How I became a web designer
Photo by Joonyeop Baek / Unsplash

How I became a web designer

Reading time: 2 min read

As I grow older, I increasingly often find myself indulging in nostalgic reminiscences, reliving periods of my life and reflecting on the multitude of decisions that led me to my present situation. One such recent reflection concerned the series of events that triggered my decision to pursue a career in web design, and it struck me as sufficiently interesting to share.

At some point in what must have been 1999, aged twenty-four or thereabouts, I travelled across America for three days on a Greyhound bus, accompanied by the sort of oddballs who think that riding for 3,000 miles on a bus is a good idea. I travelled from New York to San Francisco, where I hoped to meet up with an old school friend and fall into some form of (almost certainly illegal) cash-in-hand work on a California campsite.

For whatever reason, that plan didn’t quite work out as intended, and instead I found myself kicking around San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, staying in a shitty hotel above a one-screen cinema that was only showing Blade, and watching the three-card-monte players on the street outside fleece the passing tourists. Once my money ran low I moved into the YMCA, and it was there that, late one night, listening to the fire engines passing by for the umpteenth time, that I had The Idea.

I was going to make a film.

The next day I trekked all the way out to Haight-Ashbury and the famous City Lights bookstore, where I bought Rick Schmidt’s Feature Filmmaking at Used-Car Prices and spent the remainder of my time in the US figuring out a plan of attack.

Back in the UK, in between answering phones in a bank call centre, I began to put the pieces together. Local advertising plus haunting an amateur film society enabled me to gather together a collection of like-minded enthusiasts, and we slowly started to put together a movie. We had the first third of a script written (a police thriller titled Immortality, about a serial killing crime scene photographer one step ahead of his detective colleagues; it was basically Dexter, albeit fourteen years too early) and plans for casting and locations prepared before the whole thing fell apart. People drifted away from the project and I bottled out of raising any actual money. I did get to play with one of the enormous camera assemblies that Hitchcock once used, though, so that was cool.

But I digress. In between scripting sessions, location scouting, production meetings, and all the rest, there was a point at which I decided we should probably have one of those ‘website’ thingies that everyone was starting to use nowadays (and this was still a time when seeing a URL in a print or TV advert was a novel experience). I had a PC by then, the enormous tower and CRT monitor taking up most of my bedroom desk, so I went out and bought a book entitled Teach Yourself HTML In 24 Hours from the local discount book shop, installed Netscape Composer, and started reading.

The rest, as they say, is history.

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