How I got started in ColdFusion

As per usual its been far too long since I wrote anything on my blog, so it seems fitting that I join in with the "How I got started with ColdFusion." day.

I suppose I should start with where I actually started with this Internet malarkey.

In 1989, I started at what was Newcastle Polytechnic, and is now Northumbria University, a year late having flunked a year of A level Math, Biology and Chemistry and gone off to college to get a National Diploma in Computing for Business. Two years of Higher National Diploma in Computing for Business with a year of work placement in the middle and a lot of time spent building various applications on the DEC Vax system in poly I decided to top my HND up to an honours degree. To be fair, I did rather well in my HND and I was offered the opportunity to do an extra two years to get the 'better' qualification and not really knowing what I wanted to do I took the opportunity.

From the HND I went into the third year of the four BSc Honour Computing course, where they proceeded to bore me silly with stuff I'd already done. More time 'hacking' around with the DEC Vax system ensued along with lots of time in the student bar play table football, drinking Newcastle Brown Ale and organising band nights in the bar.

The final year of my Degree course was where it finally got interesting. In the course of messing around with the poly network in the previous year, me and some friends had discovered a gateway out of the national joint academic network onto this "Internet" thing. Back then we were using paper terminals and one old green screen that allowed us through the gateway unchallenged. We played with FTP, NNTP and gopher. Then http suddenly started providing more content that we were just about able to find and get to using lynx. In the latter part of the year we got access to the unix terminals and with it we also found Mosaic shortly followed by Netscape. With DEC's Altavista search engine and then Yahoo! we were able to find loads of total rubbish and academic waffle all over the then minuscule World Wide Web.

I knew about the Internet and I knew how to make HyperText Markup Language and I was one of less than a handful that did, so that was my final year dissertation. I created a computer aided learning tool, using HTML and perl that did some rudimentary sign in and progress recording to help students and lecturers at the Poly learn about the various aspects of the Internet. That was a fun year of trying to find out exactly how you design an application that is basically a set of linked web pages, with a whole bunch of emails from around the world that amounted to "when you find out let me know will you? I'm really interested in that too!", my lecturer saying things like "Sounds good to me, just keep going" with a blank look on his face, that culminated in having to persuade my second marker that the internet and HTML was a good thing and they had a purpose and future, so that he didn't fail me! As it turned out my second marker understood it all better when it was demonstrated to him and I didn't get failed, in fact I got 83% after going through the wringer.

Cut forward a little bit and I managed to get myself a job working for a web development company in Newcastle city centre. I got to build a couple of rough and ready data driven websites using perl before the company went under leaving me short a months pay at Christmas time. Around that time web development companies were few and far between, so I ended up working IT support for Newcastle Chronicle and Journal. I'd stayed in touch with a couple of the guys from the web development company and they happen to mention that they knew the business development manager at "The Chron" and one day whilst fixing someone's PC I dropped this nugget into the conversation with the new business development manager. It wasn't long after that conversation that I started a new job at The Chron as a web developer. Their first web developer. The NBDM hired a great designer who had a background in architecture and grasped the three dimensional and inter-related nature of a website. We knew what we wanted to do to develop websites for the newspapers, but we still didn't have the technology to build the sites with. We'd pretty much got the choices down to Active Server Pages and Allaire Cold Fusion 2. We were on the verge of going with asp, when Cold Fusion 3 was released and we never looked back since!

Cold Fusion 3 was a revelation. Our database was updated with news stories directly from the Quark Express documents of the newspapers up to 6 times in a day. Cold Fusion 3 made it extremely easy to connect to the database and pull out the latest news in any way we liked, connecting ex-pat Geordies around the globe.

Fourteen years on I'm still a ColdFusion developer. I've been through a few jobs since then, including a stint as a self-employed developer, helping to create solutions for the BBC in 1999 for their Today2000 broadcast and Formica UK and Europe among other projects. I'm now Software Development Manager for Enigma Interactive in Newcastle where we create ColdFusion solutions for a varied selection of clients and projects.

I've been involved in helping run ColdFusion conferences here in the UK and I had the honour and pleasure of speaking at Scotch on the Rocks this year.

Well I seem to have written a small novel, so I should probably stop now.

The future is bright for ColdFusion with an ongoing plan for development of Adobe's ColdFusion as well as two other solid and continually developed Open Source CFML engines, in the form of Railo and OpenBluedragon. ColdFusion is here to stay and it only gets better.