If you stand really far back and squint really hard, you could probably say that the origin story of my username goes all the way back to what were likely the first lines of code I ever wrote.
The “Code” bit
Before I became interested in programming, one of the activities that I enjoyed doing in my spare time was building things using electronic circuits. I had a small bar-of-soap sized kit with a little instruction booklet containing a few different projects. Every so often (likely when I claimed to be “cleaning my room”) I’d flip through the book, find a different project, and assemble it on the included mini breadboard.
Eventually, I began to start looking for other cool projects and later began buying my own components whenever I got the chance - mainly from either the local electronics
disneyland surplus store or one of the few Radioshack stores that were still around.
My family must have gotten fed up with all the trips to the store, because, during one annually celebrated gift-giving event, I recieved an Arduino UNO as a gift.
Since I was already somewhat involved with small electronics projects, I had already experimented with simple projects like making a little LED blink on and off using a small timing chip. I soon discovered that you could achieve the same blinking light using a few lines of Arduino code. And the best part? You could even change how often and for how long the light blinked by just changing a few numbers in the code and re-running it!
These were some of the very first lines of code that I wrote and gave me a strange, coincidental opportunity to directly compare my previous hardware-only blinking light projects with the Arduino-based equivalent. In far less time and with far less wiring and frustration, I had created the same blinking light without needing to swap out components in order to adjust the timing. For me the Arduino became a bridge between the hardware and software and opened my eyes to a completely new set of tools that I could use to make things.
The “Moral” bit
While playing with circuits was just one of my hobbies at that time, I was almost constantly switching from one hobby to another and back again every few weeks as I lost interest in one in favor of another. Many of these hobbies were things that I found interesting but never seemed to fully resonate with me. Eventually this constant cycle of hobbies began to feel a little pointlessand it caused me to wonder why I was repeatedly doing all these different hobbies only to give them up weeks later. If I wasn’t interested in these hobbies, what was I interested in? What was it that really wanted to do with my time?
This train of thought was apparently a slippery slope into existential questions and the meaning of life.
Eventually, after hitting the “nothing will matter in a billion years” point, I came to the realization that, like many famous figures from the past, an individual’s legacy and ideas can be carried forward by future generations (theoretically) indefinitely, even long after the individual has passed away.
As an example, despite the fact that Einstein lived his life many years before many of us alive today, his discovery of the relationship between energy and mass (\(E=mc^2\)) is something most people have likely heard of.
Because of how influential his discoveries were to our understanding of the world, Einstein’s ideas live on both through people retelling the stories and through the many scientific advancements that are based on his work. So, even though Einstein was not around to see the first recorded observation of his prediction of gravitational waves, a piece of his legacy lives on through this new area of research that he helped bring about.
This idea of leaving a positive legacy completely altered the way I viewed the world and has since since become a sort of moral foundation for me.
It was my newfound interest in software and my goal to leave behind a positive legacy that ultimately became the two major components of my username. While these core ideas were around long before the username, it ended up being one of those shower-thought ideas that brought the name into existence.
Much like thoughts that come to you when you are physically occupied by a task that requires very little if any thought (taking a shower, for example) I was in the garage working on another project and just letting my mind wander. I got to thinking about potential new usernames for my GitHub account as I was starting to dislike my old one. That’s when the name MoralCode popped into my head and I realized it was pretty much the perfect username for me. It fulfilled both of the major components that I was looking for (being about coding and somewhat related to making a difference) and also doubled as a little bit of wordplay.
As soon as I could get to a computer, I checked GitHub to see if the name was taken. While someone else already had the username, because the account had no activity whatsoever, I was able to reach out to Github and, under their no-name-squatting policy, they were able to free up the name so I could claim it.
What MoralCode represents
To me, the username MoralCode (and the leaf-with-git-commit logo that I often use with it) has become sort of a personal symbol that represents these two original core ideas and the broader mission that they represent: to leave a legacy by setting society on a better, more positive course than the the one it is currently on.
Even though I am just one person, I hope that I can at least use my abilities to make the world better for someone else, giving them the opportunity to carry it forward in a chain that eventually leads to a better world where everyone is able to innovate and make the world better.