Friday, February 24, 2012

The Era of Dark Backgrounds

Today i had the idea to migrate old RMCOBOL flat files to SQL server in order to test my new datasnap app with real data. All i had to do was write some programs that read the files and write the data to sequential csv format. COBOL programs of course...

Apart of the fact that i had forgotten many syntax rules and statements of COBOL and needed to find the reference manuals, i also had a 20 years flash back. I just felt the need to write some words about at these days, the "era of dark backgrounds" development was a lot different than today. Building an application was almost a totally hand written task. No mouse, no click, no visual design, no online help, no Internet.

Few of the differencies were captured at my monitor during this flash back. Delphi XE2 IDE stands behind the COBOL "IDE".

The IDE, usually a plain text editor. Some of them had a lot of advanced features like mark blocks of text and move, copy, overwrite like simple copy&paste and if you were lucky a limited and occasional Undo. Syntax highlighting, code completion, syntax & statement help, refactoring, history and compare, code insight and other features of modern IDEs, like Delphi XE2 or even early versions of Delphi, was pure science fiction.

Project Manager, off course we had such a feature, who could not write at DOS command line the most simple command of all "c:\>dir /w *.cbl" ?
Who could not write a simple batch file to compile all or some of the project sources? ... dont ask me what is a batch file!

Compiling was also just a simple command like "c:\>rmc85 myprog". But when it comes to error messages, lets say you not only needed to have the -RTFM- books  in hand ...

I cannot show you any screen shots of debugging a program. When it comes to debugging we simply had ... almost nothing. Run the program and ... pray not to have forgotten a dot (.) inside and "IF" ! If you could not follow the program logic from the source files, there was nothing else to help you inspect the program flow.

"Dark backgrounds development was so hard and difficult?" you may wonder. I do not  have an answer, the only thing i know is that development was always about creation and of course fun!

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