My home internet connection is 3,346 times faster than my first ever internet connection. But after inflation, I’m actually paying less.
OK, so I didn’t pay the internet (well, phone) bill back then. My parents did. And so began a common theme of tying up the phone line consistently and racking up dial-up ISP charges. My journey into the online world had begun. Back then, of course, the online world was a little less engaging and a whole lot more frustrating. For me, the real revolution happened the day I signed up for Hotmail (or HoTMaiL as it was back then). A few days after it launched, I was the proud owner of an email address, taking advantage of the incredibly generous 2mb (yes, megabytes) of free storage.
I could continue to write this blog – probably even a book – about the mix of turmoil and rapture I experienced watching the internet evolve. The launch of Google, the first 0800 number ISP, the constant tension as your 1MB download slowly edged towards 99%. 56k modems, ISDN, the eventual rollout of ADSL… but I’m straying too far from the point. Free stuff.
Back in the 90s, software was expensive, storage was expensive, the online development community had yet to be established. It seemed difficult, and costly, to be creative during the critical era of computer and software development. I remember investing in a copy of Visual Basic under a student license. But that was it – no online updates, no subscription – even if the hardware of the time could have coped with the strain of downloading 500mb+ of data, the business model just didn’t exist.
But oh my how things have changed, and the environment created for budding developers is one of free software, engaging community websites / forums, affordable cloud hosting, online development packages, team-conducive version control. This is the golden era of development.
This is one area where Microsoft have made huge steps. Visual Studio Community is completely free, as is SQL Server Express. Establish yourself in the cloud and publish to Microsoft Azure with £125 free credit. And it’s not just Microsoft doing their part. Create and store your code and collaborate in teams with BitBucket (you guessed it – free for individuals). Learn to code from scratch – for free – with Code Academy. Ask questions and get answers from developers free at Stack Overflow. The list goes on.
Software development has never been this accessible, and the possibilities for budding entrepreneurs are endless. Take advantage of the power of free.