Do you still remember the time when there was no Internet? I hardly do.
Back then we used floppy disks and later on CDs to install the applications we needed to get our job done or the games we wanted so desperately to play because all the other kids had it.
I don’t use any of those anymore. Companies are now building notebooks without any built-in disk drives. This makes the computer smaller, lighter and slimmer. If we really think about it, why would we need them anyhow? Everything is online. You don’t even have to leave your office or your home. Just search on the Web for whatever you need using your preferred search engine (I almost wrote here “google it” but let’s give Bing a chance too) and voila!
Computer Science can make this happen and these marvelous engineers have been writing the future and still do as we speak.
My first job mainly focused on databases and desktop applications. It was a huge factory with over 3 500 employees and thousands of computers in each department. Our programs were distributed, well you probably guessed it already, first on a floppy and later on a CD. The IT guys had to walk from one place to the other in order to install the software and the factory spreads over 147 hectares of land.
At that time the Internet was already used widely but unfortunately there was no one who could simply migrate all these programs to the web and make them only internally accessible.
First of all, in such a big industry it was difficult to make something happen. People were usually happy with what they used and refused to accept anything, which is new and could break their daily monotony. Even if this would have meant that their work might get easier. This suited management just fine because they didn’t have to invest more money in hardware and new employees who would write the new software for the Web.
Second of all, the developers lacked the knowledge to pursue these new opportunities. Most of my previous colleagues were satisfied to spend their time with maintaining the current desktop applications and do nothing more. More importantly learn nothing new and where there’s no new knowledge, there’s no possibility to improve. Even it would mean improving the work of others.
All the engineers, who wanted to do more but couldn’t do it there, went to better places… including me. That’s how I discovered the Web Developer in me.
I already knew and loved creating web pages with HTML and CSS, which I learned all by myself years ago. But when I saw Java and JSP in action, I was amazed of how much more I can do with a webpage. It wasn’t only static information anymore. I could do what a desktop application could and a whole lot more! This time I didn’t even need a CD for all the users to install my work when it was finished, it was accessible right from the browser for anyone having the necessary credentials.
I switched 4 years ago from Java and JSP to C# and ASP.NET. I was scared to make this big step but now I know that all technologies are mostly alike. Basically it doesn’t matter in which technology we develop, only the results matter.
My first successful project at this company was small and consisted of only 4 pages. The same functionality was available as a desktop application and everyone used that since years so I didn’t expect that many users will want to use the web version. But to my biggest surprise they did! Hundreds of thousands of users accessed our little application daily.
It’s obvious that the mentality changed over time. The old generation, like the factory workers, has retired and the new generation is open to anything new. They are willing to try out whatever they can get their hands on. They are not afraid of it. They aren’t satisfied with taking the extra time in doing a task with what they have but want to be able to accomplish more in a shorter period of time.
The web can reach more people faster than anything else. It’s more convenient and quicker for the users to just type the URL into the browser’s address bar and have instant access to the application they want to use, instead of trying to get their hands on the CD to install it.
Six months after our second project went online, its predecessor was shut down. Everyone loved using the new web version to get their job done and we made it happen.
Our applications make it now possible for clients to see the company’s product portfolio and place orders instantly, it gives real-time data about their orders. It improves everyone’s work and the time saved with doing these operations directly online can be invested in other tasks, which otherwise would have been postponed.
But there’s a wide range of web applications today, not only for business purposes but also for personal use.
Social networks help us to keep in touch with family and friends. I live in Germany since almost 4 years but talk daily with my family back home in Romania. Not on the phone. That’s so old school. The web has endless other possibilities, like: messenger, Skype, email, Facebook, Twitter and so on. My family reads my Twitter posts every morning and I find it amusing that they worry that something might have happened to me when I don’t tweet anything for one day. Before using Twitter and chatting with them on Skype, I was restricted to only one week every 3-4 months when I travelled home and could talk to them personally (which I still find priceless).
Exchanging emails saves a lot of time spent on going to the post office and the money for the envelope and stamp. It even reduces the waste caused by all that paper, which will probably get thrown away eventually. I find it a great relief to communicate with my bank just by emailing them and most of the time everything is sorted out that way. Last time I went to see my bank advisor with a problem was 3 years ago. Since then I was appointed to a new advisor whom I don’t even know face to face. But why do I need to anyhow? The communication is important and it doesn’t need to happen over the phone or by personally going to the bank every time there’s something to discuss. An email is just as sufficient and effective.
Online shopping sites save also our time and money. We don’t have to go from store to store anymore looking for a product. We can find it online, compare the prices in different shops and have it delivered directly to our home.
We don’t need CDs anymore to install games. There are a great number of Web applications that provide the possibility to buy and install a game directly from the Internet. All the updates are also installed through the Internet.
Why should we go to the renting store to pick up a DVD and then bring it back (which is all precious time), when we can simply sit on the couch, choose a movie based on other people’s ratings, rent it and watch it directly over the Internet?
If we’re planning to travel somewhere, we can see the map of the city where we’ll be going to. We can check the location of our hotel or see where’s the nearest Starbucks. On the other hand, if we can’t afford to travel somewhere because it’s too far and expensive, we can see pictures of places all around the world simply by looking on the Internet.
So whether it’s work or entertainment, users can do everything now online and the engineers developing these Web applications are making all of this possible. The world and everyone’s life is changing for the better thanks to them.
I can’t even express how glad I am to be a part of it. If I have even the smallest contribution in improving only one person’s life, then I’m happy.
Every time I see our application online being used by hundreds of thousands of people, I’m proud of what we’ve achieved. It’s the greatest joy, when I get positive feedback from the product management and then later on from the users regarding one feature that I’ve built. But the seldom negative feedback is also a good feedback, because it helps improve my work.
In the end it comes down to the fact that I can’t imagine what my life would be without the Internet or without doing what I love most, which is building these online applications.
I constantly think about my work: how to improve our applications, how to accomplish one task, how to improve my code, how to make a component I’m working on reusable, how to overcome one challenge I’ve been dealing with for days already, how to apply what I’ve learned and how to keep learning but also how to build a feature in a way that would be the easiest to use for our customers and help them do their job faster. I even dream about it and as soon as I wake up in the morning, I sit quickly to my computer and happily start coding. This is so much fun, I get so wrapped up in it that it’s difficult for me to stop to take my lunch break or to go home in the evening.
It has become an important part of my life, like eating and sleeping, which I can’t do without anymore.