Tuesday, May 23, 2006

insert bileblog-like insult here

We are constantly bombarded with announcements about solutions that free the developers of web applications from writing basic "CRUD".

It's not that these kinds of things aren't good or needed, it's just embarrassing to watch the world of web apps catch up to an idea whose time had come 20 years ago.

Isn't this all the same damn thing that PC "database" products (which didn't even support SQL yet) could all do back in the 80's? (And, IIRC, certain mainframe-based environments even before that?)

Considering that at least some of the people inventing this stuff are old enough to remember that era, I can only assume that people have selective memories. Or that back they were too busy fighting the Unix Wars or playing Rogue to pay attention to anything as dull as business applications.

Let me refresh you: before 1990, there were a number of "database" products that allowed the ordinary business user (user, not programmer) to create his own tables to hold his data, specify the format (number, text, etc) for that data, graphically create screens which can be used to edit that data, create and print any number of different reports based on the data, etc. And all without writing a line of "code".

The most well-known surviving modern example from this category is of course Microsoft Access, but its a cruddy (heh) example, as it is actually harder and requires more programming skills to use than its competitors. Mac users may be familiar with FileMaker Pro, which I've never used but which was supposed to have been utopia at some point. There were others. I remember using the database component of a software suite called "Eight in One", that was exactly like what I described above.

And people ate up these kinds of applications. The thing that killed them was the fact that they were desktop-based solutions in the age the Internet. And the fact that they were all proprietary.

It's taken the web world approximately 1991 until now to catch up. Why are we all so proud of this fact?


shhh...! we've had jobs writing the exact same programs over and over since 1985, with slightly different "output devices" each time. don't let on...
Yes, but it is like the late 1990s when people were trying to patent business processes by reciting old business processes and tacking on the words "Over the internet."

I feel pretty much the same way about "Web Services." We've had the same thing as Web Services for years. UNIX RPC gets close... But now, we've moved it up the protocol stack. All of the sudden, we have something completely new! Web Services! In reality, we have almost exactly what we used to have, only now it is "Over the web."