CyberPuzzles…a look back at 1997

Back in 1997-1998 I was a pretty decent Java Developer especially since the language was only a year or so old. I had a very rare privilege to be able to work on some very cutting edge code for some online puzzles during my time at OzEmail who at the time were Australia’s largest Internet service provider.

At the time there was nothing like what we had developed anywhere on the internet, we looked it didn’t exist. We had to build it from scratch. So we did and it was amazing for me to be involved with this project.

We built a very sophisticated online crossword puzzle amongst others (Word Chain, Hidden Word, Broken word etc) that leveraged some pretty smart code that would read a data set that we defined stored in a SQL 6.5 database and it would render based on the dataset that it was fed. We had a built in system for clues and scoring, audio and animation all built around some central themes for kids and adults alike. Testing was fun as you can imagine as we had to support all the main browsers such as Internet Explorer 3/4, Netscape navigator. And you guessed they had implemented Java applet runtimes in different ways. We lived by the Java mantra at the time “Write once, Debug everywhere”.

We leveraged custom built parsers, Object Oriented Programming (OOP), SQL Server 6.5 database calls to host the puzzle data, multithreading for loading images and audio, keyboard and mouse input support and the list goes on…

Just to put things into context here was the technology state of play back in 1997:

1) There was NO C# or .NET  or ASP.Net. It would be 3-5 years before that technology came along and became mainstream.

2) Java Applets were all the rage. There was no Angular.JS or Flash we had to handle all the animations and user input ourselves.

3) The cloud didn’t exist but working for a hosting provider we managed to have access to as many servers as we needed.

4) Developer tools were very text based. We had Visual Studio with Visual J++ but Eclipse didn’t exist but we decided to develop in Symantec Visual Cafe which you can read more about here: and looked like this:


Times have really changed but I have to say (without bragging or anything) being involved in this project was a really big highlight of my career and I really do believe that the CyberPuzzles code was some of the best code I have ever written in my 20+ years in IT 🙂

The code is pretty self explanatory but pretty complex and reading through it brings back some very fond memories and I wanted to dedicate this release to my manager at the time Neil Reading who passed away in late 1998 and to my great mentor Bryan Richards who I learnt a lot from at the time.

So for all those Java coders out there that want to have a look at what Java development was like in 1997-98 you can download the CyberPuzzles Crossword code from GitHub here:

The code comes without any warranty and has zero support but is fun to read and have a look at.



About Aaron Saikovski

Aaron Saikovski is a Microsoft certified technology specialist, consultant, developer, trainer and cloud solution architect with over 20+ years commercial information technology experience. He has consulted and worked with an incredibly diverse number of both local and international clients across the banking and financial services, utilities, oil and mining, telecommunications, logistics, construction/property, pharmaceutical, transport/airline and FMCG sectors. He has also consulted on a variety of projects to both Federal and State governments in high-profile portfolios such as Prime Minister and Cabinet, Department of Defence, Taxation Office, Department of Education and Training, Department of Employment & Workplace Relations and the Department of Health. Aaron’s skills revolve around the Microsoft platform stack with a core skillset based on the SharePoint platform. He has been involved in some of the largest SharePoint deployments in the world and was a member of the Global SharePoint Ranger team within Microsoft Corporation and was actively involved with the SharePoint Customer Advisory Team (SPCAT) to provide guidance and best practices to the largest Microsoft enterprise global customers. He was also an active MSDN article reviewer and contributor during his time at Microsoft. He has very broad and deep experience with architecting, developing and deploying complex customer solutions leveraging the Microsoft Office365 and Azure cloud platforms. Some of the key cloud customers he has been involved with are Qantas, Caltex, and Fujitsu/Westpac to name a few. He assists customers with their journey to the cloud and provides guidance and best practices to assist in identifying workloads that are suitable candidates to be migrated or redeveloped. These include IaaS, SaaS and PaaS solutions that solve a particular business requirement while providing the best technical outcome for the customer. Aaron is a regular presenter at such events as SharePoint Saturday (, Microsoft TechEd and is a regular presenter at user groups and conferences. He presents on a wide and varied range of topics that encompass the complete end to end Microsoft solution stack such as Windows 8 App development through to deploying Azure IaaS solutions with PowerShell. Aaron has an active social media profile. He was the founding member of OzMoss (, a very active and prominent online SharePoint community and he can be followed on Twitter at @RuskyDuck72. He blogs regularly at Aaron is also an active affiliate member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers ( Outside of work Aaron is a very active volunteer for DoggieRescue ( where he volunteers his time to maintain and improve their IT systems to keep them running as optimally and efficiently as possible. ** OPINIONS EXPRESSED ARE MY OWN VIEWS AND NOT THOSE OF MY EMPLOYER **
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