[TSTIL] Stacky Bird

[ This is a part of "The Software That I Love", a series of posts about Software that I created or had a small part in ]

2013 - Stacky Bird

The year 2013 was tumultuous. We were doing lots of projects at work, we moved to a fancier office on the Gedempte Zalmhaven, and I was secretly interviewing at Facebook. My personal life was about to be upended too, as we figured out that Stephanie was pregnant in February/March. Coming home one Friday night there was a surprise pregnancy test on my desk. Two thoughts fired like rocket ships in my brain, in opposite directions. One was happy and excited, the other scared of the responsibility and the stress. My facial expression was switching between them for a couple of seconds. Then I realized the nice thing to do for Stephanie was to focus on the first rocket. She must have seen the hint of horror in my eyes though, and it makes sense. Any good parent should be at least a bit afraid about having kids and it is a giant responsibility to put them on this earth.

Hugo was born in October 2013, and two weeks later I was flying to SFO for the interview at facebook. Thanks for allowing that, Stephanie. 

A small part of my responsibility as a parent was to give my new son the opportunity to learn programming. I had received that gift from my father, and I wanted to pass it to the next generation too. When he was a couple months old, I went and created Stacky Bird. A bit premature, but it was on my mind already. I expected him to learn coding around age 8. You can see Stacky Bird here: https://game.stackybird.com .

Stacky Bird was a combination of three of my interests:
  • teaching my kids programming
  • creating a programming language from scratch
  • the "meme-games" Flappy Bird, 2048 and SpaceChem that were popular in 2013/2014.
The game allows you to solve problems by giving a bird directions. The initial version was super simple. After some time I realized that it was actually a programming language, and with a bit more features is probably Turing-complete. We got two more kids, Suzanne and Louise, twins, in September 2015. When the kids were 7, 5 & 5 I did a thorough rewrite of Stacky Bird in VueJS and they could actually play it. They liked the minecraft coding on https://code.org a lot better though.

I'm not a helicopter parent who's hyper-involved with the kids, but still, kids take up a lot of time. My energy levels dropped tremendously and it would take years before I got close to the 2011/2012 levels of productivity and energy. The hobby projects, hackathons and weekends of programming disappeared for 90%. Most of the projects you see in this post were done during working hours. I felt held back compared to colleagues who were able to power through weekends, especially in the startup I went to in 2018. Now, in 2022 I finally feel like I am getting back in the game. Sometimes when I have kids duty, I nap on the couch and my kids run around the neighborhood. So much freedom compared to the diaper phase!

I was 25 when I got my first kid, and 27 when I got the last two. My advice for past-me would be to start a year or two later, but not much more. I love being a young parent and if the kids leave the house around their 18th, I'll be only 45. Again there's two thoughts. I'm looking forward to the freedom and travelling with Stephanie, but I'm also scared of the empty nest.


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