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Day 1: The History of No-Code and Low-Code Products

Day 1: The History of No-Code and Low-Code Products

14 minutes

July 25, 2023

Welcome, everyone, to the beginning of an illuminating 30-day journey into the captivating realms of No-Code /  Low-Code platforms! As the Founder and CEO of SmartSuite, I am honored to be your guide through this transformative landscape.

Let's get started with some key definitions that will become the foundation for our discussions over the next 30 days.

The No-Code Movement

The No-Code movement embodies a dynamic ecosystem of cutting-edge tools and platforms that empower non-techies to unleash their creativity by building and launching business workflows and software applications. With a user-friendly visual drag and drop feature set, manual coding or programming skills are not required, making the entire process accessible and enjoyable.

The individuals who utilize this approach to build workflows are affectionately known as 'Citizen Developers'. By harnessing the power of this diverse toolset, Citizen Developers are able to transform their ideas into reality with unparalleled ease and remarkable speed. This incredible capability lies at the heart of the No-Code movement's swift and widespread adoption across companies of all sizes.

With the No-Code movement, the barriers to technological exploration have been dismantled, ushering in a new era of creativity, efficiency, and collaboration. As non-techies and professionals alike embrace these innovative platforms, they unlock unprecedented potential, driving business growth and paving the way for a brighter, more inclusive digital future.

The Low-Code Movement

The Low-Code movement embodies a collection of tools and platforms that are revolutionizing the software development process by combining visual interfaces with a minimal amount of coding. This approach empowers developers to rapidly build and deploy applications, accelerating the delivery of solutions without sacrificing customizability.

Low-Code platforms offer a harmonious blend of pre-built modules and components, simplifying the development process and reducing the need for manual coding. This agility enables businesses to adapt swiftly to changing demands and market conditions, fostering a culture of continuous innovation.

In this ecosystem, traditional developers harness the power of Low-Code tools to create applications more efficiently, achieving increased productivity and shortened time-to-market. The flexibility of Low-Code platforms allows for tailoring solutions to specific requirements, ensuring that the resulting applications align precisely with business needs.

The adoption of the Low-Code approach has rapidly spread across companies of all sizes, transforming the software development landscape and empowering businesses to unleash their potential for digital growth and transformation."

Differences Between No-Code and Low-Code

Although both approaches share the mission of simplifying software development, they cater to different use cases and target audiences. No-Code is geared towards empowering non-technical users to become creators, while Low-Code offers an agile solution for developers seeking rapid application delivery.. 🔍

The History of No-Code and Low-Code

To truly appreciate the significance of No-Code and Low-Code platforms, we must journey back to their origins and historical context. It was in the late '80s, '90s and early 2000’s that the concept of visual programming began to take shape, sowing the seeds for what would later become this groundbreaking movement. 🌱

Early No-Code Products:

  • HyperCard (1987): Developed by Apple Inc., HyperCard was one of the earliest No-Code tools that allowed users to create interactive applications and presentations using a graphical interface. It introduced the concept of "hyperlinks" and "stacks" and inspired future No-Code platforms.

  • Lotus Approach (1993): Lotus Approach was a database management system that offered a user-friendly visual interface for designing and managing databases. It enabled users to create database applications without writing code.

  • FileMaker (1998): FileMaker, initially developed by Nashoba Systems and later acquired by Apple Inc., allowed users to create custom databases with ease. It became popular for its user-friendly interface and No-Code capabilities.

  • Salesforce (1999): Salesforce, founded by Marc Benioff, pioneered cloud-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software with No-Code capabilities. It enabled businesses for the first time to customize their CRM solutions through declarative development using point-and-click tools. Over the years, Salesforce began to move from No-Code into the Low-Code space.

  • Archer Technologies (2000): I was the founder of Archer Technologies and my vision was to bring this new No-Code platform approach to managing the business processes around  risk and compliance.We offered a visual interface for building and customizing risk management processes without requiring manual coding.  I had the opportunity to sale Archer in 2010 and it has continued to thrive in the risk and compliance space and recently sold again for $1.3B in early 2023. During my tenure leading Archer, I had a profound realization of the future impact that No-Code platforms would wield in streamlining and managing various business processes.

Early Low-Code Products:

  • Visual Basic (1991): Developed by Microsoft, Visual Basic revolutionized software development by providing a Low-Code environment for building Windows applications. It used a drag-and-drop interface and simplified the creation of graphical user interfaces.

  • PowerBuilder (1991): PowerBuilder, created by PowerSoft Corporation (later acquired by Sybase and then SAP), was another early Low-Code tool used for developing client-server applications. It offered a visual development environment that reduced the need for manual coding.

  • Oracle Forms (1994): Oracle Forms, part of Oracle Developer Suite, provided a Low-Code platform for building data entry forms and interfaces for Oracle databases. It allowed developers to create applications using a visual layout.

  • OutSystems (2001): OutSystems, founded in 2001, emerged as one of the pioneering Low-Code platforms. It provided a visual development environment that allowed developers to build and deploy web and mobile applications with ease. OutSystems significantly reduced the time and complexity involved in traditional coding, making application development more accessible to a broader audience.

These early No-Code and Low-Code products were instrumental in popularizing the concept of visual programming and laid the foundation for the diverse array of No-Code and Low-Code solutions available today. They signify the remarkable journey of innovation and progress that continues to shape the tech industry.

Setting the Stage for Transformation

Fast forward 20 years, and we find ourselves in the midst of a remarkable tech revolution. The journey of No-Code and Low-Code development has been nothing short of awe-inspiring, reshaping the very fabric of how software is created and utilized across industries. 🌐 

The advancements in technology that power these platforms have reached a pivotal point, unlocking the potential for more robust and sophisticated No-Code and Low-Code solutions. 🚀 The convergence of cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and intuitive design interfaces has unleashed unprecedented possibilities for both businesses and individuals to harness the power of software creation. 🌟


I am excited to share my personal experiences and milestones from this two-decade adventure, where I witnessed these transformative technologies evolve from early concepts to the powerful tools they are today. In this 30-day series,  we will explore the boundless opportunities that No-Code and Low-Code development bring to the forefront of the digital landscape! 🚀

Up next: The Benefits of No-Code / Low-Code