Open sourcing for education

, a 2-minute piece by Dev Mukherjee Dev Mukherjee

Certain software applications make you stop and wonder how it’s engineers implemented features or the entire application. You can’t help want to get in their minds and see how they made the pieces fit. Often times it’s about learning how they went about implementing the project, where did they start? Growing up I wondered how id Software built DOOM and Wolfenstein or Broderbund, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? At the time I classified them as impossible.

Software is a strange profession. What you spend your life working on is rendered obsolete every decade or so. iPhone was released a decade ago, think of all the exciting application you bought when the AppStore launched and where they are now? Or even how the platform (hardware and software) have changed.

I developed an interest in programming from at a very early age.

Back in the early 90s I programmed in an xBase variant called FoxPro (acquired by Microsoft) building a specialised point of sale application for photograph studios. My dad ran a photography studio and processing laboratory and had one of his friends author him a custom system. I found it lacking in features (one of them being ability to be used over a network) and decided to work on my own fork. This would later end up being a production system, maintaining which occupied large portions of my school holidays.

Zoom (photography reference, and it’s name) is now defunct. Before I lost all traces of it, I took a copy and decided to put it up on Github. It’s both in service of history and education. Those interested will be able to study how xBase applications were built, and the labour of my teenage years are now preserved for the rest of time. It follows similar efforts of companies like id Software demystifying how some of their master pieces were constructed.

Before you call your decades old project obsolete, consider contributing it as open source code, so others may study and learn from it.

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