Ten years ago (c. 2004) web developers and designers were a wise and varied bunch: repurposed production artists, graphic designers, writers, editors, bankers, lawyers, indian chiefs. Most of them knew a little programming, having picked up a little out of idle curiosity or necessity, but none described themselves as programmers, and they would have laughed at the notion that setting up a web blog or maintaining a corporate web portal was some kind of programming. Programming was what the boffins off in IT did—the boffins who weren’t database administrators or network specialists or wire-pullers.
Programming meant writing long pages of code in a programming “language”: COBOL, C++, Java. Making web pages was designing and producing content. Doing much the same thing you’d do when writing a newspaper article or designing a brochure. Only instead of distributing it on paper you made it come up on an electronic screen.
The programmers over in the IT department knew about the web and often could create basic web pages, but they sneered at the notion that web development was high technology. “Web people aren’t real techies,” they’d say. “Nine out of ten of them don’t even know what a grep is.”
And the reason companies now required a broad set of technologies is that IT work was increasingly web-related. To stay employed the programmer had to learn what the web developers and designers knew. Increasingly he was competing with these designer/developers for jobs.
This is no longer the case. View Source no longer shows you the actual source code as-written. It shows you merely the last version of the code after it’s passed through a series of stills and sausage-grinders.
Let’s draw a simple analogy. If the automotive industry were like the web world, we would now be at a point where almost no one but a trained mechanic really knew how a car engine works. Your grandmother may well have changed her own oil and sparkplugs, and knew the difference between a fan belt and a timing belt. She wouldn’t be able to do that today, if modern cars were like the modern web.