How I got started in ColdFusion

This post is more than 2 years old.

A week or so ago Steve Bryant suggested that August 1st be a day for us in the community to share how we got started in ColdFusion. I thought this was a really cool idea and I hope everyone takes the chance to participate. If any of my readers do not have a blog, I welcome you to share your story in the comments below.

I began my college career in 1991 studying computer science. However, after a year or two I found myself dissatisfied with what I was learning (and finding that my 'good at math' skills hit a brick wall with Calculus 3). I switched to English and found myself (and my grades) much improved. I couldn't escape my love of computers though and stayed very involved with what was the beginning of the web. I remember surfing via Mosaic back when Yahoo was king. When I found that I could create web pages myself, I found my new passion. I got even more excited when I discovered dynamic web pages. If I remember right, the first dynamic web site I saw was a Tarot reading. The web page took what seemed like 5 minutes to load, but I must have reloaded it ten times. I was fascinated by the random results.

I learned that people were using Perl scripting to write CGI scripts. Perl was (probably still is) easy to pick up and it didn't take me long to learn how to build simple CGI scripts to handle forms. I decided to leave grad school (I only went for one semester) to join one of the two big web shops in town, Einstein Digital Media. I did a bit of HTML design (yes, I did design, shudder now) but mainly I was writing gobs and gobs of Perl scripts. This worked fine for a while until we got a client that had an existing database I needed to hook into. I knew Perl could do it, but I wasn't excited about figuring it out. At that point, ColdFusion was in version 3, and I heard it made database interactions easy. I downloaded it in the morning and by lunch I had a basic prototype done. I was stunned. I remember being very impressed with how easy it was to generate HTML via ColdFusion. What had been a pain in Perl was easy in ColdFusion. Most of all - it felt like ColdFusion was built for the web, which is not something I got from Perl. While I would continue to work in Perl from time to time, that was the beginning of my love affair of ColdFusion and the beginning of a long (and successful!) relationship.

Two of my oldest ColdFusion sites are still around - Death Clock (which I sold about 5 or so years ago) ran on Access, yes Access, and at the time I had it would get 3-4 million hits per month. My other really old site is a T.S. Eliot site, What the Thunder Said. You can also find some of my old custom tags on the Adobe tag gallery - there is some scary old stuff there.

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About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

Lafayette, LA

Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Mike Brunt posted on 8/1/2011 at 2:41 PM

Here is how I started with CF...

Comment 2 by Herman Potgieter posted on 8/1/2011 at 2:48 PM

I started My love affair with coldfusion about a year ago when I started working for a company that only uses CF due to the ease of use and easy database integration. I had not done any real web development before. Mostly I had done programming in VB, Java and C++ you know the basics you get taught at university level. I left uni to work for my current employer and what I have learned in the last year has far surpassed everything I have learned in three years at uni.

in CF we trust

Comment 3 by MrLockertsen posted on 8/1/2011 at 2:51 PM

I remember that software box. :) I started with CF 3.1 in 1998. 13 years on: Still loving it.

Comment 4 by Dale Fraser posted on 8/1/2011 at 3:03 PM

Always interesting to hear how people fell into technology. A good idea to share these also, here is mine

Comment 5 by CD posted on 8/1/2011 at 5:28 PM

Ray, if you get a chance and are willing to do so, could you elaborate a little more? How did you get from tinkering around with CF 3 to writing the bibles on CF Development (the CFWACK books) to arguably being the one of the top authorities on ColdFusion development? I'm always reading books on athletes and businessmen and women and how they got to where they are, but unfortunately there's a lack of information like that about the top people in my own field. Thanks!

Comment 6 by Jeff Fleitz posted on 8/1/2011 at 5:35 PM

I was a FoxPro developer in a previous life. Back in mid-1995 I was hired to work for the Energy Information Administration branch of the Department of Energy to build an ad hoc report writer that would talk to Oracle backends. My customer became disillusioned with the project and ask me to come up with something that would 'make him famous'. I suggested we build an ad hoc reporting system using web technologies. He gave the green light and I was given 2 weeks to build something. So I built the system using FoxPro and the first Windows web server, O'Reilly's WebSite Pro (anybody else remember that?). It worked well, but management was concerned (rightfully so) about maintaining the app should I get hit by a beer truck crossing the street. So they asked me to look at other technologies that would be easier to maintain. I had looked at version 1 or 1.5 of CF before, but the language wasn't rich enough at the time. I went back and looked at 2.0, and decided it was perfect for what we wanted. So we built the first ad hoc reporting tool using CF 2 talking to an Access database with 1.2 million records in it (I know, I know... yuck). It worked well and was actually featured on a CNN report back in 1997. Still using CF as my main tool after all these years.

Comment 7 by Dave DuPlantis posted on 8/1/2011 at 6:38 PM

I got my start in ColdFusion about 9 years ago ... coming out of college in 1991 with a CS degree, I ended up at a company that was just doing work on mainframes (third-party stuff, some shell scripting). Eventually we moved to VBA for small-scale projects, but projects grew to the point where we needed a bigger platform. We'd done a single VB project (deployment and maintenance were painful) but nothing else online.

Another group in the company found CF and began working with it, deploying an application that could handle much larger data sets than our VBA apps could use. I saw the way things were heading and jumped to the web development group. I had some HTML experience, and between that and my CS background, CF (I think it was MX at the time) was easy to pick up.

I've poked around with other languages, but I always come back to ColdFusion. I'm fortunate enough to be working in 9 right now, and I hope to be able to work with some of the cool new features in 10 when it's released.

