Creating Wonder

Wonder Code

Throughout my career as a software developer, I remember distinct moments of wonder.

Times when I quite literally asked: “how did they do that?

My first professional engagements were performed on the original IBM PC, running under MS-DOS. As I was learning my craft, I noticed that almost all professional apps displayed their screens instantaneously; while my screens painted painfully slowly, character by character. What was I doing wrong? And more importantly:

How did they do that?

Turns out, in order to display screen content blindingly fast, one had to use undocumented, unofficial areas of the PC’s memory space; by writing directly into the PC’s display memory, screens popped, rather than crawled.

The next time that I had a similar sense of wonder, I was working on web applications. In 2005, I witnessed the Google “Suggest” feature for the very first time (you probably know it best as the drop down box, with suggested search terms as your type, on Google’s home page).

Until that time, web apps required a round trip to the server to get new data. Google was seemingly demonstrating real-time data retrieval, without leaving the current web page.

How did they do that?

Google was using an API call named XMLHttpRequest, that allowed an easy way to retrieve data, without a return trip to the server. You now know this as part of the AJAX programming model (Asynchronous JAvascript + XML) – which changed the way web applications have been written ever since.

Smartphones, tablets, and wearables – producing entirely new markets, where none existed before – have also created a self-same sense of wonder.

And it’s why I love technology – for the anticipation that today, I might discover something new, and wonderous.

What will you do today, to create a sense of wonder?

Go, and be you.


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