about me

The Basics

Howdy, I'm Hugues Johnson. I live in the Chicago area with my wife and daughters.

All of us

For lack of a better description I work as a computer programmer. OK, my job title is something more like "Senior whatever Architect" which means programming is just one part of my job. My LinkedIn page is probably current right now.

I often joke that I've been programming since I was eight when I first learned LOGO and BASIC. It's been a hobby of mine for as long as I can remember. It was my favorite pastime until it became a career. The only recreational programming I do now are projects that are mostly game related. These projects regularly violate all best practices, design patterns, and everything else I have to deal with 40-50 hours a week.

My latest programming obsession is the Sega Genesis. Over the past couple of years I've written a few articles about it and even finished a small demo game. I suppose I should be spending my time trying to write a high speed trading application and cash out. There's just something serene about writing assembler code though. I realize how strange that sounds. I think years of working on large complex systems with 100s of dependencies makes classic console programming seem so simple and quaint.

I also enjoy writing random articles about video games. Of course if you've spent more than 30 seconds on this site you figured that out already. My personal favorite piece is something I called Closing Time; but if web statistics mean anything then The Complete Guide to Phantasy Star III, If NES Games Were Made Today, and Alcoholic's Guide to Disney World are the most popular items I've posted by a wide margin. I stopped looking at my web statistics in the 2010s though so it's probably changed by now.

I co-hosted a retro gaming podcast from 2009-2018. Some people liked it I guess. I started another one in 2019 and have done a few guest episodes on other podcasts along the way.

In terms of actually playing video games - the majority of my gaming time is spent on the latest Zelda, Falcom, or Final Fantasy game. When I run out of those I usually go to work on my '90s RPG backlog.

Getting There

I was born in Belgium sometime during the Ford administration. My father was in the military so it was only a temporary location. We bounced around a bit before ending up in Illinois. The years of moving, and having a father who was frequently away from home, gave me a strong aversion to doing the same as an adult.

Me a long time ago

Of the places I lived as a child, Lock Haven Pennsylvania evokes the fondest memories. My father was stationed there for an ROTC assignment. It was one of those quiet little "main street towns" in the middle of nowhere. I passed the days roaming through the forests, seeing what I could stumble across. I suppose my future interest in RPGs stemmed from wanting to experience this sense of exploration again. It was a different time and world; nowadays I won't let my kids play in the backyard without having a monitoring chip installed. OK, it's not really that bad but you get the point.

I attended junior high and high school in the Chicago area. Junior high was probably the two worst years I can recall but high school was alright. I still have several close friends I met back then and generally enjoyed the experience. I never really worked too hard in school which led me to incorrectly believe that I could coast through college as well.

I went on to flunk out of junior college and do nothing for a few years. An epiphany later and I enrolled in Elmhurst College which I attended from fall 1996 to fall 1999 and received a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science. From fall 2001 to spring 2004 I attended the University of Illinois: Chicago (UIC) where I completed a Master's degree in Computer Science. I went in the evenings after work and never developed a strong connection with the school. My graduate coursework focused heavily on artificial intelligence. Although I still find the topic fascinating, I can't imagine doing it full-time now.

Me a less long of a time ago

While at Elmhurst, I began working as a programmer at Mercator Software. It was the 90s so there were jobs aplenty, even for the not-yet-qualified. Although that company eventually went out of business, it was a great learning opportunity and ultimately contributed to becoming a better software developer.

I proposed to my wife on New Years Eve 1999, we married in 2001, had our first child a few years later, and our second a few more after that. They're both great and I won't embarrass them here.

Career-wise, I spent the 2000s building various sales and marketing systems for Allstate. The most significant assignment I had was being the technical lead on their call center portal re-write. Originally I was playing a kind of hybrid infrastructure/enterprise architect role on it. After the development lead quit I took that role over as well until the project was complete. Unfortunately the extreme crunch on that project left me feeling burnt out and I decided to move on shortly thereafter. Allstate was a good company to work for overall though. I joined as an unemployed VB6 developer and left many levels beyond that.

In 2013 I joined a pre-IPO SaaS company called Textura. They wanted to start an enterprise architecture organization and I wanted to work some place smaller without an army of direct reports to manage. It was a fun experience trying to tame a "wild west" organization. Really, I mean that. My main focus areas were improving security and reducing technical debt. Since the company was still in start-up mode there was the added challenge of trying to convince people these were worthwhile things to address. I also worked on integrating the handful of smaller companies Textura acquired throughout the years. So far it's the only place I've worked where I could just go up and talk to the CEO anytime.

In 2016 Textura was acquired by Oracle. I'm not going to talk about working for Oracle. I never talk about my current job online regardless of the employer. I haven't left Oracle and that alone says a good deal about the company.

I started this site in 2000 mostly to post some Phantasy Star III maps and a small save game editor I wrote. I've never had much of a plan for this site other than posting random junk that interests me at the moment.