How I Got Started with ColdFusion

Thanks to Steve Bryant for the inspiration.

Many, many moons ago (1995-ish), I was working for a small startup here in Phoenix doing data entry. The company had a few ventures going on. The cool one was building web sites (for those clients who were bleeding edge enough to know what web sites were), and the other one, which was a CD-based version of the yellow pages. I worked on the other one. Typing the yellow pages into a database.

I had inquired about crossing over to the cool side of the building, but was told that there was no time to train somebody new, and I didn’t know HTML. In fairness, they were somewhat overworked what with keeping up with all of the new cool technology, like the <font> tag.

One fateful day, I was told that my services would no longer be needed, as the company had outsourced the data entry. I would now have to fall back on my previous career, which was donating various bodily fluids for money. Fortunately, this particular career path allowed me a lot of time for reading, and I with an interest in learning HTML, I picked up a book.

HTML wasn’t rocket surgery by any means, so it was relatively easy to progress through the book. As luck would have it, a few weeks later I got a call from my old company. They needed another developer, had remembered that I expressed interest in learning, liked my work ethic, and wanted to bring me on. And thus my career as a “Web guy” officially began.

It was an interesting time. The “pre-Wild West” era of the Web. The two main browsers were Netscape and Mozilla. IE would be along shortly. And it would be FREE (unlike Netscape or Mozilla)! Sites were mostly static, unless you wanted to push the envelope and add a contact form. Then you pretty much needed Perl. As a data entry guy and professional bodily fluid donor, I didn’t have a lot of experience with Perl. I bought the “llama book” and gave it a go, but it just wasn’t clicking.

Luckily, I could download scripts from Matt’s Script Archive that met my needs. While I would have liked to have been able to write these scripts by hand, it would do for now.

Things were good for a little while, but as the saying goes… the company wasn’t doing well financially and eventually folded. I started looking for another HTML job. By now, this “Web” thing was starting to catch on, and there were more HTML developers competing for jobs. However, I had one thing many of them did not. Prior professional experience with HTML.

This landed me my next job at Digital Network Access (DNA), which was another startup here in Phoenix. DNA was more of a traditional ISP (as traditional as things could be considered back then). They offered Web development services, hosting, and connectivity. They were using something called Cold Fusion (yup, 2 words… this was back at version 1.5), which I had never heard of, but was willing to look at.

Within a short period of time, I was no longer relying on Matt’s Script Archive in order to create a functional contact form. I could have the contents of the form sent via email, or stored in a database (this was also my first exposure to databases, o hai Microsoft Access).

That was it. Sixteen years later, I’m still writing CFML. I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to work with various versions of ColdFusion consistently over the years. Along the way, a pretty amazing community formed around the technology, which I’m proud to say I have been a part of.

It would be wrong of me to not mention that, while at DNA, I also met a girl. A beautiful and intelligent girl who laughed at my jokes and saw things in me that I never knew were there. Unfortunately, I met her right at a time when I decided that I wasn’t interested in being in a relationship, but needed to focus on my career.

Fortunately, I never listen to myself, and fifteen years later (this October), I love her as much as I did when I married her back in 1997.

Digital Network Access… that was one hell of a job.