News & Updates
About That.. Thank you, Dad
Article # 287 February 3rd, 2011
A long time ago, when the internet was reserved to only the big universities, and the military, I began my fascination with developing websites. During the early times, when color monitors weren’t even available yet, and the only way to access a computer was with a 300 baud modem and a terminal program, I learned the magic of websites, and how powerful they were in sharing information and ideas.
My father was a [middle school] teacher, and instilled in me early in life, to continue to strive to learn new things, encouraging me and my brothers to stretch our capabilities and challenge our minds with education and gaining knowledge. He loved reading, and I grew up reading a lot of computer manuals, once he brought home our first home computer, and Atari 400 (with membrane keyboard and 4k ram).
Everything I could get my hands on dealing with computers, hardware, software, and eventually – the code that drove the World Wide Web. HTML to me was a panacea of uncharted waters and I was immersed in it early – I studied modem protocols, ANSI code, Basic, Qbasic even assembler languages. C++ was fun, but back then, no one had a course on that, and we learned what we could from software magazines and tech rags. But HTML was easy, and I studied web pages and learned from those that were ahead of me.
I remember vividly as a young man, on weekends, staying up way past 3am to work on a game that we had hand-typed into the Atari 800 XL computer, in Basic and trying to trace the code to learn what each line of code did, and how making changes to it effected the overall outcome of the program. Many nights, instead of going out with friends and doing teenage things, I spent my time crouched over a computer keyboard, obsessed with a fascination of computing that could never be quelled.
Today, it’s virtual computers, terabytes of storage on your desktop, fiber optic connections at light speed, and super computers the size of a laptop…
One day came when I had to explain my work to someone who wasn’t as well-versed as myself, and I became mute – I didn’t know how to tell them how the application worked in a way they would understand it. It was indeed a language barrier; geek-speak to English! How could I translate it? How indeed?
This frustration went on for some time, until I began to use my sense of imagination and converted geek-speak to laymen terms in the form of metaphors, substituting the technical to something a laymen person could relate to.
For example, when describing “Disk De fragmentation” to a friend, I said “Defragging the hard drive is like a having closet full of shoes. You throw your shoes into the closet, and eventually they get mixed up with the other shoes. It takes a while to find the pair, sorting through a hundred shoes on the floor of your closet. Performing a “defragment” of your shoes aligns them in pairs, grouped by color, type and needs. Sneakers are grouped together, dress shoes together, slippers, etc. When you go to the closet, you find your shoes faster, knowing that they are in a place that you put them.”
Having used this metaphor, to describe this technical process, I was able to describe it to someone who doesn’t have the technical speak I do, and from there, I learned that I could communicate with the laymen folk about computing in a way we both could grasp – and it still works today.
When talking to my clients about the inner workings of a web application, I create a way to display it in their mind in a form they can understand, and it makes things go much smoother as the web design process continues. Along with this ‘talent’ I am also able to backwards-engineer their needs from their terms to technical terms, which provides me with an awesome ability to translate ideas into a living web application or web page.
While it’s not something I can put on my resume, I definitely feel that without this ability, the communication between my clients and myself would be much more clouded, and time wasted during the overall design process. I love working with people directly, and listening to their needs, and discussing their ideas and seeing it come to life on the screen. It’s a passion that I feel my father taught me, and I owe all I have to his dedication to learning, and continuing to strive to become something greater every day.
Thank you, Dad.