Tuple Chief Technology Officer Spencer Dixon talks learning to code

Tuple Chief Technology Officer Spencer Dixon talks learning to code

Spencer shares his tips for newbies, explains how he got into coding without a degree and discusses what his work as Chief Technology Officer at screen sharing app Tuple involves. Spencer and his two indie hacker co-founders at Tuple had already made $8,000 in revenue before the product, a complex engineering project for a team of three, had even launched! Enjoy the interview.  

Hey, thanks a lot for doing the interview! Could you give an introduction for coders who want to know more about you?

I’m the CTO and primary developer of Tuple,  a real-time remote screen sharing application tailored to facilitate pair programming. A good way to think of it is as FaceTime but for software developers.

The Tuple stack is somewhat unique in that we’re very polyglot. It has seven languages: Ruby, JavaScript, C++, Objective-C, Objective-C++, C, and Swift. Each language was chosen for what it does best and it has allowed us to move quickly with a very small team (three of us). I’ve also been spending a lot of my free time learning Rust in an effort to go cross-platform.

I was born and raised in Boston, MA which is where Tuple is based. Before becoming a programmer, I dropped out of college to be a traveling salesman but realized my impact in the world had a low ceiling in that role. Writing software has allowed me to make a positive impact at scale.

Screenshot of Tuple

What first got you interested in programming?

My first experience programming was building conditional logic games using PowerPoint in middle school. I’m not sure if you can call that programming but it got me excited about computers.

In high school, I took a multimedia course where my cousin and I built a first-person shooter game in Flash. I was hooked. After that class, I took a web development class where we learned Dreamweaver CS3 and I finished my semester project in like two weeks.

My teacher let me work on personal side projects for the rest of the year. I remember buying this Dreamweaver for Dummies book on eBay and using it to build a PayPal powered e-commerce shop for a business I had started with my dad.

Around then I got really into Diablo 2 and started downloading hacks to make the game more fun. I set up this Diablo 2 bot (written in Java) that would farm items for me. After seeing how powerful automation was, I remember thinking to myself: “One day I want to be able to build something like this for myself”.

I didn’t know enough to change any of the bot’s code, so I was at the mercy of whatever config variables the developer let me tweak. Looking back, I wish I had dug into that interest more instead of letting it lay dormant for many years.

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