Revisiting old code (and more)

4 minute read article technology   wisdom   lessons   delphi   perl   dotnet Comments

I’m a packrat. I always have been and my family can confirm.

It’s been a long time since computers have had CD or DVD drives installed, and a few years ago, I ended up buying a USB DVD drive so I could rip old CDs and watch an occasional movie that wasn’t on a streaming service.

Recently, I discovered a couple big stacks of old CDs. Some had ‘backup’ written on them with a sharpie, some had nothing. I started combing through them to see what I could find.

It was pretty awesome because some of them dated back to the 90s! I found backed up Visual SourceSafe repositories, folders with old documents, spreadsheets, Outlook .pst files, Access databases, and more! I had forgotten about so much of it.

I found lots of old Visual Basic code, although I can’t find some of very earliest programs I wrote in Quick Basic. I’m a bit bummed about that, but if memory serves, I lost all that when the hard drive from my very first computer died.

Shareware and more

During the 90s, I wrote a bunch of shareware apps. I never made much money from them, but I tried. I wrote a suite of command line utilities that filled in a many gaps in what was installed with Windows - uptime, whoami, one to list all the mapped drives on my system, one to delete things (bypassing the Windows recycle bin), one to play .wav files from the command line. Here’s a snippet from the readme:

Command Line Utils (cl_utils)
Version 1.0
Written by: Michael Eaton
February 14, 1998

DISCLAIMER:  The author of these programs cannot be held responsible for the use
or misuse of these programs.  It is the end-users responsibility for correctly
installing and using this software.

DISTRIBUTION:  You may distribute this unregistered software at no cost as
long as the zip file remains intact.  You may not include this software on a
CD without my express permission.


1.  What are the Command Line Utils?
2.  How do I install the cl_utils?
3.  How do I get rid of the cl_utils?
4.  Contacting the author...
5.  Registration
6.  The Future of the cl_utils
7.  Known problems


1.  What are the Command Line Utils?
Since I spend a huge amount of my time at a command prompt, both in Windows 95
and Windows NT, I needed several programs to make my life easier.

Did I mention most of those were written in Delphi?

I loved Delphi. I loved Object Pascal, but what I really loved was the ability to compile my programs down to single .exe files that didn’t require a runtime like Visual Basic did.

Laziness, impatience, and hubris

I also found a bunch of old Perl that I wrote. Perl was my favorite language for a long time, and I still count it as one of my all-time favorites. I know people always bitched about how unreadable it was, but with the help of sites like Perlmonks and my copy of the Camel book (which I still have), I think I wrote pretty clean Perl. It’s also where I learned to love and embrace regular expressions.

I wrote a build system in Perl in the late 90s. That was fun since the team I was on worked on a big Visual Basic 6.0 application along with a few C programs. We even automated it by polling SourceSafe for changes.

# michael eaton
# jan 8, 1998
# purpose:
# to refresh a directory from SourceSafe
# to find makefiles
# to run nmake

I wrote a backup program for a client in the early 2000s that I used personally for many years. It would probably still work today. Maybe I’ll try and report back. It’s interesting that it was based on a VBScript version - maybe that one is hiding in one of those old VSS repos. I’ll have to look.

#! /usr/bin/perl

# Michael Eaton
# Jan 4, 2001
# Purpose: to read an XML file with files to be backed up.
# Perl conversion of backup.vbs.

Back when the web was in its infancy

I registered my first domain name in 1996 and shortly after published my first website. Yes, I found the code for it, as well as my GeoCities site. I love seeing stuff like this:

The HTML that represents the footer of one of my first websites

Most of my early sites were built using HomeSite

Do you remember Microsoft’s SiteBuilder Network (SBN/ClubSBN)? I was part of that back in the day. I have the code for that website as well. That’s where I first met Aaron Bertrand, although when I worked with him years later, he didn’t remember.

The old ClubSBN logo

Help me help you

I have the source for some Windows help files I developed - back when you had to write them as rich text files with special codes embedded and then compile them into .hlp / .cnt files.


I also found my original resume and references written back in 1994.

And college papers. And COBOL code for one of my classes.

I found research papers and even a book proposal I sent to Wiley back in 97 or so.

And the earliest C# and VB.NET code I can remember from when .NET was still in beta.

And the original content and code for an article I had published in Visual Studio Magazine in 2002.

Now what?

My thought is to go through what I found in more depth and maybe blog about some individual things I did, and maybe see how much of it still works all these years later.

I definitely miss those early, simpler days of software development.

I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane with me.

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