My Version Control System History

· by Steve · Read in about 3 min · (547 Words)

I was thinking the other day about how many version control systems I’ve made my way through over the years of being a professional developer, and I figured it would be fun to put it in graph form. Of course, this is entirely from memory and gives the illusion of being more empirical than it actually is, but hey, everyone loves graphs, right?

Yes, I really didn’t use any source control back in 1994, barring backing up to 3.5″ floppies. ‘Custom’ refers to a system I wrote myself in 1995 to do version control on a mainframe system I was working on at the time; really it wasn’t a proper VCS system as you would think of it now, but it did the very basics to make sure we knew what was being developed and deployed at any point in time. You could think of it as a VCS system that only had history at the tags đŸ˜‰

As you can also see, Visual SourceSafe was the first packaged system I used - you can pity me now - as more of my work started to involve PCs instead of ‘big iron’. At that stage, the concept of ‘checking out’ and ‘checking in’ was normal. Oh, how naĂ¯ve we were.

I discovered CVS at the turn of the millennium, at the same time I started Ogre. The ability to work without checking anything out was a revelation! I went on to use that on all my projects for quite a few years, at least until I considered Subversion stable enough to base production work on. Even then, I only moved new projects to Subversion mostly (Ogre eventually moved in 2008 - was it really that recent?), and kept CVS for many existing projects.

I first encountered Distributed Version Control at a Git presentation at the Summer of Code mentor summit at Google HQ in late 2007. I have to admit, I didn’t really ‘get it’ at first - it just seemed to make things more complicated and most of those promoting it were mostly die-hard Linux fans and wide-eyed early adopters that didn’t make you want to put your production code on it yet. There was also no GitHub at this time so the benefits weren’t really very visible. It took me until 2009 to really start evaluating DVCS in earnest, and decided that I liked Mercurial best, due to its equal treatment of all platforms, good diagnostic reporting, easy extensibility and intuitive interface that gave power without over-complexity. Today, all my own projects are in Mercurial, but I use Git a lot too, not least because I support it in SourceTree, and get involved in other projects which use Git.

There are a couple of randoms thrown in there - I used Alienbrain for a few months on a client project and totally hated it (think Visual SourceSafe with a few bells - it may be useful for artists but for coders it was horrid), and I did play with Bazaar for a bit but didn’t really warm to it, even though it had some quite nice ideas.

So there you are - my VCS experience over ~17 years in professional development. It kinda makes me want to do a language / platform graph now đŸ˜€