Tuesday, 9 January 2024

End of an era

Some of the first posts I ever made on the first version of this blog, back in the early years of the new century, were about ObSys, the online course management system that I’d been working on.  Yesterday I logged the ticket to finally shut down the server that it lives on, and that was actioned today.  After over twenty years of faithful service, ObSys is no more.

It was originally built purely to let students sign up to courses that my department ran, but it was a bespoke application and I added features as they were needed within the department and it ended up being pretty powerful.  If you look at it today, it looks pretty antique.  Although the student-facing screens were semi-regularly updated to fit the then-current University website template, the admin screens are stuck with a template from when those early days.  But that still belies the functionality of the system.

From a technical point of view, I started writing it in around 2002, when the only Java web technologies were servlets and JSPs.  No Spring, no MVC, no IoC, just raw servlets and JSPs.  Not even filters.  I had to write my own database connection pool library.  And it was a a more naive era, before anyone had ever heard of Little Bobby Tables. I finally replaced the final string concatenation for queries with prepared statements just last year, at the same time as I finally shook up the infrastructure, bringing it up to a modern platform.  I honestly thought it would last another twenty years.

But my colleague, the one who managed the courses, retired a few years ago.  He was really the one who had liked and still used ObSys.  The folk who were left kept it going for a bit but they’ve finally decided that they want something different.  I’m a bit disappointed that they didn’t talk to me to see if we could add additional features to ObSys, but I can see they might want something off the shelf, not relying on just me as a developer, and my colleagues who have probably never even checked out the source code.

So all good things, and all that.  I’m still proud of ObSys. The work that went into it, and the fact that it was integral to the running of the department for many years.  How many software systems in the internet era can say they’ve lasted so long?

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