Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Improving the startup eco-system in Dallas

This is my response to Alex's post, Building a better startup eco-system in Dallas.

I think part of the problem is that there doesn't appear to be much of a "hacker" culture here in Dallas. Today's hackers could be tomorrow's investors (assuming they can get their companies off the ground). I've gone out looking for fellow hackers at several local user group meetings. I even did a presentation on Android at the Dallas Tech Fest in the hopes of drawing some out. I've only met one person, Will (aka The Black Dilbert) who'd I potentially call a hacker (I still don't know him very well, but he seems cool.)

By hacker, I mean, you're the opposite of a shopcoder. You don't stop coding at 5:00 pm. You go home and work on stuff that you find fun and interesting. You're likely contribute to open source projects. You probably have a website where others can download your code. I know there has to be more of you in Dallas than what I've seen, where are you guys? We need to get together and share ideas.

I get jealous when my friend Dustin, who lives Santa Clara, tells me about hacker-centric events like the Supper Happy Dev House.

Why can't we have events like this in Dallas? I'd host one myself if I had the space available, does anyone want to step up and host/sponser an all night hackathon?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The impact of the internet.

I was just ruminating about how my life could have evolved differently, had the internet been available in it's present form when I was growing up. My son is just 10 months old, and the internet will have a huge impact on his development.

I'm struggling to remember how old I was when I wrote my first real computer programs. My earliest adventures in programming were on my father's TRS-80 Model IV. This was probably in 1983/84 which puts me at around 9 or 10 years old. It came with a very simple introduction to programming manual, and I picked it up and learned the basics of basic in a few days. The earliest programs I wrote were very simple, I think one of my favorites was a text based wrestling game, where you could be Ric Flair or something like that. My little brother really enjoyed playing it, watching wrestling was a favorite pastime.

When I was in my early teens, my father bought an 8086 PC. It came with MS-DOS (can't remember the version), and GW-BASIC. I kept writing silly things in basic. I used basic for a very long time, it was all I knew.

Eventually I heard about this language called C, I don't remember where or when I heard about it, but I thought it was such a cool name for a programming language. I remember going to a book store and looking at some books about C, but I didn't have access to a compiler or any other tools. The idea of programming without line numbers fascinated me. I wanted to learn more about this thing called a "compiler".

It wasn't until much later, when I was in college, that I was finally able to get my hands on all this cool stuff and start learning to write code without line numbers. First in pascal, and then later in C and C++.

Nowadays, almost anyone can download free compilers and developer tools from the internet, there are a plethora of great free tutorials online to teach you just about anything you want to know. Jumping back to when I was about 13 years old, if I had access to these resources in 1987, I can only imagine the impact it would have had on me. I could have potentially already been an experienced programmer by the time I entered college. Maybe I would have even written a game or two back when one person could do something interesting on the limited hardware of the day.

Of course, there's always the chance that instead of learning C at age 13, I would have discovered what many consider to be the true purpose of the internet, porn, and never written a line of code again!!!

I guess the point I'm trying to make, is that the internet has made the world smaller in many ways. My son is going to be exposed to a far more diverse set of ideas and information than I ever had access to when I was growing up. I want to help him leverage this vast resource as much as possible. I don't want him to ever feel like I did, wanting to learn more about a subject but having nowhere to turn. This is certainly an exciting time to be alive.