I first got the internet in 1995, when I was in primary 5. I was really excited about how it worked then and I soon got onto Geocities, Tripod, Angelfire, Crosswinds. Making simple websites out of html which I handcoded in notepad. This was basically my start into making things for the internet.
I think it is invaluable to understand the basics of HTML and code in order to become a competent designer. There is no way to be serious about what you do without fully understanding the tool.
The word I'm sometimes looking for but occassionally forget is htaccess because its a hidden file.