I have been using Java since 2001(JDK 1.2) if not in 2000 and I still remembered the time I config the jvm and tomcat(3.1).
I was single and a technical fan at that time. Hence, I have lots of time to learning Java - I went through
the famous 'Think in Java second version) at least 5 times and I bought the forth edition(the final last edition) in 2008.
We used lots of JSP and Applet in the projects in the very beginning and the maintenance tasks was really nightmares for every developers at that time. It's very hard as all the business logic, controller and view were mixed together.
I enjoyed reading the famous GOF design pattern(Pretty much all the current masters have read that book). However, reading is one thing, apply the pattern on real projects is total different things. I tried to created my own database connection pools, and own code producers with pattern 'factory','dao', 'builder' and java meta technologies. Still, It's hard as I was tired of maintaining the codes based on the feedback from users(the developers).
Struts1.0 is the first famous MVC framework, it helped to decouple the models from controllers(some people tried to put business logic into actions :( ) . It helped us to maintain the codes easier. Still, the codes were poor to extend when new request raised as the sql queries had to be adjusted whenever there were UI Change(Table Change followed).
Hibernate was the God for helping deal with above issue. Instead of amending the queries in the codes, adding a new property might have solved the problem.
Spring framework1.0 was published soon after Rod Johnson finished one of his great books and it changed my life as a developer. I was able to write a more easier to maintain codes by simply using the features from SpringFramework, e.g. IOC,AOP, Transactional Management, Spring MVC, JMS, JDBCTemplate, HibernateTemp, RMITemplate, and later annoatations.
I can not forget the time Java with me, just like it's already in my blood.