Ten Years of JavaScript

10 April 2007 » Ajax, JavaScript, PHP

This spring marks a decade since I first used JavaScript.

My initial exposure to programming, and computer science in general, was through an introductory course for non-computer science majors called “Computers in a Modern Society.”

The class filled us in on the history of the Internet, the World Wide Web, and HTML. JavaScript seemed tacked on to the syllabus at the last minute, given the buzz surrounding its release the year before.

It was a massacre. Less than half of the hundred or so political scientists, economists, psychologists, and philosophers survived that course, even though JavaScript had been touted as an easy-to-learn, high-level, “toy” of a language.

Thus began my love/hate relationship with JavaScript. The beast that slew so many of my friends introduced me to C-like syntax, showed me functional programming, and provided the leverage I needed to start my career a couple of years down the road.

Tin or aluminum is the traditional 10-year anniversary gift, and it befits my tribute to this lightweight staple of the modern Web, waiting in the sand to slice your foot open.

Following is a short history of my relationship with JavaScript.

  • 1997
    My first Date() with JavaScript. Original programs, later cleaned up in 2000: Reflection Cipher Encryption, EU Currencies Converter.
  • 1998
    Went through my “Select menu choose a link from the dropdown and you’ll go to the address you don’t even need to click submit!” phase. This carried through most of the year.
  • 1999
    Interned at the Federation of American Scientists, Arms Sales Monitoring Project. Rebuilt the site (it’s still up!). Ten percent HTML, 90% JavaScript to provide cool roll-over effect in masthead image links. Oddly, masthead JavaScript is no longer used.
  • 2000
    Built the TLD Lookup tool to see where my Web site visitors were coming from. Discovered server-side scripting such as ASP and PHP, began to look down upon front-end coders like I was until the month just prior. Like every other developer working at a health-oriented Web site, I wrote a Body Mass Index calculator.
  • 2001
    Lots of front-end workarounds since the platform of the site I worked on full-time went from ASP to ATG Dynamo, robbing us of any server-side logic we lowly front-end developers could script. Seeds of bitterness towards MVC planted. Besmirched JavaScript’s good name via pop-unders at behest of higher ups. Ug.
  • 2002
    Continued to mock those with functions beginning with “MM_” in their source.
    Did lots of date related things on the client-side to work around lack of server side scripting. Came up with ill-conceived “scrambleCard(strCC)” function to mask credit card numbers (Fortunately the site was served via HTTPS anyway).
  • 2003
    Worked with some folks at NYPHP to develop an airline ticket booking site. Chris Snyder opens up a whole new world for us by implementing a pre-Ajax technique to manage city and airport dropdowns. I remain proud of my form validation system which changes styles of improperly filled form fields text to bright red and alters title attribute of surrounding label elements with condescending error messages.
  • 2004
    Lose most of the year to an ill-fated content management tool project. Not all is lost, I cut my teeth on J2EE and Struts, and make peace with MVC. Implement rollovers from Young Pup on every freelance job I can get a hold of. Have fun with banner and splash image rotations, transparent PNGs and the like.
  • 2005
    Began drafting a presentation on how to learn JavaScript instead of relying on copy and paste. After seeing JSF tooling demonstrated in Rational Application Developer expressed shock that there were tools and technology that would generate JavaScript for you, instead of handcoding it for browser compatibility and efficiency. The horror.
  • 2006
    Shamefully lag behind on Ajax and Web 2.0 advancements. On the other hand, strengthen knowledge of PHP, J2EE and database modeling to fill out that part of the architecture.
  • 2007
    Return to client-side coding via job change and new projects within my larger organization. Lots of Ajax, JSON and SOA. More when that launches later this year…

Here’s to JavaScript 1.7, and many more rumors of its imminent demise.

  

4 Responses to 'Ten Years of JavaScript'

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  1. Matt Schroeder said,

    11 April 2007 at 9:42 am

    Daniel,

    Just a quick note to say thanks for the amazing job you did with the arms sales monitoring project website. Its simple, elegant design is aesthetically pleasing and timeless, and it still attracts thousands of visitors each day.

    Best of luck in all your future endeavors.

    Matt Schroeder
    Manager, Arms Sales Monitoring Project

  2. krook said,

    12 April 2007 at 7:45 am

    Matt,

    Glad to hear it, and thanks for taking time to send me a note. :)

    Feel free to contact me via the address posted at http://krook.info/ if you need any input on future directions you decide to take the site.

  3. Jason said,

    13 April 2007 at 3:41 pm

    The amount of mocking and condescending you do makes you dangerous. I remember I tried to build an html site using “frames”. “Nobody uses frames, dumbass” you said with eyes rolling. My dreams of building websites and being creative in any way were at that point in time crushed deep into oblivion. Bravo, Dan. Bravo.

  4. Marcy said,

    15 April 2007 at 8:47 pm

    You’re such a geek — I love it! Why not apply MIT’s AJAX timeline application to this? http://simile.mit.edu/timeline/

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