Tue Dec 27 2011

Looking back, moving forward

The end of each year is always a good time to look back in time. Yesterday, I did. Unable to sleep, I picked up one of my A Book Apart books (Ethan Marcotte’s Responsive Web Design, for the curious) and suddenly remembered the old A List Apart design. If you’ve been in the web industry for a while, you probably remember it too - yellow, orange, awesome.

It’s been 13 years since Zeldman’s own ALA became a website - it was back in 98 and I was 16 years old, surfing on a crap modem, collecting images from random web pages. My favorite website at the time was NBA.com, for some reason. I had been coding for a few years already, albeit never for the web, influenced by what was in hindsight the single most important contribution to my career: a Spectrum ZX and a BASIC manual, both given to me by my parents when I was 6. I remember the moment perfectly - where I was, what my parents were wearing. Somehow that memory remains while others have faded. I remember one of my first pieces of code too: it asked for my name, said hello, and kept my phone numbers. I remember writing a simple text-based game for my sister, which she remembers well too. Again - some memories remain, while others fade.

Looking back lets you connect the dots, and that I have. Telling people how I got to where I am today is then relatively easy - I simply look back, and connect the dots I remember. Looking forward, however, is a futile exercise. I can speak of my passions and where they might lead me, but I can never be certain of anything. I’m not even certain I’ll be around tomorrow - although I suspect I will be. So I will keep suspecting I’ll be around - and while I am, I’ll try to make a dent in things. The universe, sure, but the little things too. Because when I look back and connect the dots, it was the small dents in things, the pokes in some direction that got me here. Like that Spectrum that hooked me on computers, ALA that got me thinking about the web, and the many things (and people) that followed, I hope to dent and poke (people and things) going forward.

Looking forward isn’t possible, but moving forward most certainly is. So I’ll keep looking back, and moving forward. Hopefully, making a dent in things as I go.