Today I am 28. I started working in this industry in late 1995, so it’s almost 10 years now. Wow. I am honestly amazed at how fast it has all gone by. Here’s the basic story of the past ten years of my career:
I landed my job because I knew HTML inside and out. Those of you who started back then might remember that the <table> element had basically just surfaced and man could I lay stuff out with that thing. 🙂 I was also writing Perl scripts to gather form data and record stats for some video game web sites I ran. I also had some light TCL experience because I had an EggDrop bot on IRC and that was the scripting language for the bot.
Data Makes The Web What It Is
From there one of the first things I learned on the job was a technology called WebDBC. This technology was basically the pre-cursor to ASP. It allowed you to define blocks of SQL that would be executed against the DB inline with HTML. They even had a pattern that gave you the same power you have with an ASP.NET Repeater today. The problem with the technology was that it offloaded even the simplest math to the DB server. It was a great technology for its time though. It was at this point where I really started working with databases, designing schemas and other subjects like understanding indexes and foreign keys. At this point (’96) we had already starting transforming into a Microsoft shop running WinNT3.5 with IIS1.0, so SQL6.5 was our DB of choice. While I didn’t work on the project personally, our shop did this AMAZING
Next, at a Microsoft conference (I forget which, SiteBuilder maybe??), I heard of this project called Denali where you could use VB on the server. Denali was the codename for the very first version of ASP. I got on the beta and that was the beginning of many years of success with binary COM(+) components and VBScript. To ASP’s credit, 90% of our production environment still runs on pure ASP w/VBScript with only a smattering of COM components here and there.
Java/COM 0wnz You!
During my COM days I started to dabble in Java and when Microsoft came out with J++, circa ’98 I believe. I was in heaven. I was one of Java/COM’s biggest cheerleaders. Garbage collection, a base class library and attributed COM programming which enabled greater flexibility than VB ever had, but required half the development time of C++. I was sold.
Around the same time as I was getting into J++, I was at the forefront of DHTML development building an internal staff tracking application for Microsoft’s NY office. I was on the IE4 beta, doing things I only dreamed of ever doing with a web browser. Say what you want about IE these days, but just remember that it basically had all the power the standard’s specifications offer now, albeit proprietary, back then. The only thing that has really changed since then is the fact that they been bringing their MSHTML API and rendering implementation more inline with the standards. Anyway, this project was the first time I used XML as well. I was using a generating the XML dynamically from an ASP by querying a custom DB. To fetch the XML I was using a Java applet Microsoft supplied with their base Java install that basically did what XmlHttp does for scripters today. If a user signed up to staff an event, I was using CDO to run out and schedule it on their calendar. It was an amazing little thin-client app for it’s day.
Methodology wise the biggest “aha!” moment in terms of understanding good software design came from the original GoF Design Patterns book. It really took me to a whole new level and was basically my introduction to leveraging abstract base classes/interfaces. Since then I’ve learned lots of other methodologies, but the thing I learned most is that there’s
A Decade Later, HTML Specs Still Suck
I think the biggest technology let down in all my years have to be the absolutely horrible web browser specifications. Anyone that knows me has heard me rant about this on more than one occasion. Let’s face it folks, they suck. Do you realize there’s still no control specification for HTML? Are you kidding me?