David Heinemeier Hansson

March 10, 2021

It all began with an email

I must have told the story a hundred times. How I'd been a fan of 37signals since the company was founded in 1999, how I saw a post on Signal v Noise where Jason asked about a programming problem in 2001, and how the answer I sent in an email led to us working together for the next twenty years.

But some of the details were always a little fuzzy. It was a long time ago, after all. Half my life back! When exactly did I send that email? What exactly was that programming question? On the latter, I thought it was a question about pagination in PHP. So that's the story I told. Turned out it was not!

After searching for that original blog post for years, it was finally discovered yesterday, after Jason put out a $1,000 internet-sleuth bounty. Johannes Laudenberg managed to track it down. And now we know our origin story, as repeatedly told, was a lie! Jason's question was not about pagination, at first, but about regular expressions.

2001 blog post where jason asked for help with regexp.png

We also now know the exact date. I wrote Jason the very next day, so the infamous email that started it all was sent on October 27th, 2001. Just twelve days after my 22nd birthday.

There's some real poetic beauty in the fact that Jason and I started working together on account of an email. Sent from Copenhagen, Denmark to Chicago, Illinois. Twenty fucking years ago. And now, here we are, spending our days honoring the majestic awesomeness that is email with HEY 💌✌️

Oh, and that regular expression? It was needed to scrape metadata for books from Amazon to power Singlefile, the first SaaS application Jason and I created together. Yes, we really are the grand old men of software as a service 😂


screenshot of singlefile.png

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.