Comment 8 by Richard Ragan posted on 8/1/2011 at 7:24 PM

I got my start in ColdFusion working with Ray and others at Creative Internet Solutions. Learning at the feet of the masters.

Comment 9 by Doug posted on 8/1/2011 at 7:31 PM

Funny, I dropped out of Electrical Engineering and went to Psychology only to land back in the computer field after graduating too. My experience with the computer labs while in Engineering was horrid though - crappy NeXT machines crashed so much that I just stopped bothering. DOS was a dream by comparison.

Comment 10 by Adam Tuttle posted on 8/1/2011 at 7:59 PM

Posted mine today as well:

Comment 11 by Brad posted on 8/1/2011 at 8:05 PM

I also dropped EE. Found myself learning Business and Applied Economics. THEN I picked up CF because it was the platform my employer used. We had no budget for development so I was given a MS Access datasource and production web space. I got a gently used copy of CF 5 WACK and was on my way. Knowing *nothing* about relational design at the time, it was a matter of days before my first-ever CF app brought down the server. I had a single table that had 58 columns. I guess Access can't handle this, so it was locking up the datasource and any other app on the server was waiting for it to be finished. Luckily, a sysadmin was there and I got a crash course in relational design on the spot! Ah, memories :)

Comment 12 by Juggler314 posted on 8/1/2011 at 8:43 PM

heh, I managed to start with cold fusion earlier than that - I don't remember exactly but it was at least a 2.something version. (just checked the version history, probably 2.0, right before 3.0 came out). Similar though, company was coding websites in C++, was going downhill. I was the only guy left coding and wasn't good with C++, 2 weeks later the entire companies website was re-written in CF. Never looked back. People make fun of me sometimes for it, but they don't realize how easy/powerful it is.

Comment 13 by existdissolve posted on 8/1/2011 at 9:08 PM
Comment 14 by jmcconathy posted on 8/2/2011 at 12:12 AM

I got started in 2001 when I began my career with the US Courts in the in Texas. I had been brought on board to help move the district I was working in from a legacy system to a newer system for case management.

during that process we determined that there was a need for a QC system to help keep track of and correct data entered. We decided to go with Coldfusion. I have a background programming in C on QNX systems as well as Unix/Linux so it was a fairly speedy transition for me to coldfsuion.

I have moved to a different aspect of working with the courts and written many apps. reports. electronic forms, etc ... since and have definitely enjoyed the journey. I hope and look forward to the future of coldfusion.

Comment 15 by Raymond Camden posted on 8/2/2011 at 12:43 AM

@CD: I got really turned on by custom tags. Not sure why - but I did. I shared quite a few of them, and that got the attention of others. I also started participating in cf-talk, which was a lot more active back then. I was asked to speak at the first CF conference (in Ft. Collins) and it just kinda snowballed from there. I found I really enjoyed talking about CF - just about as much as I did writing it.

Comment 16 by Jas Panesar posted on 8/2/2011 at 2:09 AM
Comment 17 by Collectonian posted on 8/2/2011 at 6:04 AM

Wow...3.1! Awesomeness :-)

Finally finished posting mine: Loving reading all of these today :-)

Comment 18 by Jaana Gilbert posted on 8/2/2011 at 6:37 AM

Wow, brings back memories from the past.
I started my ColdFusion past in 1997, when my then boyfriend was into CF and he showed it to me one weekend. I had been building small sites with HTML until then and CF was easy to take on. The rest is history :)

Comment 19 by Giancarlo Gomez posted on 8/2/2011 at 6:56 AM
Comment 20 by Giancarlo Gomez posted on 8/2/2011 at 6:56 AM
Comment 21 by Misty posted on 8/2/2011 at 9:43 AM

Hi, I was bit late to start but started when it arrived in INDIA, even until 2005, CF books were not avaliable in India, So my start was bit late

Comment 22 by Ellison Bowman posted on 8/2/2011 at 7:14 PM

I'm getting old. (Laughing out loud). I started using ColdFusion around the summer of '98. The version was 3.1 (I think with the lighting bolt on the cover). This was pre-Homesite days and my editor of choice was notepad. Eventually I purchased Homesite.

I attended a 3-day fast track to ColdFusion and a 3-day advanced ColdFusion class at Fig Leaf Software in D.C. Steve Drucker was my instructor. The rest is history.

Comment 23 by Randy posted on 8/2/2011 at 9:02 PM

I got started on Version 1.5 when it was bundled with O'Reilly WebSite Professional and used it along with Lotus cc:Mail for the web for our organization. Since then we have upgraded to V2, V3, V4, V6, V7, V8 and waiting for 10 for our next move.

Comment 24 by Dave Hannum posted on 8/2/2011 at 10:13 PM

Here's my story - late as usual . . .

Comment 25 by Don Vawter posted on 8/4/2011 at 9:26 PM

@Jeff Fleitz. Yeah I remember the O'Reilly web server. I also was using FoxPro back in Dave Fulton's time and needed database access for the Web. CF 2.0 fit the bill since I didn't know cgi. Has been a long fun ride.

Comment 26 by Md Shakir Alam posted on 9/20/2011 at 1:25 PM

I got started in 2009 with CF8 in India.

After completing my bachelors degree in multimedia, I started my career as a web designer in 2004.

In 2009, while doing a project my boss fired the PHP developed due to delay in project and assigned me to do that complex project in just four months.

There was two options in front of me. To hire another PHP programmer or do that project myself.

I took this as a challenge and completed that project in three months using CF8 and mySql. I loved simplicity of Coldfusion and now Coldfusion is part of of my everyday's work.

I had no background of programming. Now my designation in my office is Senior Application Architect. I would like to thank you Ray for your write ups which inspired me to take that challenge. Thank You