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In the beginning was a static[1] website that had pages written in HTML, student and staff names in static tables and a little Javascript for the rollover navigation buttons. This was fine when the website had only a few pages and didn’t need much updating. It became more of a problem as the site inevitably grew and updates and additions kept arriving by email.

Some years after the creation of the website in August 2000, I found a book by Microsoft which contained a chapter on databinding which I had read about in a magazine. This seemed[2] to be the answer to my prayers of being able to keep the student and staff names in a database and create a table that was only as long as the data available to fill it, without showing empty cells.

So it was that I spent three weeks one lonely Christmas manually converting all the staff and student data in tables to XML pages which data would be read into HTML pages by the ‘magic’ process of databinding. It worked but little did I know what a headache I had created for myself.

Some years later, while working on a contract for the RAF I met a programmer, he proved to be a friendly guy as well as a good programmer and when I put it to him one day that ‘my’ college website was in need of a technical makeover he said “use PHP/MySQL”.

Knowing very little about it, but curious, I first setup a MySQL database with the help of Martin Francis (who kindly hosted this website for some years), and then paid for UK hosting while learning more about it.

The end result is that after a lot of work converting the data from XML to MySQL (don’t ask), and using Dreamweaver to write the PHP code (I didn’t know how to at that time), we now have a website that has very few static pages and many dynamic[3] pages, giving great flexibility in appearance and maintenance.

[1] As opposed to dynamic pages created on the fly from a server as you browse the website

[2] This was a blind alley because the Microsoft route to web technology is long and tortuous

[3] The staff and student data is held in a database and copied from the server to the browser at the time the page is requested by the viewer, you, and the tables are created at that time, they do not otherwise exist.