It was approximately 1992 and Microsoft Visual basic 3.0 came out. We cracked open the box, installed the floppies (early 90’s!) and we built our first application. Okay, we put a button and a textbox on a window and wrote code that displayed “hello world” in the textbox when we pressed the button. Whoohooo. It was not rocket science but it worked. Here is why it was amazing: previously to do this you would have needed C or C++ and hundreds of lines of code to draw the window, the text box and button and hook it all up simply to display “hello word”. Our VB app was one line of code.
Why was this important? Because it took a few minutes to write, worked the first time, did not require a rocket science (err computer science) degree and we were able to go looking for a date on Saturday night and of course develop full blown business applications in a fraction of the time.
Roll forward 20 odd years; VB is marginalized, the web is everywhere and I want to develop a project management web site for my company. I have basically two choices: build from scratch using ASPX and .NET technology, or install SharePoint on a Windows Server. After clicking “next“ a few times, and choosing a team template, I have all the functionality I need (and way more than I could think of) in a SharePoint web site. To customize, I can move things around to lay out the page the way I want, and in a short time I have a working usable web site. Things have improved; I did not need a single line of code and we are free for Saturday night.
Previously developers complained VB6 was a toy, claimed it did not provide enough control. (Grumble, what kind of language would allow you to use a variable without first declaring it, hmmm?) Not much has changed; now I don’t have total control over the web site, but, do I have a working functional web site? Absolutely.
SharePoint has dusted off that old model and is repeating it for web sites and business applications. VB turned out to be one of the most popular and productive languages ever created and SharePoint is going in that direction. History is repeating itself; SharePoint has given us a great tool that allows us to develop functional, usable web sites in matter of minutes versus years it would take using classic technology.
So, where do IT professionals fit into all of this? Don’t worry we have a huge part in all of this, I’ll discuss that in future articles.