that’s also incredibly powerful; a fantastic combination that helped my interest grow to the next level. I remember using it to automatically log into my Facebook account and search for my friend, only to then post a certain sticker in his profile picture’s comment section. 15,000 comments later and I was just about satisfied. 

Hardly a noble use of my new found skills, but it enforced in me one of the reasons why I love coding without me even realising. 

That reason is the feedback loop. When you’re coding you can get immediate feedback of what you’ve written. This was a far cry from the slow moving world of EEE. When I was in the moment, I’d found my flow, I was creating and learning and solving actual problems. Even during the many frustrations the powerful feeling of making distinct, tangible steps forward was too much to turn me away. 

Then after a few months I could look back at all the progress I’d made and see the outer feedback loop at work. The long term loop of progress. I realised that I’d created something from nothing, something that someone could get real value from and that I could turn into a real career to solve some of life’s largest problems. 

For my final year project at university I was tasked with a computer vision problem. I had to make a program that could allow a computer to detect fire safety equipment. And I managed to do it. After almost 3 years of slowly building up my coding knowledge I could look back and be able to say that I had made a computer see!

This rewarding feedback loop of creativity, problem solving and progression is why I love coding and is why I can’t see my life without some kind of coding in it.


Date: 30/04/2020

Location: Peterborough, UK