When I was a little kid my parents often took my little brother and I to a sand quarry to play or pick berries; later, when I was in my early teens, we spent summer holidays near an active drifting sand plain. These places looked huge then; a trek across the sand felt like an expedition into unknown territory, the slopes of the quarry looked like enormous cliffs…
Around the same time, I started programming. First in MSX Basic, then in Z80 assembly. This was a magic time of discovery, having a machine printing out text to you, drawing images and animations, and making sounds (and combining those to devise an intruder alarm for your room, scaring mom!). It gave me a feeling of great accomplishment.
These days, I still like to walk in the quarries and on the sand plains. However, the enormous cliffs of my youth turned out to be neither very high nor very steep, and that expedition across the plain turned out to be little more than a 700 m walk; still tiring when the sand is dry and loose, but nowhere near as adventurous as it was, 25 years ago.
But as much as I still like to walk there, I am glad I also get to explore more challenging terrain.
In the same way, the programming accomplishments of my youth aren’t very impressive to me now (the alarm however made such an impression on my mom that she still brings it up every now and then). Luckily, I get to work on rather complex software these days so I often feel challenged. And when my work isn’t very challenging for a few days (the mundane tasks have to get done too!), I find challenges in my spare time, like tinkering with Arduino boards.
Having an Arduino hooked up to a sensor giving me temperature readings gives me that sense of discovery and wonder all over again… and as soon as I’ve built an entire home automation system, I’m sure I’ll move on to new challenges!
Realising this has tought me an important lesson: as you grow older and more experienced, your world grows smaller. But you don’t have to just let it happen; broaden your horizon! Learn new things, visit extraordinary places and keep enjoying that extraordinary sense of wonder!