Building the Dawg House

Stephen Van Tuyl

Twelve years ago I was a long haul trucker. Owner/operator. Had my own sweet rig. Top driver at the company I was leased to. Making good money. But, as you well know, the Gods are fickle. One day, I suffered a disabling injury and was forced to retire. What the heck was I going to do now? I was pretty well isolated. Living in the woods in southern Oregon, with no neighbors to speak of. My wife worked full time so I was alone all day with nothing to do but housework. So there I was. Big bad truck driver turned house husband. It was a bit demoralizing. So, in what later turned out to be a flash of genius ( hey it's my story, I can call myself whatever I want) I traded an old pistol to a friend for one of his computers. An old 486 with a 2 gig hard drive. So now what? I had never even punched a keyboard before. I went to the local ISP, got dial up and jumped on the Internet. I started by reading all the Windows tutorials I could find and gradually began to get a handle on the operating system. One day I stumbled onto a site called GeoCities. It was a free service which allowed you to build your own website. They provided a simple, straightforward WYSIWYG editor and hosted the site for free. I thought" What better way to learn my way around this box than by trying to build a website." And with that decision I laid the first brick in the foundation of the Dawg House. My first site was primitive and amateurish to say the least but through the process I began to grasp some basic concepts such as the layering of a site, file extensions and so on. (Enter Time Machine. Jump ahead two months.) Being the hands on kind of guy that I am, it didn't take long for me to tire of the point and click stuff. I wanted to know how to write it myself so I did a little research and ended up buying a book called Sams Teach Yourself HTML 4 in 24 Hours. Brick number two.

I devoured that book! I still have it today. It's dog-eared and worn, much like a preachers' old Bible but it still has a place of honor on my book shelf. I pored over it daily, spending hours and hours learning about tags, tables, hyperlinks and old school roll-overs. Back in those days CSS was still mainly a way to standardize text formatting. It didn't have all the bells and whistles it does now and the stability issues with IE made it too much of a pain to deal with so I did everything in basic HTML and Tables. Nothing fancy, but stable. In fact, I still have one site up based on that old platform but the client won't let me change it because he says "It works just fine the way it is." Oh well. Maybe I'll just sneak it in on him as a freebie. Around that time a friend who is a computer programmer gave me a book on Visual Basic 6 as well as a compiler. I started studying programming and discovered that I liked it. Problem was, not many applications were using VB. It was all mostly PHP and C++ so I decided to study those. Brick number three. Over the years I have honed my skills and can now offer XML, CSS, PHP, MYSQL, JQUERY, AJAX, and C++ as well. I am currently studying CSS3 and HTML5. While these are not being widely implemented at present, they promise to be the next evolutionary leap in markup and I want to be ahead of the game.

So there you have it. The story of a truck driver turned web designer and the construction of his empire. The Dawg House is still evolving and will continue to do so as long as I'm running the place because I believe that once you reach the point where you think you know it all, you might as well put a gun to your head and put yourself out of everyone's misery.