A couple of weeks ago Steve Bryant posted a blog entry with a great idea. This idea was that on 1st August 2011 all ColdFusion developers around the world should post on their blogs and tell the story of how they got into ColdFusion. As he points out on his blog post, these stories are often very interesting and not always what one might expect.
Now, I'm not sure my particular story is that interesting but I'll go a head and post it anyway. I've had a total blast working with this awesome web development system and would like to share how I discovered it.
The story begins in 1998 when I got my first job after graduating from university. It was with a small web development company who had recently lost their lead developer (to Netscape of all companies) and they needed a young graduate to take over. I got the role which was somewhat of a 'do everything' type position. My first 3 months goals were to pick up the HTML web development of the companies various clients and to learn the entire Microsoft server product suite that was in use on the internal company network.
The early days of the role were pretty much all HTML - often developing huge websites for fairly high profile clients and using Microsoft Frontpage 97. I can still recall the pain of copying pages and pages of product descriptions from technical order books, along with tricky HTML tables layouts for specifications etc. Back then, the only dynamic elements we would use were CGI e-mail handlers.
My first foray into web programming was actually not for the web. I was tasked with writing a log file analyser for Checkpoint Firewall 1. I hadn't used Perl before but it seemed like the obvious choice to use for building such a tool. It was quite a learning experience, to have deadlines to meet and a whole new language to learn but it was a great way to begin to get into more advanced development.
After that we would sometimes get asked for more dynamic elements for websites - a questionnaire for instance - and Perl was again the obvious choice, but was always quite a trial to get working exactly right.
So how does ColdFusion come into this then? Well, around 2000 / 2001 our company took on a new developer who was tasked with building a large e-commerce site. Before this the only e-commerce site we had built was via a product called Drumbeat (does anyone remember that?). It was truly awful. It built ASP websites using a visual editor and lots of code libraries but was a total pain to customise.. Not a nice experience.
Anyway, the new guy came to the company with some experience of a product called ColdFusion. He told us it was a really great way of developing websites and that he had picked up the basics very quickly and he came from a non-technical background. To speed up the development he looked around and found a product called CFWebstore which became the core of the first big e-commerce site the company had worked on.
This particular developer did not actually stay at the company very long and this project fell to me. It wasn't the best project to work on but was a good introduction to the awesomeness of ColdFusion 4.
The next developer to be taken on as a replacement had a lot more ColdFusion experience and came to the company with a number of development ideas which revolved around bespoke development - rather than off the shelf packages.
This was a real eye opener to me as he introduced the concept of custom CMS development using a MS Access DB (crazy to think we used that, though we moved onto SQL Server down the line). Sharing code meant that I was able to develop my knowledge as well as move in a personal direction in my own development. Due to the fact that we were in a small team and pretty much being given sole responsibility of each project meant that we both developed our own bespoke CMS systems, while sharing concepts with each other - always a great way to bounce ideas around.
It wasn't long before I was developing a huge range of sites ranging from basic CMS systems all the way up to enterprise Intranets and e-commerce sites. Our company never focused on one particular niche so we had to have a codebase that could adapt to *any* project. Having a bespoke CMS that could be customised based on ever changing project needs was pivitol and ColdFusion made it so much easier than it could have been. I would sometimes be shocked just how flexible CF could be when having to quickly respond to customer requirement or change requests.
I worked at that company for almost 10 years and ColdFusion became a very faithful and reliable friend... As it continues to be every day..