The power of Web-based applications continues to burgeon as they take on the art of application building itself. In a number of online tools, the old compile-link-deploy loop disappears, and editing a Web application becomes as simple as editing a comment for Slashdot. (Notice I used the word "edit," not "program.") Just click a few times in the browser and your application is up and running.
Stories by Peter Wayner
Who wouldn't want to live in a "cloud"? The term is a perfect marketing buzzword for the server industry, heralding images of a gauzy, sunlit realm that moves effortlessly across the sky. There are no suits or ties in this world, just toga-clad Greek gods who do as they please and punish at whim, hurling real lightning bolts and not merely sarcastic IMs. The marketing folks know how to play to the dreams of server farm admins who spend all day in overgrown shell scripts and impenetrable acronyms.
In the collective imagination, the computers are busy merging into one grand, expansive database filled with minutiae about those pesky, emotive humans so that the machines will be ready for Sarah Connor. The database administrators and programmers know that the reality is more than a little bit creakier than this image -- even though they might use the image to pry some funding if they see a glint of malice in the eyes of the pointy-haired bosses.
One of the joys of being a Web programmer is heading to a dinner party, a haircut, or a reunion and fielding the pitches for everyone's dream for a brilliant Web application. Everyone is always happy to cut you in for 5, 10, maybe even 15 per cent of the equity if you just build out the Web site that's sort of like a combination of Twitter, AltaVista, Eliza, TurboTax, and the corner pharmacy, but cooler.
There was a moment in history when assembly coding and the knowledge of it largely disappeared from the world. Before it, the programmers knew and cared about the binary code the CPU saw, even if they relied upon a compiler to build much of it. After that moment, the IDEs came along and did so many things automatically that programmers stopped caring about such things as linking or op codes.
Just a few years ago, the world of open source packages for generating database reports was a quiet secret shared by programmers on a deadline. Anyone could spend a few minutes linking in a library to start generating relatively clean tables filled with data pulled from an SQL database. I've personally made a few clients happy by adding JasperReports to some projects with just a bit of XML and a JAR file.