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How I switched to C# in just 15 years

posted under category: dotnet on August 18, 2017 by Nathan

I've been making web sites professionally for over 20 years, an aeon on the Internet. I was a full stack lead developer when Netscape sold the first JavaScript server to Sun, and I'm not even 40! I've been programming ColdFusion since '98, still the dawn of web applications.

Adobe's server technology has paid my bills since then. I've also blogged and tweeted and spoken at conferences, written open source and have been a good community member. You could say I've been a fan.

Still, no one can be a one trick pony in today's world. As chance would have it, my language of choice after CFML (and JS, so, I guess 3rd language) has always been C#. Here's a little story about how that happened.

First though, I have a lot of ColdFusion community members to thank for teaching and encouraging the rest of us the fundamentals of object-oriented programming. Thanks to all of you who spoke, blogged, emailed, and tweeted over the years! Without you, I would have been far less.

In 2002, I worked at a little startup in Arizona building targeted dating sites. The code I inherited was, let's just say, typed very quickly, maybe without thinking first. One Friday afternoon, the CEO rushed in and announced that ColdFusion is dead and we needed to rewrite all the sites. .Net was too new for him, so he decided classic ASP was definitely the best way forward. With protest, I bought a couple books and read them over the weekend so I could hit the ground running on Monday. Progress was slow and, honestly, the platform was awful! ASP with VBScript is a platform built by computer scientists, not web developers.

The next year, our CEO wanted a desktop alert app that would enable persistent connections to our dating sites so you can know the exact moment that someone likes your profile. We decided to build it in C#, which was still a little risky at the time for a widely deployed application. I used my knowledge of OOP to design and build some of the back-end and server communication libraries. That was my first real taste of C#.

C# became my hobby language. When I wanted a desktop util or a little toy, I built it in C#. For fun, I built a little WinForms app that let my wife upload photos to our web site - drag & drop, automatic resizing, write a caption and you're done! This was years before Facebook essentially took over the old family web site thing. I still use an app I wrote to correct certain file names, and another one to empty the temp folders on my hard drive. Sometimes I put a little thing together to parse big XML files or resize photos. You know, hobby stuff.

Years later at a different company, I had the task of speeding up our ColdFusion job that downloaded, cropped, and created the thumbnails of thousands of hotel photos for a reservation site. After exhausting all of our CF options, I decided to try it in C#. Instantly it cut a 12 hour job into 2 hours with better looking photos, then I used multithreading to cut it down to 20 minutes. I was hooked, even though ColdFusion still paid the bills.

My CF skills brought me to Boeing as I took over a very well designed OO application. Since then, I've had very few chances to do anything outside of ColdFusion until this year.

Earlier this year, my manager handed a group of us a UWP app. Yep let's just put the web developers into the desktop world! And that's that. I've jumped in with both feet, and I think I'm doing pretty well.

I'll have a lot more to talk about on this subject, coming as soon as I can type it.

Nathan is a software developer at The Boeing Company in Charleston, SC. He is essentially a big programming nerd. Really, you could say that makes him a nerd among nerds. Aside from making software for the web, he plays with tech toys and likes to think about programming's big picture while speaking at conferences and generally impressing people with massive nerdiness and straight-faced sarcastic humor. Nathan got his programming start writing batch files in DOS. It should go without saying, but these thought and opinions have nothing to do with Boeing in any way.
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