A decade of change since Y2K

It’s been ten years since the first digit of the calendar changed from a “1” to a “2.” For those of us in the computer industry, change happened at a dizzying pace over the past decade – as it has for every decade since the 1950s.

Think about the technologies that you rely upon today, you may be astonished to realize how few of them existed a mere ten years ago – and those that existed were substantially different.

• Check your pocket, belt or pocketbook. Do you see a smartphone? Ten years ago, if you had a mobile phone, it was pretty dumb. The current incarnation of the RIM BlackBerry came out in 2002 and Apple’s iPhone was announced in 2007. Even the Motorola RAZR, a very popular non-smart phone, only came out in 2004. In 2000, I owned a Nokia stickphone.

A decade ago, open source software looked very different. No Eclipse, no NetBeans. While the Apache Software Foundation was formed in 1999, the Apache HTTP server project started 15 years ago, in 1994. If you were a software developer using open source software ten years ago, chances are that it came from the Free Software Foundation.

• Microsoft’s Visual Studio IDE was pretty new. It appeared in 1997 as a combination of Visual Basic 5.0, Visual C++ 5.0 and Visual J++ 1.1. Until that time, few people used a a multi-language integrated development environment.

• Speaking of Microsoft, if you had a desktop computer it was probably running Windows 98 or Windows 2000. If you were targeting Microsoft with your apps, COM was your friend and you were writing in C++ or Visual Basic. The .NET system, including C#, didn’t appear until 2002 or later.

• Or would you like some Java? The project began at Sun in 1990, and a decade ago we were using Java 2 Standard Edition 1.2 and the brand-new HotSpot JVM. The Java Community Process only started two years earlier, in 1998.

• If you’re an Apple fan, the Macintosh choices in 2000 were a Bondi Blue iMac G3, an iBook G3 or a PowerMac G4. The first incarnation of Mac OS X didn’t appear until late 2000. Intel processors didn’t show up on Macintosh until 2006.

• The Internet looked very different in 2000. No Facebook or Twitter, of course. No Cloud. Google, founded in 1998, was an up-and-coming search engine. The big worry was that Microsoft would dominate the Internet through its Internet Explorer 5 browser, which had pretty much destroyed Netscape Navigator. The Mozilla project had just launched, but Firefox didn’t appear until 2004.

• Also new was XML, which was started in 1996 by Tim Bray and a host of others. We had no Web services, no SOAP, no REST, no RSS. If you were grabbing data from the World Wide Web, you were screen-scraping.

• Scripting languages were JavaScript, Perl, Python, PHP and a few others. Mainstream developers saw scripting languages as a way to add some automation to Web pages, and also to simplify some back-end development. Real programmers, though, still programmed in C++ (or maybe Java).

What a decade, eh?

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick