A Capsule Biography
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Stephen Hawking’s bestselling book, A Brief History of Time, was followed up many years later by an updated version, A Briefer History of Time. This book was more concise, lavishly illustrated and written with a co-author, presumably to help convey its tremendously complex ideas in a way that most people would understand.
But we do hope to outline the main points of its emergence, its evolution, and its eventual possibilities, taking some time to measure its impact on the internet, and society as a whole.
But how did it all begin?
In the Beginning
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But how it came to be is not too commonly known.
Before we get to the creation of the thing itself, let’s take a moment to learn about its creator: Brendan Eich.
Brendan Eich was born on July 4, 1961 in Pittsburgh, PA. He studied mathematics and computer science at Santa Clara University, and later received his Master’s Degree from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
It may take ten-thousand hours to become a great performer, or an expert in some specific field of study. And Brendan no doubt logged-in these requisite long hours of deep practice.
But sometimes to make something great, you only need ten days.
How to Make a Script in Ten Days
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It was the mid-nineties, the age of Apple and Microsoft, Dilbert and watercoolers.
Brendan Eich found himself working at Netscape, an internet browser startup in Mountain View, CA, in the midst of the browser wars.
He was hired by Netscape in February 1995, having turned down an initial employment offer a year beforehand. But he was to make a quick impact once he got there, and change the landscape of Netscape. Only three months later, in May, he would be commissioned to create one of the most influential programming languages of all time.
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From AOL to Microsoft Internet Explorer to Netscape, there was serious competition to see who would end up dominating the web with their particular web browser. It was by no means certain who would eventually conquer and reign supreme.
Brendan was set to write a script to accompany the Netscape browser. Something that would be easy to use and immediately interactive.
During the process of its creation, in those brief ten days, Brendan got by on very little sleep, and he saw the process as something of a rush job. But if it was a rush job, it was a rush job well done.
These ten days had an effect so consequential that their creator could not possibly have guessed it. But, by some quirk of fate, he did.
Prophetic words indeed.
In a brief stint of ten days, Brendan Eich cobbled together the seed of the programming language that would grow into a tree larger than he, or anyone else for that matter, could ever conceive.
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You can’t get away from it.
And he made it in ten days.
This feat has a legendary aura surrounding it, something that increases its power in the telling.
It makes one wonder what else can be done in ten days that would have a similar effect upon the world.
That oft-repeated saying, that we only use ten percent of our minds, rings somewhat true in light of what Brendan Eich achieved. If only each of us could use ten days so effectively, so efficiently, at least once in our lives.
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- Audio and video components
- Display more dynamic images
- Enable animated page functions
- More visually appealing and interactive buttons
- Embedded calculators
- Data forms with convenient value inputs
Entry boxes could be embedded into the page, allowing users to more easily contact you, or input variables in a quick and easy-to-navigate way.
Instead of keeping the screen a read-only interface, the user could now participate in the whole process. This made browsing the web a more active experience, separating it further from the more passive media like television, movies, and books.
And with the addition of Flash, Dart, REACT, and other new web options, the internet has really become a very dynamic place.
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What’s in a Name?
(designer_start)[the word ‘name’ in different languages scattered about: nombre, nomen, nom, onoma, etc.](designer_end)
- First, they called it Mocha.
- Then they called it LiveScript, which supposedly sounded more active, snappier, livelier.
- Finally, ECMAScript became its official, canonical name.
NOTE: You can tell that programmers were inspired by the numerous cups of coffee they had to drink, working those long hours.
So it goes.
The Customer is Always Write
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They could embed their pages with more dynamic images, animations, and other interactive features. You didn’t have to use a compiler to code with it, and that freed up many more people to use it.
It was easy for even beginners to program with and to customize their websites and spring a new freedom in their web interface.
It was fast, easy, and fun.
But therein lay some problems.
NOTE: items in quotations have been taken from the ECMA official website, https://www.ecma-international.org/ecma-262/9.0/index.html#Title.
- (1997) ECMAScript, 1st edition
- This is the original version, which was standardized by ECMA.
- (1998) ECMAScript, 2nd edition
- The changes made to this update were largely “editorial in nature.”
- (1999/2002) ECMAScript, 3rd edition
- Updates were mostly “minor changes in anticipation of future language growth,” preparing for the eventual permutations the language would take on.
- (Not completed) ECMAScript, 4th edition
- This version was not completely released, but “some of it was incorporated into the development of the sixth edition.”
- (2009) ECMAScript, 5th edition
- Updated with “added support for new features that had emerged since the publication of the third edition.”
- (2015) ECMAScript, 6th edition
- This edition incorporated “better support for the large applications, library creation, and for use of ECMAScript as a compilation target for other languages.”
- (2016) ECMAScript 2016
- This update addressed “thousands of bug fixed, editorial fixed and other improvements.”
- (2017) ECMAScript 2017
- This version included “library enhancements, bug fixes, and editorial updates.”
- (2018) ECMAScript, 9th edition
- The latest version “introduces support for asynchronous iteration,” along with “minor updates, editorial and normative,” from their “awesome community.”
A more detailed explanation of each version, and especially the current one, can be found on the ECMA website (link mentioned above), from which this information has been gathered.
Problems, Open and Closed
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The internet has opened the world up to its many users, having given us a grand platform to wander about in, to learn about this and that, and explore subjects that we never before considered.
But it has also opened users up to the world, exposed the travelers to the dangers of the wasteland. Malware, advertisements, malvertising, viruses, and more.
Now that the road has opened up to us, and we are well aware (or at least slightly more cognizant) of these perils, internet privacy has become a crucial issue for each and every one of us. From the companies we work for, to the deeply personal information we (try to) keep safe on our computers and phones, our security is of the utmost importance.
Renewed attention is being given to privacy and data integrity. This does not necessarily mean a closing off of the infinite possibilities the internet holds for all, but merely the bolstering of the vehicles we use to travel these roads.
Inventions have unintended consequences. Especially something that was made in ten days and spread so quickly and so far.
Brave New World
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In an attempt to remedy some of these unintended consequences, Brendan and his colleagues has in recent years started the company Brave. With this new endeavor, he intends to restore privacy to the internet, and make it a safer place to explore.
Brave, his new internet browser, is a bold, new venture, poised to change the browser market. A seemingly impossible task, you might say. But such a feat was accomplished before, in 2005…by Brendan Eich and his colleagues at Mozilla.
We live in an age of rapid, constant change. And many of the inventors of these foundational technologies are still among us and are doing extremely innovative work, not only building on their past projects, but creating absolutely brand new ones.
Brendan Eich is one of these creators.
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Some say that the internet has replaced physical reality, but such a thing is rather silly. But it has certainly extended reality, enhanced and detracted its many dimensions, found a way to stretch the boundaries of a plastic-metal square.
Watching this video is inspiring.
From three-dimensional models that demonstrate evolutionary theory in action (that looks superbly fun, by the way), to creating instantly generated 3D worlds, it’s simply astonishing. Seeing the custom lit-up building is awesome to behold.
And Opher demonstrates that it really is a creative medium, a virtual paintbrush for the artist to create new effects on the screen, that can spill over into our more mundane reality.
It’s simply awesome.
And in the End
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But it does need to move us forward. Onward, always searching for the new.
Thinking upon a programming language for an extended period, makes one realize that the very words we use are also a program of sorts. And just as we can reconfigure the virtual world to our desires, so can we change this world, too. And be changed by it as well.
The figure of Brendan Eich, among the other heroes of Silicon Valley, of any valley through which one passes into some place hitherto unknown – these heroes and heroines deserve our attention, simply because they have so much inspiration to impart.
Not bad for something made in ten days.