Ten Years On

10 Feb 2010

Ten years is a long time in technology.

Recently, on New Year’s Day, whilst waiting for the Spirit of Tasmania to leave Devonport after a family holiday, I was killing time on Twitter. Several tweets with the tag #10yearsago set me thinking. For a start, ten years ago I’m sure I wouldn’t have dreamed of using an application like Twitter on a device like an iPhone.

Turning my thoughts back in time, I wondered what was significant about my programming career at the turn of the century? After a little thought and stroking of my greying beard my response was that 10 years ago I was leaving mainframes behind and about to enter the world of EJBs. For me that was quite a milestone. After earning a living within the realm of IBM mainframe programming since 1983 and delving into object-orientation and the emerging world of web development during the 1990s, the transition to working full-time with Servlets and Enterprise JavaBeans was an exciting step.

Fast forward to the present and it would appear that I have left the Enterprise Java world behind. Over the last couple of years I haven’t used Java in anger, instead using Ruby as my language of choice in conjunction with frameworks like Rails and Sinatra for developing web applications.

You may have noticed that I’ve only mentioned server-side technologies so far. This is not just because I have felt more at home developing server-side rather than client-side software. When I started down my path of developing web applications, JavaScript was the subject of scorn for valid reasons that I won’t elaborate on here. However, in 2010 I can see that JavaScript is definitely growing in importance. Developer-friendly libraries such as JQuery that have been well tested on all major browsers have changed what JavaScript brings to the table. Ajax has earned it’s place in web applications. Raphaël is an example of sexy visual effects that can be added to a site via a JS library.

So I have becoming aware that I need to focus more on improving my JavaScript skills to better equip me to enhance user experiences of web applications via JS that runs in a web browser.

But it turns out that my reasons to learn more about Javascript aren’t confined to web browsers. Late last year I became aware of Node.js, which enables the development of event-driven servers using JavaScript. I’ve barely scratched the surface but I know that others, like Simon Willison, are very excited by Node.

Meanwhile, I’m going back to fundamentals and have started reading PPK on JavaScript to give me a more solid basis on which to build my JS skills.

So ten years since I left mainframes behind to enter the world of EJBs I love programming in Ruby and am giving more focus to JavaScript. As for trips down memory lane, maybe another time I’ll write about the technology I was using 20 years ago…

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