TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Jan 02 Viewpoint

Volume Number: 18 (2002)
Issue Number: 01
Column Tag: Viewpoint

Flash

by Jonathan Gay

A History of Macromedia Flash

Macromedia Flash began with a few bits of colored plastic. As a child, I grew up playing with LEGOs when there were no LEGO men or whales or complicated accessory packs — just rectangular blocks and a few wheels. Those bits of colored plastic taught me the basics of engineering design, how to choose a design problem, and the process of iterative refinement. Even better, they helped me express my early passion for building things.

LEGO-based Design Process

My favorite project was building LEGO ships with lots of ramps that could hold my toy cars. This taught me that it's best to choose a problem that inspires you and challenges you — and one that you can accomplish with your limited capabilities and resources.

The human mind is much too limited to capture the entirety of a complex creation all at once. With LEGO, you can start with the vision and work out the details of the design as you progress. With patience and persistence, I developed the following LEGO-based design process. It's more or less the same process we ultimately used to develop Flash.

  1. Choose a problem: Build a LEGO ship.
  2. Develop a vision: What sort of ship will it be? How big will it be? What will it carry?
  3. Build: Build the framework of the ship.
  4. Fill in the details: Design and build the details of the ship, ramps, doors, etc.
  5. Test: Drive the cars around the ship and sail the ship while exploring the house.
  6. Refine: Take parts of the ship apart and make them better.
  7. Learn: Take what you learned from building this ship and use it to build a better one next time.

From Building to Programming

As I grew older, I developed an interest in architecture. As a young teenager, however, I quickly realized there wasn't much opportunity to build the houses I designed. About that time, I got an Apple II computer. As I began to program, I quickly discovered that with computer software you can design something, build it, and see it work and respond to you. Although bits of Apple II BASIC were not as impressive as building houses, I could take a project to completion and see if it worked. (My first game: a Space Invaders clone in Apple II BASIC.)

Soon, I switched from BASIC to Pascal and wrote my first graphics editor. (If you think Flash is difficult to use, you should try drawing with a joystick on an Apple II before the concept of Undo was invented.) I entered it in my high school science fair.

Breaking into Professional Programming

I did pretty well at the science fair. Shortly afterwards the Macintosh came out, I got one, and my dad took me to an early Macintosh Users Group — where he bragged about my programming skills to the group organizer, Charlie Jackson. Jackson wanted to start a Macintosh software company, owned the necessary $10,000 Lisa computer, and didn't have much money to spend paying programmers. I wanted access to a Lisa computer and, as a high school student, didn't need a paycheck until after the software started selling. It was a perfect fit, and part of the beginning of Silicon Beach Software. (I still think Jackson was a bit crazy to believe a high school student could write Macintosh software.)

I began writing games. First came Airborne!, then Dark Castle and Beyond Dark Castle. The second game was such a hit it paid my way through college. Writing games was an important part of my computer education (and the beginning of my inspiration for Flash) because I learned about animation, digitized sound, and how to synchronize the two. Most importantly, I learned that fast and responsive software is fun to use.

After the games, I returned to building graphics editors. I added PostScript-style drawing to a Macintosh product called SuperPaint II while still in college. After graduation, I designed a next generation drawing program, called Intellidraw for Aldus. When I realized Intellidraw was destined to be a modest success, I figured it was time to start my own company.

Pen Computing, FutureWave Software and SmartSketch

At the time, the hot new concept in the personal computing world was pen computing (you could write on the screen with an electronic pen rather than using a keyboard). A company called Go was building an operating system. So in January of 1993, I convinced Charlie Jackson to invest some money and we started FutureWave Software to dominate the market for graphics software on pen computers.

After working on Intellidraw, I knew it was hard for users to learn complex features and that drawing on a computer was in many ways slower and more awkward than drawing with pencil and paper. I imagined drawing with a pen on a computer screen would be a fantastic improvement. So we set out to build SmartSketch, software that would make drawing on the computer easier than drawing on paper. Robert Tatsumi and I wrote code at our homes, and Michelle Welsh handled marketing after her day job.

