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The History of ASP and ASP.NET

written by: theinkandpen (Robert Mullon)•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 2/12/2010

Here we will explain why and how the ‘active server pages’ framework originated: what its initial use was in web applications, and how it developed into its modern version or ASP.net.

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    What is ASP?

    ASP stands for ‘active server pages’ and it was first developed in the mid 90’s (version 1.0) to create web content which could change upon interacting with the user, as its name suggests. When an ASP page is requested within HTML code it is sent from the server which hosts the site (a.k.a. server-side scripting); for instance the server would store information on a particular user by way of ‘cookies’, and ensure that content is specific to that particular user. This is useful when displaying current time or weekday for instance (i.e. setting your own time-zone), or when accessing a database which has stored exclusive information.

    In web development this is known as ‘dynamic content’. Basically, this means that the web site is able to ‘learn’ information relevant to your visitors, store that information in a database and recall it once the user visits the site again. This is its most powerful application. On a business web site, this is very useful for managing your memberships, user names, passwords and similar information. It is also useful for current news events, daily weather reports and generally content which needs to be updated.

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    Early Origins of ASP

    With the advent of the Internet Information Server 3.0 (IIS 3.0), or a series of applications for hosting windows based web servers, there came the need to generate faster dynamic content. This was achieved with the development of ASP, a framework which included the Virtual Basic programming language as its core language and various others.

    The very first version of ASP, version 1.0, was first developed in December 1996 by Microsoft. Before its full implementation, developers used a combination of programming languages (such as Perl and C++) or scripts in order to create applications which could then be loaded to create dynamic web sites. However, this proved to work very slowly and cause a strain on the servers. Therefore there was a need for applications to be executed directly into the server without loading external programs, and this is where ASP proved to be handy. ASP's strength lies in using ActiveX: this is technology used to build single components which are then executed directly into a web site.

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    Growing into ASP.NET

    With the development of the .NET framework for Windows, a more modern programming environment with easier linkable libraries and optimised code, the original version of ASP grew into ASP.NET. Its new version came as IIS 4.0 was developed in 1997, a year or so after IIS 3.0.

    The original developers for the next version of ASP were Mark Anders and Scott Guthrie (source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASP.NET), who developed a prototype called XSP (cross-site printing) in Christmas of 1997, which was then substituted to ASP. The new project was codenamed ‘cool’ by the Microsoft team and used Common Language Runtime, which resulted in being simpler and ‘cleaner’ than the previous ActiveX and COM based versions. CLR is still an integral part of the .NET framework and allows for cross-compatibility, by being able to import and run applications to be built in the many supported programming languages. This allows the web developer to program server applications in different languages depending on what is considered most effective (i.e. Visual Basic for a graphic user interface), and integrate all the components with ease within the server software.

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    Some Simple Uses

    Aside from the above-mentioned uses for your site, there are many more things a developer can do with ASP.NET. Some include:

    • The use of ‘Event Handlers’
      •  With static web it becomes impossible to write code which executes when something specific occurs. Using CGI scripts this is possible but is lengthy and slow to build. However with event handlers in ASP it can work flawlessly, such as the ‘Page_Load’ event, which is triggered once a page is loaded, or ‘Unload’ which works the opposite way or when the page is closed. 
    • Complete compatibility (the ‘runat’ command)
      •  By inserting this command, the ASP.NET framework ensures complete compatibility with many programming languages and makes pages with older versions of ASP also compatible. 

    It would be too long to list every single advantage. There are some good free tutorials for using ASP.NET, such as www.asp.net/learn by Microsoft. The library is also freely available to anyone who wishes to use it.

    In conclusion, by using ASP.NET you are able to integrate the essential aspects of a business web site seamlessly and with simple code.

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    Resources

    Wikipedia: Active Server Pages - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_Server_Pages

    Wikipedia: IIS, Internet Information Services - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Information_Server#History

    Coding Mentor: Beginners guide to ASP.NET - http://www.codingmentor.com/Asp_programming200_Asp_programming.htm

    Rogers State University: Active server pages - http://www.faculty.rsu.edu/~clayton/donahoe/paper.htm

    Search Enterprise Network: ActiveX controls - http://searchenterprisedesktop.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0,,sid192_gci211521,00.html