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The new VisiCalc

Though I sometimes feel like it, I’m not actually old enough to know what VisiCalc was, but Joe Stagner wrote a post in which he made an analogy between the two:

VisiCalc was THE spreadsheet of the day !  It might have done 2% of what Excel 2010 does, but when it was released it was an AMAZING innovation…ASP.NET/Web Forms was a perfect match for the skill set of the day (2001/2002) and was exactly what the industry needed at the time.

I don’t know that I would say it was a *perfect* match, but I generally agree with the sentiment.  It was SO much better than ASP, and made programming for most situations so much easier.  I remember feeling a little jealous that one of our sister companies at the time (HSN.com) re-wrote their search functionality using Beta 3 (I think) of ASP.NET 1.0, and got a go-live license, and got immediate benefits in terms of performance and scalability.

Not everyone shares the same view.  Jimmy Bogard wrote a counter-point post that takes a decidedly different view:

When I moved from ASP classic to WebForms, the whole postback business was just completely baffling…But in the end, I could really care less about the WebForms stalwarts.  I’ll never work with it again by choice…the WebForms architecture wasn’t really needed in the first place.  But hey, if you’re the type of guy that enjoys getting poked in the eye with a sharp stick, you can have your ViewState.

I think this is wrong on a number of levels.  One of the canards that gets thrown about a lot is that postback and ViewState are inherently confusing.  They aren’t.  In almost every instance, you can pretty easily work with them, and you can get a lot of benefits.  Plus, I’ve never really understood the unadultered love that some people (maybe not Jimmy, hard to tell) seem to have for the HTTP protocol.  As a programming paradigm, I’d say that HTTP actually really kinda sucks.  There’s nothing really all that cool or fun about POST and GET (PUT is kinda sexy though…LOL), and request/response blows.  It just happens to be that you can do a lot with it, despite its suckitude. 

And you can have testable apps with WebForms, it’s just harder.

In any event, MVC (whether it is the ASP.NET version or not) does have a number of benefits over WebForms.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that you *must* use it for sophisticated apps (there are tons of very sophisticated apps using WebForms…somehow they figured out that ViewState thing-y), but it certainly should be considered.

Regardless, there is nothing ‘revisionist’ about how ASP.NET could make web programming significantly better when it was released.

posted on Tuesday, September 01, 2009 10:21 PM Print
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