In the meantime, AT&T bought Go. In January 1994, just as we were about to ship our product, AT&T pulled the plug on Go and left us without a market. We did actually make a few sales of SmartSketch, though. The most noteworthy sale was to an architect working on Bill Gates' house.

The failure of Go and pen computing was a big setback for us. The only opportunity we saw was to take our software and make it run on Windows and the Macintosh. We did it, but now we were competing against Illustrator and FreeHand. It was a struggle.

How FutureSplash Animator was Born

In the summer of 1995, we were at SIGGRAPH and got lots of feedback from people that we should turn SmartSketch into an animation product. We were starting to hear about the Internet and the Web, and it seemed possible that the Internet would become popular enough that people would want to send graphics and animation over it. So we began to add animation to SmartSketch.

At the time, the only way to extend a web browser to play back animation was through Java. So we wrote a simple animation player that used Java and was horribly slow. We stubbornly kept at it though, and in the fall, Netscape came out with their plug-in API. Finally, we had a way to extend the web browser with decent performance; this was the ancestor of Macromedia Flash Player.

As it grew close to shipping time, we changed the name of our software to FutureSplash Animator to focus more on its animation capabilities. We also were growing tired of running a company that didn't have much money to spend, and we began trying to sell our technology. After an unsuccessful pitch to Adobe and turning down a bid from Fractal Design, we shipped FutureSplash Animator in the summer (May) of 1996.

Microsoft, Disney, and Macromedia Flash 1.0

Our big success came in August of 1996. Microsoft was working on MSN and wanted to create the most TV-like experience on the Internet. They became big fans of FutureSplash and adopted the technology. I'm still amazed that they made their launch of MSN dependent on a new animation technology from a six-person company!

Our other high-profile client was Disney Online. They were using FutureSplash to build animation and the user interface for the Disney Daily Blast. Disney was also working with Macromedia Shockwave.

In November of 1996, Macromedia had heard enough about us through their relationship with Disney and approached us about working together. We had been running FutureWave for four years with a total investment of $500,000. The idea of having a larger company's resources to help us get FutureSplash established seemed like a good one. So in December 1996, we sold FutureWave Software to Macromedia, and FutureSplash Animator became Macromedia Flash 1.0.

Macromedia Flash Today

In early 2002, Flash has been through five versions at Macromedia — and it still has much of the code that was written for pen computers. There are now 50 people building Flash instead of 3 when we started FutureWave. It's evolved from a simple web drawing and animation package to a complete multimedia development environment with over 1,000,000 developers and over 386 million web users who can view Flash content. Flash has become synonymous with animation on the Internet. It's even possible that the Flash plug-in is now the most widely distributed piece of software on the Internet — ahead of Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, and Real Player.

And one final note about LEGO: I'm delighted to say they now use Flash to help sell their creativity-inspiring bits of colored plastic.


Jonathan Gay is the creator and chief developer for early versions of Macromedia Flash. He is currently Technology Vice President for Macromedia Flash at Macromedia, Inc.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

