I'm gonna tell you a little story.
Maybe not that little. Buckle in.
It's 1995. I'm 25 years old, freshly out of the military, and back home. After a few bungled starts I end up working for a computer hardware vendor. My childhood friend is across the street from me, and one day I go to visit and discover that he has a computer with screens I've never seen before.
"What in the hell is that?" I ask him.
"Linux," he answers, only glancing up slightly because I'm clearly interrupting him as he tippy-tapped on a black terminal screen. The interface was foreign to me, and a pair of googly eyes followed his mouse around.
"How much does it cost?" I ask, remembering that I'd just straight up ganked a copy of Windows 95 for my late father because I couldn't afford it.
Something pawed away at me that I just couldn't ignore, and I asked the first question that would turn my life on its axis. "How can I get a copy of that?"
"Bring me 45 floppy disks." I thought he was joking. He wasn't. "Well, do you want it, or not?"
I went home and ransacked everything, then went to the local drug store and bought up the difference. About four hours later, I had my own copy of Slackware Linux, kernel 1.0.13. As I left to return home, he locked eyes with me and handed me a book on Slackware. "It's a good thing you like to read because you're about to do a lot of it. This isn't like Windows. You have to earn your way with a Unix."
This is the point where I slightly backtrack and tell you what I interrupted him working on because it's very germane to the story.
His father was a programmer for a large hospital in Atlanta. His older brother worked there as well. During the time I was in the Army, he had learned to program. He was applying for his first entry-level position.
So he wrote code.
His code took a cover letter and resume, formatted in LaTeX, and rolled through a list of 500 Atlanta companies. Using Seyon, it dialed the fax number, and if there was a connection, it fed it through. If not, it went to the back of the list.
This continued nonstop until 8:00 AM.
He was employed the following week as a C Programmer, making double what I was as a hardware technician. I was both jealous and in awe, and I had destroyed two monitors trying to get XFree86 set up.
I learned to compile code. I felt like a badass. But I couldn't get my brain around actually writing code. When it came to coding, I was a bad date even "Hello, World" wouldn't get caught in an elevator with.
I felt like an idiot. A faker.
I became an Administrator, then a network engineer, then a Senior Network Engineer. I was a Sun Solaris god. (no, like they gave me the email address firstname.lastname@example.org because of it)
Still could not code for jack shit. I even got mentally ghosted trying to script Korn shell. It just looked like jibberish to me. I have begged, borrowed, and delegated a lot of coding and scripting in my time.
This was a problem because there were things I wanted my workstations to do, and I couldn't make them do what I wanted because I couldn't get my brain to accept the castor oil of code, so in the end, I still felt like a damned moron whilst the dudes next to me hacked on whatever their little hearts desired.
If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm incredibly neuro-divergent. I have ADHD to the point where the local cats walk by and hiss, "I know, goddammit, I know. Quit looking at me, pretend I'm not here and get back to work!" I also have a few other weird wirings. As I have been diagnosed in the past, Asperger's and a few other things I have doubts about.
What I do know is that I have pattern recognition I can't escape that helps me "see" networks and databases. They lay out in my head like a spidery web. SNMP MIBs were like that for me, too. The OIDs as well.
You would think I could code, right?
My other best friend got rich coding. But he's an awesome mf-er too, and both of them richly deserve the success they've had. I just couldn't figure out what in the hell was wrong with me.
I decided to take Python at Georgia Tech, partly because of the Linux and personal family connections, a few weekends in the studio on WREKage (if you're a Ramblin' Wreck, you know), and got through about half of that before I gave up the ghost and chased what I knew I knew.
That's why I'm a Michigan State Spartan, and my ring says Journalism on it.
Here lately the old cravings have come back. I want things my way. I want to build things I can use and things others can gain value from. I dabbled in more Python. It was okay.
Then an engineer crossed my YouTube path.
I'd seen her before. I dismissed her. Not because of her gender, but because I knew for a stone-cold hard fact that I sucked at the whole C++ thing. I saw her again in my feed today. A 10-hour course.
Screw it. I have ten hours to burn today.
I'm halfway through it. I want to cry. Methods like switch/case unfold in my brain like the feathers in a bird's wing. I've already shifted my old Python code to C++ and it fucking compiles!
Before the end of the first hour, I had successfully written a short program to take a blood glucose reading, convert it to A1C, and then categorize that number into what danger level it belonged to. (Yeah. I'm diabetic, too. The number's important.)
It finally clicked for me, and I'm blaming her for that. I can now see the code, and I have my visions and drive back. She has a style that doesn't over-complicate things, and for me on my scattered planet over here, I am incredibly grateful. What I finally have in my hand is the hard proof of a dream that I held in my hand for the first time about 26 years ago.
This might all sound like a bit much, but for you readers that remember BBS systems and blue boxes, and the mark of pride wearing a Bell Systems jacket lifted from a previous (and very angry) tech, you know how big this is. You've all had that information gap you couldn't get to make sense and couldn't fill in with a backhoe and a team of dump trucks.
I know how to get at the rest of it once I complete the course, and I have a runway to work from. Finally, I feel like I'm a member of the club I tried to gain access to back in 1995. This is a skill set I have wanted to provide my own daughter so she can build and create whatever she wants, whenever she wants it.
Now I can.
To Saldina Nurak, Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your time was not wasted.