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Is it ta-ta for Flash?

Interview with a Flash Harriet

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You are just a big old whinger. That was the beginning of Flash's glory years!

Ah yes. Exploding hamsters and hit-the-politician-with-a-custard-pie animations. Will we ever see their like again?

Fab stuff. I've still got the url of 'Lard Bucket Prescott' somewhere, must dig it out. I bet the craic was pretty good on the early web bulletin boards.

The 'craic', as you put it, was limited, because the relevant websites tended to feature Flash too heavily, and were consequently slow and unwieldy.

The early developer community was a confusing place, an intersection of the set of people who could draw a bit and people who could code a bit. When I first started googling round the blogs for gen, Flashland contained a weird mix of artistic types delightedly sharing the exciting power of the for loop that they had just discovered, and mad techies who had invented a new idiom for rebasing a class hierarchy dynamically.

Fascinating. Then they somehow made Flash go faster, didn't they?

The ActionScript language evolved, becoming more like Java. It took proposed features from the ECMAscript Edition 4 draft standard (pdf), which was going to be the brave new JavaScript. ActionScript got some static typing - whence came a lot of the speed, I believe - and more conventional support for classes: public and private, getters and setters, the class keyword itself.

So why not just program in Java, then?

Oh, they kept plenty of old JavaScript's agreeably mad features. For example its non-block scoping rules were retained, arrays were statically typed but their contents not, and so on.

Actually, being embarrassingly serious for a moment, I would say that ActionScript programming is as about as enjoyable as UI coding gets. Somehow it mixes in just the right amount of formality with expressiveness and wackiness.

Will you look at that. Old Grumpy-pants is being upbeat about something! I take it the IDE has improved, then?

Yes: FlexBuilder gives you the whole thing as an Eclipse plug-in; code is stored in proper version-controllable text files; there is a command line compiler. It's almost as good as a proper programming language.

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