VMware Fusion 12.2.0 - Run Windows apps...
VMware Fusion and Fusion Pro - virtualization software for running Windows, Linux, and other systems on a Mac without rebooting. The latest version includes full support for Windows 10, macOS Mojave... Read more
Firetask Pro 4.6.6 - Innovative task man...
Firetask Pro represents the next generation of easy-to-use, project-oriented task management apps. By combining David Allen's powerful Getting Things Done (GTD®) approach with classical task... Read more
Steam 4.0 - Multiplayer and communicatio...
Steam is a digital distribution, digital rights management, multiplayer and communications platform developed by Valve Corporation. It is used to distribute a large number of games and related media... Read more
Live Home 3D Pro 4.1.3 - Powerful and in...
Live Home 3D Pro is powerful yet intuitive home design software that lets you build the house of your dreams right on your Mac, iPhone or iPad. It has every feature of Live Home 3D, plus some... Read more
Alfred 4.6 - Quick launcher for apps and...
Alfred is an award-winning productivity application for OS X. Alfred saves you time when you search for files online or on your Mac. Be more productive with hotkeys, keywords, and file actions at... Read more
LibreOffice 7.2.2.2 - Free, open-source...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
HoudahSpot 6.1.6 - Advanced file-search...
HoudahSpot is a versatile desktop search tool. Use HoudahSpot to locate hard-to-find files and keep frequently used files within reach. HoudahSpot is a productivity tool. It is the hub where all the... Read more
SpamSieve 2.9.46 - Robust spam filter fo...
SpamSieve is a robust spam filter for major email clients that uses powerful Bayesian spam filtering. SpamSieve understands what your spam looks like in order to block it all, but also learns what... Read more
Hopper Disassembler 4.9.3- - Binary disa...
Hopper Disassembler is a binary disassembler, decompiler, and debugger for 32- and 64-bit executables. It will let you disassemble any binary you want, and provide you all the information about its... Read more
OmniGraffle Pro 7.18.6 - Create diagrams...
OmniGraffle Pro helps you draw beautiful diagrams, family trees, flow charts, org charts, layouts, and (mathematically speaking) any other directed or non-directed graphs. We've had people use... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

