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15 technologies changing how developers work

Peter Wayner | Aug. 12, 2014
The very nature of programming is evolving faster than you might think, thanks to these powerful tools.

A long time ago, developers wrote assembly code that ran fast and light. On good days, they had enough money in their budget to hire someone to toggle all those switches on the front of the machine to input their code. On bad days, they flipped the switches themselves. Life was simple: The software loaded data from memory, did some arithmetic, and sent it back. That was all.

Today, developers must work with teams spread across multiple continents where people speak different languages with different character sets and -- this is the bad part -- use different versions of the compiler. Some of the code is new, and some may be from decade-old libraries that may or may not come with source code. Building team spirit and slogging through the mess is only the beginning of what it means to be a programmer today.

[ What's in and what's out in app dev: 15 hot programming trends -- and 15 going cold. | Show off how much you really know about development by acing our Programming IQ test, round 3 and our "Hello, world" programming languages quiz. | Work smarter, not harder -- download the Developers' Survival Guide from InfoWorld for all the tips and trends programmers need to know. | Keep up with the latest developer news with InfoWorld's Developer World newsletter. ]

The work involved in telling computers what to do is markedly different than it was even five years ago, and it's quite possible that any Rip Van Winkle-like developer who slept through the past 10 years would be unable to function in the today's computing world. Everything seems to be changing faster than ever.

Here are 15 technologies transforming the very nature of programming. They're changing how we work with fellow developers, how we interact with our customers, and how we code. Don't get caught asleep at the console.

Developer tool No. 1: Continuous integration

When you checked in code to a repository, there used to be enough time to catch your breath, have a cup of coffee, and maybe even go out to lunch. No more -- code repositories are now tightly linked to continuous build systems that recompile your code, scrutinize your architecture, initiate hundreds of tests, and start flagging every potential error in your work. You won't get five feet from your desk before your phone starts pinging you with new emails or text messages from the continuous build mechanism telling you what needs to be fixed. Back to work, slave, the continuous build machine has new tasks for you.

Developer tool No. 2: Frameworks

Standing on the shoulders of giants by reusing the work of others may not be a new idea, but it seems like it's never been as dominant as it is today. Very little programming begins from scratch these days. The favored -- and some might argue, best -- approach is to grab the right framework, research the API, and start writing glue code to link together the parts of the API that make the most sense for the job. Web pages aren't built out of HTML or CSS anymore; the coding begins with Ext JS, ExpressJS, or some other collection of code that serves as a foundation.


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