Face painting and historical Web development

I spent my last two weekends working with ancient web technologies. Anne decided she wanted to update her Happy Faces web to attract more face painting business. I agreed to create a form for customers to inquire about rates and availability. The hosting service only offered Python 2.4,  CGI, and sendmail.

I really did not want to write a script that I knew others had written. I just wanted to make a pretty little form to help Anne. I found one library that almost worked.  I knew I could write a better library, and I would not trust any library without a test suite. I decided to write my own that would manage the request and response form, sending emails, and storing them if sendmail failed. I wrote a simple means to define a schema of what fields are in the form and how to validate them. The test module even provides a test web server that runs the CGIs you place in the root directory. This was a fine meditative exercise, but I would not describe it as fun.

I did have fun creating Anne’s contact form. Defining the schema for her form took minutes, and it was painless to make changes as we discussed what was optional and what the wording should be. The web page is not historical, it is very modern in fact. It uses HTML 5 form inputs and JavaScript to collect the information. The new  form inputs work in HTML 4 browsers like IE and FireFox, but HTML 5 browsers like Chromium and Safari see widgets that require less typing, less thinking about what to input.

I posted my CGI contact library on Launchpad for anyone who finds they need to work with historical technology.