How to find and defeat King Slime in Ter...
Terraria has two kinds of bosses – the annoying ones that stick around for hours and the easy peasy ones that are farmed for drops. King Slime is one such boss that gets farmed for some precious drops. [Read more] | Read more »
Flexing Our Switch OLED Muscles – The To...
Well howdy, stranger! The TouchArcade Show took the past couple of weeks off but we’re back and better than ever in episode 508! We kick things off talking about the new Nintendo Switch OLED model, which both Eli and myself came into possession of... | Read more »
TouchArcade Game of the Week: ‘Kitty Q’
Developer Philipp Stollenmayer has created numerous games that sit on my personal all-time favorites list. From Sometimes You Die, to See/Saw, to Song of Bloom, and yes, even Pancake – The Game. So when we learned last month that we’d be getting a... | Read more »
SwitchArcade Round-Up: ‘The Good Life’,...
Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for October 15th, 2021. In today’s article, we’ve got a bunch more new releases for you to look at. There are a few solid titles in today’s list, and we’ve got summaries of the works.... | Read more »
MU Archangel’s latest update brings more...
As many have been expecting, MU Archangel, the title that’s atop the popularity rankings in the MMORPG department in SEA has received yet another update. This time a new Arena mode has been added, as well as a new type of equipment. This update... | Read more »
‘Tiny Wings+’ Is Out Now on Apple Arcade...
This week’s Apple Arcade update has the excellent Tiny Wings+ () joining the service as an App Store Great alongside big updates to some excellent games. Despite being an App Store Great, Tiny Wings+ is available on iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS only. No... | Read more »
‘Plant with Care’ is a Chill Gardening P...
Prolific developer Tepes Ovidiu, who you may know from the likes of Not Chess, Memory Stamps, The Longest Drift, and many more, has announced another new gaming project that’s set to release in just a couple of weeks. This new game is called Plant... | Read more »
Latest FMV Game from Wales Interactive,...
About a month ago developer Wales Interactive announced their latest full motion video game adventure titled Bloodshore for all major consoles, PC, and iOS. Wales is quite well-known for being front and center during the FMV game revival of the past... | Read more »
SwitchArcade Round-Up: ‘Dungeon Encounte...
Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for October 14th, 2021. In today’s article, we’ve got a bunch of new releases to look at. A few of them caught me by surprise, so I’ll be a busy fellow the next few days trying to catch... | Read more »
Relaxing Strategy Game ‘Wingspan’ from M...
Back in July, Monster Couch’s Wingspan ($9.99) arrived on iOS. Wingspan is based on the original physical board game designed by Elizabeth Hargrave, and it is coming to Android next month. | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Are The Days Upon Us When Apple (Inc., Not Th...
FEATURE: 10.16.21 – Don’t be surprised if at your next doctor’s appointment, your physician tells you to take two AirPods and call them in the morning. Back in June — in a story from Macworld... Read more
In stock today: Clearance 2020 13″ MacBook Ai...
Apple has clearance, Certified Refurbished, 2020 13″ Intel-based MacBook Airs in stock today starting at only $719 and up to $370 off original MSRP. Each MacBook features a new outer case, comes with... Read more
In stock: Clearance 2020 7.9″ iPad mini 5 mod...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2020 7.9″ WiFi iPad mini 5 models in stock for up to $80 off original MSRP, starting at only $339. Each iPad comes with Apple’s standard one-year warranty and includes... Read more
Apple’s 11″ M1 iPad Pros are on sale for $100...
Amazon has all configurations of 11″ iPad Pros with Apple M1 processors on sale for $100 off MSRP shipped. Their prices are the lowest available for new M1 11″ iPad Pros and also represent the first... Read more
Amazon offers $100 discount on many 12″ M1 iP...
Amazon has 12″ iPad Pros with Apple M1 processors on sale today for $100 off MSRP shipped. Their prices are the lowest available for new M1 12″ iPad Pros and also represent the first substantial sale... Read more
New at Verizon: Buy an Apple iPhone with serv...
Verizon is offering $250 discounts on cellular-based Apple iPads with the purchase of a new iPhone, including the new iPhone 13. Smartphone and tablet service plans with Verizon are required. Credit... Read more
Apple drops prices on 6th generation iPads, C...
Apple has dropped their price on Certified Refurbished 6th-generation 2018 32GB WiFi 9.7″ iPads to only $209. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each iPad, and shipping is free: – 2018 9.7″... Read more
Record low prices on M1 Mac minis with models...
Amazon has new Apple M1 Mac minis in stock today and on sale for $100-$150 off Apple’s MSRP, with prices starting at only $599: – Mac mini M1 CPU/256GB SSD: $599.99 $100 off MSRP – Mac mini M1 CPU/... Read more
People Profiles: How A Creative Named Steve (...
FEATURE: 10.13.21 – While most people will acquire a nickname (for whatever reason) at some point in their lifetime, not many can say that they were nicknamed after a certain brand of computers made... Read more
B&H has 13-inch M1 MacBook Airs on sale s...
B&H has Apple’s 13″ M1 MacBook Airs on sale today for up to $150 off MSRP, starting at $899. Expedited shipping is free to most addresses in the US: 8-Core M1 Silicon CPU, 7-Core GPU: – 13″ M1... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Endpoint Engineer - Leidos (United S...
…Medicaid Service (CMS) End User environment. Perform specific duties as an Apple Endpoint Engineer in support of the infrastructure operations, hardware, software Read more
*Apple* Endpoint Engineer - ServiceNow, Inc....
…to do in this role:** + Demonstrated knowledge and ability to design and administer Apple Device Management systems (eg JAMF Pro and Addigy) + Configuring Apple Read more
*Apple* User Experience & MDM Engineer -...
…actions contribute to the success of the company every day. Evolver is seeking Apple User Experience and MDM Engineer to work in Washington, DC Responsibilities: The Read more
Omnichannel Associate - *Apple* Blossom Mal...
Omnichannel Associate - Apple Blossom Mall Location:Winchester, VA, United States (https://jobs.jcp.com/jobs/location/191170/winchester-va-united-states) - Apple Read more
Head of *Apple* Product Development - DISH...
…between. What you will be doing High-level job responsibilities: As the Head of Apple Product Delivery lead, you will make strong contributions to the product and Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.