10th Anniversary of my First Shareware Paycheck
10 years ago, on this day, I received the first payment for a tiny shareware program I wrote. It was a one-trick-pony, a birthday reminder program.
Folks around me will tell you I’m bad at remembering things, and always choose to write everything down. So I wrote a program to keep track of friends and birthdays, and popup a reminder on the right day, perhaps a few days earlier if I needed to buy a gift first. As a teen writing and distributing my first-ever commercial piece of software, I had named it eponymously as ManasTech Birthdays. I wrote it, released it, and sold a few copies (nothing astronomical, but yeah, it was fun to see the checks coming in.)
As I look back nostalgically, several thoughts cross my mind today. The more things have changed, the more they have remained the same. I loved writing software then, I love writing software now. I used to sneak out of classes and stay up late nights to code up the latest idea that crossed my mind. Today, I procrastinate on my research and take time off to write little scripts and tiny widgets, that — before you know it — have hundreds of users and need regular maintenance.
Then, the norm was to release products as shareware, without the hassles of finding a publisher or having to stock shelves with packaging. All you needed was an Internet connection and a program that solved a need. Today, the norm is to free your software, and release it into the wild. The Free Software Movement has been gaining ground ever since.
The most interesting aspect is perhaps the domain in which I’ve been working. The Birthday Manager helped store your personal information — contacts and calendar events. Today, I’m involved in Personal Information Management research, which is pretty much the same topic. I even wrote a paper detailing how people manage their calendars. Little had I known 10 years ago that I would be fascinated enough with personal information to pursue a career in it.
Sometimes I wonder what the next 10 years will be like.
Update: P.S. For those curious about how I got hold of the check image for this blog post: yes, I’m a digital packrat and have a copy of all my files dating back to 1997 on my current laptop.