The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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I interviewed Daniel Bezden over the phone. He is a good childhood friend of mine but we rarely keep in touch as we get older, so I interviewed him as a way of reconnecting. He is tall, with long fingers and shaky hands (we don’t know why they’re shaky but it’s funny to watch him do basic tasks. This story describes Daniel’s first experience at a Hackathon dedicated to learning computer programming. This was the start of his prolific passion for programming that lead him to study linguistics and computer science at Rutgers University.

Daniel and Austin had never been to a hackathon before, but what they saw before them in no way resembled their mental image of a pristine university lecture hall filled with college-age students surrounded by white boards, engaged in riveting computer debate. Inside the large warehouse door there was, well, a warehouse. A large, dust filled, cavity decked out with fold out tables, lamps, chairs, some couches, and an odd assortment of snacks littered on different tables throughout the room. Somehow, Daniel and Austin imagined it would look less, serial-killer-esque. 

Using some napkins and water battles, they wiped the dust off the table and chair, and somehow found an outlet for their computers. People started to shuffle in from the outside and the remaining seats quickly filled up. 

A hackathon is a 24hr program dedicated to encouraging interest in learning to code, so the two boys brought along some introductory books for JavaScript, a popular coding language among their peers. Once midnight struck, so began a twenty-four hour coding marathon. The two boys were glued to their computers, only taking breaks to eat sneaks, use the bathroom, and occasionally pass out face first on the keyboard at about 4 am inputting 36 lines of the letter ‘k’ into their program. They quickly read through the few books they brought and had practiced much of what they learned in the first half of the day. 

With all their newly gained programming skills and time to kill, they began to hatch a plan to design a devilishly tricky game. They consulted with some of the nearby programmers and heard everything from “get lost” and “are you serious?” to “no” and “are you like actually stupid?”. It was a little harsh, but their point was made-at their level of coding experience, this would be a fruitless endeavor. So… the two boys went with the project anyway!

The rest of the hackathon was spent programming a role-playing-game set in Ancient Rome. The boys wrote thousands of lines of code, but every time they hit run, the computer could only compute “Error”. Despite this, the two boys typed away until the letters on their computer keyboards began to fade. By the time the sun set on the following day, and as midnight approached, they had barely moved. 

Ultimately, the two boys were never able to complete the project and it was a complete and utter failure, but the experience of coding with such intensity and learning in such an environment sparked a passion for coding in both of them that they continue to feed and grow. More important that programming syntax, they learned the resilience and patience required to be successful in writing any sort of code.

Hackathon

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2016
Philadelphia

I interviewed Daniel Bezden over the phone. He is a good childhood friend of mine but we rarely keep in touch as we get older, so I interviewed him as a way of reconnecting. He is tall, with long fingers and shaky hands (we don’t know why they’re shaky but it’s funny to watch him do basic tasks. This story describes Daniel’s first experience at a Hackathon dedicated to learning computer programming. This was the start of his prolific passion for programming that lead him to study linguistics and computer science at Rutgers University.

Decade: 2010s
Rating:
Recorded by Jonathan Shochat on March 12, 2020
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