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January 14, 2009  |  My poor memory for old technology  |  2044 hit(s)

I've been in this industry a long time. This doesn't make me smart, just ... old. Being old, I find that my memory just isn't what it once was (which wasn't much). So for example ...

A little while ago, AJAX took the Web-development world by storm. So cool! So interactive! You could do so much in the browser by using this JavaScript thing. Now, my memory is so faulty that I distinctly remember that around 1999 or so, JavaScript was the bane of Web development. It was for, you know, Web developers. Scripters. Markup people. Not Professional Programmers. Real programmers used C. (Unbelievable how bad my memory is, don't you agree?)

And you know, speaking of Web development, when AJAX came out, another thing that people were excited about was that you could do everything in the browser! No more of those round trips to the server and that annoying browser "flash" on postback that users all over the world were so up in arms about. (Some were refusing to use the Web at all, I heard, unless this was fixed.) And again, my memory is so wretched that I could have sworn that when ASP.NET 1.0 came out, putting all the processing on the server on a browser-independent platform was considered a big step forward. Obviously, I'm totally remembering that wrong.

Dynamic languages. Typeless variables, interpreters, extensible objects -- so flexible and convenient! This was very confusing to me, because I seemed to remember -- dang, the tricks that the aging brain plays on you -- that there was a time when type safety and compilation and all that OOP stuff were things that we wanted for coding.

And just recently, my mind has again been leading me astray. I've been reading about ASP.NET MVC and all its great features like the advantages of having complete control over your HTML. (By writing it all by hand.) All this time I had thought that the ASP.NET Web Forms model was some pretty hot stuff, and that those control abstractions sure were rendering a whole lotta markup that I didn't have to write. So wrong. In reality, Web Forms suck so much that developers would have been "happier sticking with the classic ASP programming model than using webforms." And speaking of ASP, I could have sworn that people were ecstatic at no longer having to use VBScript and write spaghetti-coded Web pages, but I must be remembering that wrong, too.

Ah, well. To help my defective memory, I should stash away a bunch of articles and editorials and blog posts about how wonderful MVC is, and AJAX, and dynamic languages, and all that stuff. Then in 8 years, when I've lost even more of my memory, I'll be able to refer back to them when I get confused and people are telling me that this new development platform is so much better than that awful MVC stuff ...

Dylan Wolf   15 Jan 09 - 9:48 AM

So true. If you get down to it, there's few completely new and original ideas in development, but perspectives change and take things in different directions.

This is why I'm not entirely convinced when someone announces to me how cool the newest technology/framework/widget is and how it's going to be this amazing panacea. Sure, it may be useful and it may be a good fit with what you're working on, but have some perspective. The sad thing is, I'm nowhere near old enough to justifiably be that bitter.

Brian MacDonald   15 Jan 09 - 7:42 PM

My memory must be just as bad as yours, because I remember things the same way. In fact, I almost remember doing a bunch of books about old technologies that said that very thing. Fortunately, in addition to being forgetful, I'm also too lazy to pull them off my shelves and look.

On the plus side, the fact that everyone in this business is so forgetful means that my clients get to publish new books on the same topics every 18 months or so, which keeps me busy.

Alan   22 Jan 09 - 8:04 AM

Another sign of old age is "in my day"ism. While I agree with the general sentiment of your post I think it glosses some of the past.

For example, the notion that ASP.net was somehow browser independent is just wrong. I remember (see, I'm old too) writing my first ASP.net application (1.1) and trying to use some "standard" control for output. Only, in the docs, it said that the control (DataGrid as I recall) handled output for IE but if you wanted to support other browsers then you had to do something different. So much for browser independence.

In an ASP.NET 2.0 application I'm working on now I wanted to use the DataList control. Seemed like a simple way to get data out of the database. And it is, except that it insists on wrapping the output in a table. There's no way to say, "Thank you, but I need an unordered list."

So, if I want an unordered list I end up hand coding a custom control. Sounds like maybe I should look at MVC...

Change is inevitable and the past wasn't perfect. But it sure is fun to review development/coding fashions.

mike   22 Jan 09 - 9:14 AM

@Alan -- this was of course intended to be satirical. I an quite aware that progress is cyclical. My commentary was about the exaggerated and sometimes seemingly poor-hindsight reactions of some people to every new technical development, including and especially Mr Web-Forms-Sucks who, I don't care what he says, did not want to spend the last 8 years in Classic ASP.

For an unordered list, you can use a Repeater control.

Kikoz   26 Jan 10 - 12:31 PM

So, so true...

I still can't figure out if my C# should be included in HTML with the wonderful <script> tag (as suggested by all those new "blogs" written by "trained" kids) or should I still write C# of my pages in separate files to continue to follow the old plain ".NET is cool just because it allows you to separate your presentation from your business logic" thing).

While on that note, WPF anyone? Anything fresh about that "incredible new way of doing UI"? Or it's been forgotten already?

While typing this comment, I asked one of those "trained" kids to read this article and give me his opinion. His reply was "The author should find a big tree to beat his head against because he wrote the biggest piece of crap I've ever read in my life." How unexpectedly refreshing :)