After a few months of slinging some pretty incredible HTML (not really) I was stymied by one particular type of tag: I couldn’t do anything with this FORM tag. Well, I could render a form on the page, but that’s not very useful by itself. When in doubt I turned to the most obvious guide: @dje. I asked Darrin what I could do to get the stuff from forms and do something with it and his answer was: look into CGI.
At this point I had no idea of how my HTML pages were even showing up when I was using a browser. All I knew was that I had to put the files in a particular directory and that if I had a file called index.html in a directory then that HTML content would show up when the URL in the browser was for the enclosing directory. After a bit of research I came to the conclusion that CGI was something you did with Perl (yes, this was not the correct conclusion, but it lead me to the next step.
Somehow I found a book about Perl. The actual title was Teach Yourself Perl in 21 Days, published in 1994. I think I finished it in less than 21 days - learning a programming language for the first time was amazing. I felt like I had found something powerful and that now I could make a computer do anything. I figured out how to put scripts up on the server where they could be executed (again with quite a bit of help from Darrin, I’m sure) and I was off to the races.
Over the next two years I wrote a lot of perl scripts. I wrote perl scripts to take form input and send it via email. Then I wrote perl scripts to take form input and store it in a MySQL database. My scripts became more and more complicated. I began writing scripts that used Perl 5’s object syntax. I even wrote a content publishing system for the University of Miami’s newspaper.
In 1996 I spent a year abroad in Vienna, focusing on music. When I returned in 1997 I realized that there were some things I’d probably never be able to do with Perl (most likely this isn’t true, but this is what I thought).
I really wanted to be able to develop software for my Mac (which I believe was running OS 9 at this point). I looked at the tomes that Apple execpted OS 9 developers to understand and came to the conclusion that I was neither ready for that, nor was I ready for the C programming language which was the language of choice for developing OS 9 applications. Again, I believe it was @dje who came to the rescue, pointing me to a new language which was recently released called Java.
Next up: Java and Open Source