Signs That You’re Coding in the 1990s
If you say “yes” to any of these, you’re probably programming in the late twentieth century
Welcome to a very special time. It’s 1999, and if we can survive the Y2K bug there’s a rosy world of development ahead of us. The web is a neat place with lots of links and spinning globe icons. All your development tools come on CDs. And most hackers are happy just getting free long-distance phone calls.
So spin up those CD drives, dial up that internet, and stare into the warm and comforting glow of a CRT monitor (NEC MultiSync 19" — state of the art!) How will you know that you’re in the right place? Here are some signs that tell you that you’re coding in the late 90s:
- Free software means shareware, not open source.
- When the program is done, you make another program called the installer, and it is ugly as heck.
- Your big deployment decision: burn CDs in house, or get them done somewhere professional. (If you do it in house, you use a piece of plastic like this for the labels.)
- Desktop application means C++ MFC, not Electron.
- Cutting-edge graphic design is curved window corners.
- You have a binder full of MSDN CDs (including a dozen different client and server versions of Windows).
- The weird new modern language isn’t Go; it’s Java.
- A fancy website is a website with a “click to enter” home page.
- A very fancy website is one with a time-wasting Flash intro.
- Every SQL query you write uses string concatenation. The only SQL injection you’ve heard of is The Phantom Menace.
- The only time you see a Mac is when you go to the graphic designer’s cubicle.
- You don’t talk about cloud computing. You talk about the difference between client-server and three-tier architecture.
- The ideal-world code fantasy isn’t serverless, it’s stateless business objects.
- Updating your program can actually break someone else’s. (Thanks, COM.)
- Being a Windows coding guru means you know the Win32 API inside and out.
- OOP is the center of the universe. If your favorite language doesn’t support inheritance, you are seriously embarrassed.
- You have a stack of books, because that’s where the answers are. If you want to make sure your colleagues know how smart you are, you get the red books with the yearbook covers, or the white ones with the animal covers.
- If your client needs a CMS, you’re pretty sure you can code that yourself.
- Of course we have source control, we aren’t neanderthals! It’s Visual SourceSafe.
- The most valuable database skill in the world is writing stored procedures to optimize performance.
- If you want to talk to an object on another computer (over a local network, of course), you can use DCOM or CORBA. But setting up either one is a living hell.
- Asking questions online doesn’t mean Twitter; it means usenet.
- Need to work at home? I hope you have an Iomega Zip drive. 100 MB, baby!
- You need to put your help in the program, not on the website. But don’t worry, it’s pretty easy. All you need is context-sensitive tooltips that say things like “You use the Baz button to perform a baz.”
- Ini files are so yesterday. Serious applications put their settings in the Windows registry.
- There is Linux, MySQL, and Apache. But can you really trust free stuff made by volunteers?
- A graphical website is one that takes a picture, cut up into several dozen pieces, and sticks it back together using an HTML table. CSS is way too bleeding edge.
- The only testing you know about is done by humans. Even if you had a way to make automated unit tests, who would test those?
- XML looks like it might be the next big thing.
- The internet will be a great place once we figure out the right plug-in to let us run our browser-based programs everywhere.
- What’s a coder? You still call yourself a programmer.
The late 1990s were interesting times. We wrote twice the code to do half as much. We had to install programs before we could use them. We updated websites by FTPing everything over in a massive overwrite-everything copy operation (“We’ll do it live!”). Programming was sometimes primitive, usually frustrating, and always fun. And in another 20 years, when we take a brief pause from tweaking our AI-powered software generation toolkits to peer into the past, the coding of today will seem just as old-fashioned.