Postcard from Software Development (3)

I've been looking at a lot of web pages lately. OK, we all do that, but I've been paying attention to the source, rather than the cute layout. You know what? It sucks. God knows what the average page size is now, but "small" won't cover it.

When I started out in IT, it was a mark of pride to be able to write software that worked in a small space. The machine it ran on might be the size of a large room, but the memory and storage space were both tiny by today's standards.

Even fifteen years ago, when you wanted speed, rather than rely on ever faster processors able to absorb the cost of the shiney new framework that just has to be used, you chose a low overhead development environment. At the time that was "C". Twenty years before that, the language didn't matter, even the horrors of COBOL or Fortran seemed to produce a quick enough system.

It's not all bad. Not everyone uses overblown software environments. I have a mate who wrote a network aware data logger for hardware that didn't have enough RAM to hold a full ethernet frame. That's 1526 bytes, and it says a great deal about his ability and the toolset he used.

So, what happened? Why do average quality web pages have to be 3MB? Even the raw HTML can be half a megabyte, and that's before the Javascript libraries, CSS and images get pulled in. I understand the attraction of a good, smooth interface, and I have an idea how much that costs, but the 3MB shows that size on it's own isn't helping.

Mind you, application software has the same disease. The last MS Office update came in at over 300 MB and that seems to happen a couple of times a month.

Maybe this is just age talking, and no, I don't want to go back to a machine the size of a house with less capability than an Apple iWatch. But, neither does a 3MB web page impress me.


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