Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Rebirth of DIY Software Development

In the heady, exciting, almost wild West atmosphere of the early days of PCs it seemed like almost everyone I knew was writing software in hopes of making a little extra money. Shareware was big. That was the idea that you would give away the program and if people really liked it they would pay for it. And since there was so little software out there other people were packaging their software in a nice format and selling copies though local computer stores. Computer stores back then were desperate for software to sell to help sell computers. The cost of entry was low – you needed a PC and the development software that came with it. If you were really ambitious you’d buy Turbo PASCAL or some other more professional development environment. The other thing that was big was more or less ordinary people developing small software projects for work. Not necessarily great software but good solid (ok maybe not solid) but cheap and accessible software. Over time though the “real professionals” took over as standards became higher.

We, many of us in the industry, expected programming to become easier to the point where everyone would be programming. That, alas, has not yet happened. What has happened though is that there is a new market for software. Portable devices like Windows Phone 7 have online marketplaces now. So does the set top box video game market! And there are tools that are free or cheap and even easy to use. Students can get development tools for Windows Phone 7 and Xbox 360 from Dreamspark. There are learning resources, some at DreamSpark, and some from other places (App Hub for one) that are also free.

This is sparking a rebirth of the small, even one person, development organization. Students are creating and selling programs on Xbox marketplace and Windows Phone 7 marketplace and making real money. Some though sales and some though advertising supported software which is something that didn’t exist even a few years ago. Another difference with this new environment is that this time companies and businesses realize that they need, or at least want, to have applications for these new devices. There are not really enough people ready and trained to create them (see More Computer Scientists Needed To Create Mobile Apps). What does this mean to students today? I think Mark Guzdial said it well in his post titled The advantage of computing goes to those who create, not those who use.

Sure it is important to know how to use computers and to use various applications but the real advantage goes to those who create. Are we creating enough creators?


Today’s post inspired by these somewhat related articles.

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