Andrew Robbins is an independent developer from Minneapolis who “makes the web beautiful.”
When and how did you originally become interested in technology?
The first time I remember being mesmerized by technology was when I was around 11 years old. After retirement, my Grandpa brought home an HP computer which at the time was running Windows 95. I remember sitting on that thing for hours at a time— completely intrigued by the whole experience. I would spent most of my time creating folders / files and of course creating masterpieces in MS Paint.
At what age did you write your first computer program? What did it do?
My first computer program was the standard hello world HTML application. I remember finding the website http://www.htmlgoodies.com and being blown away by how empowered I felt following the tutorials. I believe I was in middle school at this time so around 14 or 15 years old. Hello World FTW!
What do you do now? What languages are you proficient in?
How have you increased your skillset over the years, formally or otherwise?
Great question. Before starting Simpleblend I worked at a local agency here in Minneapolis and had the chance to work with incredible developers for three years. During this time I learned a tremendous amount from their experience and mentorship. However the bulk of my knowledge as come from places like Front-end Masters, Codeschool, and more recently Hack Reactor.
I love tinkering with things and finding the reasons behind why things function the way they do. I feel like this is the most powerful way to solidify knowledge of a particular topic—especially programming languages.
One more thing I’ll add is that I never studied programming formally at a school. I don’t say this to brag, but more to stress the point that if a guy who was held back in Math and spent 5 years studying design can learn to program, anyone can.
Which do you prefer in programming, the struggle or the achievement?
The achievement. The pain of trying to solve a complex problem is all the more rewarding once you finally do. With that said, I do love the process. I heavily enjoy the feeling of using my mind to the fullest and thinking through the logic step by step.
One thing I’ve been noticing, which I suppose is true of anything in life, is that the better I get at programming the more I enjoy the process of programming. It’s a snowball effect. At this point, I prefer the achievment since it’s more rewarding for me. However I can certainly see myself enjoying the process more once I have 10 years under my belt.
What people, groups, projects, or resources were most influential in your development as programmer?
Ben Moore for inspiring me to persue programming. Martin Tschofen for mentoring me when I was first starting out. Henry Hazlit for teaching me the importance of critical thinking and logic. Front-end Masters for the excellent workshops (can’t recommend them enough).
What do you enjoy about it? Is there anything you dislike?
The main feature of programming that I enjoy the most is how logical it is. There isn’t anything I dislike about it. I enjoy how everyday feels as if I’m solving one giant puzzle. From a philosophical perspective, I think programming teaches people how to think and I love that. It demands that your theory go through rigorous testing. It requires consistency. It forces you to think of the consequences of your present actions. In other words, it’s completely opposite of today’s society.
If you were to be doing anything else, what might that be?
I initially thought I was going to be a Graphic Designer, and if I had to, I wouldn’t mind pursuing that. However the field of Psychology also fascinates me and I think I would greatly enjoy doing that if I wasn’t programming.
Where do you spend most of your time online?
What concerns you most about where technology is headed?
What concerns me the most about where technology is heading is how it stands in relation to the world we live in. As technology becomes more powerful, I think we as individuals need to ask important moral and philosophical questions regarding how we want to use it. No longer is it crazy to think about implantable technology that interfaces with the human organism. What will be the consequences of this? With how corrupt the world is right now I think it would be wise for all of us to spend time thinking about it.
I’ll also say that as technology becomes more omnipresent in our daily lives, I think we need to be cognizant of how it’s effecting our ability to concentrate and focus. When you’re bombarded by constant notifications all day long, I can see how it would prevent you from sustaining prolonged thoughts. Thinking is hard, and it doesn’t help when there’s six million things competing for your attention.
What excites you most about where technology is headed?
What excites me the most about where technology is heading is how it’s always opening the doors for new and interesting use-cases. From the web side of things, I can’t wait to see where we’ll be able to access the internet next.
From a broader point of view, I welcome new technology with open arms. I find it one of the most inspiring things to witness. It’s inspiring to me because it’s a physical manifestation of human potential. It’s a representation of what we can do and what we can achieve. Everything we have today is a result of saying “Yes” to life. I think a quote from a favorite author of mine sums it up nicely.
“A city is the frozen shape of human courage—the courage of those men who thought for the first time of every bolt, rivet and power generator that went to make it. The courage to say, not ‘It seems to me,’ but ‘It is’—and to stake one’s life on one’s judgment.”
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for the interview, it was a lot of fun! Keep up the great work you guys are awesome.