Surviving the 90s as a Developer

Posted by Diana Antão

A lot has changed in the world during the last twenty years, and that includes IT jobs. But how different it was to be a developer in the 90s?


Is someone there?

It’s much easier today for developers to stay in touch and do collaborative work on projects. Email, smartphones, Slack, Skype… the list of communication tools is so long that developers may now suffer with too much noise! Back in the 90s, developing projects at a distance meant a lot of travelling, back and forward.


Creative or non-creative, that’s the question

In the 90s, software development wasn’t perceived as a creative job: developers had a nine to five schedule and very specific tasks to do. That’s changed. Development of software is now perceived as a creative job and programmers are seen as problem solvers, who lead innovation, or at the very least make it happen. As a result, they became more independent and must manage their own time, usually benefitting from flexible working hours.


Shut up and take my money

Being into computers and gadgets in the 90s was quite expensive. Companies had to spend crazy amounts of money on hardware and licenses. Owning a server was a luxury, many small companies used a normal computer instead.


Excuse me, I have a question

In the 90s, internet 2.0 was a mirage, so was Fullstack, Github and all the other websites that developers now use to find quick solutions to their questions. Twenty years ago, with a bit of luck, they could find the solution in books. Otherwise, the alternative was to start everything from scratch and spend hours trying to figure out a solution alone.

It’s fair to say that internet 2.0, open source and cloud computing massively increased the productivity of software developers.


Don’t go chasing waterfalls

Agile and scrum have become part of the developers’ lexicon, but it wasn’t like that in the 90s. Back in that decade, waterfall was the predominant model, which meant that software development wouldn’t start until the design and all other requirements were fixed in place. The problem was that from validation to production, years could go by. The Agile Manifesto, published in 2001, was the turning point for the popularity of this development methodology. Agile allows businesses to benefit from the new software faster and let’s the software team to get rapid feedback on the project’s scope and direction.


I also like to live dangerously
Publishing software releases used to be a truly stressful process. It would only happen once a month or so and there was always a lot at stake because each release included a lot of changes. They also took a lot of time to test and proof. Now, developers share releases constantly and to improve or fix small things as they go.


Worth every penny
Internet 1.0 gave developers’ salaries a boost, especially those who could work with this new technology and who bet on learning Java, which became the primary language of the web. In 2010, there was again a significant increase in the salaries of software developers. There are a few reasons that led to this rise: industries recognised how important and ubiquitous software is and there was a significant increase in the number of startups. These reasons led to a bigger demand for resources, which were and are quite scarce.


Closer to the machine

In the past, developers needed a deep knowledge of hardware if they wanted to solve problems, increase performance or even develop their own software. Nowadays, developers work in a more abstract way (something that will only increase), which leads to less knowledge of the computer itself and a greater understanding of specific software.


What else has changed in terms of software development since the 90s? How do you think future changes will affect software developers in the future?