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Taking a break from game-programming for a couple of weeks. I've got a pal who's got a fine product, but needs somebody with programming skill so he can improve his implementation. I'm putting together a couple of applets for him that'll help him get started. This is the first time I've done any production code in Java, so I'm a bit daunted.

Interestingly, the biggest hurdle I had wasn't the lack of pointers, it was the declarations. You've gotta new a class in Java, no matter where they are. I think I'm over that now. I've got a couple of security issues I'll have to handle, but I figure I can solve 'em.

I'm also gonna have to have a little server-app that'll need to run 24/7, so I'll have to find somebody to host it for a few bucks. I figure if that's my biggest problem, then I'm in good shape.

Just found a genuinely-interesting piece of software. It's an add-on to Visual Studio called RadVC, and it's very impressive-looking. Basically it's a Visual Basic clone interface builder that works with VS. I haven't tried it yet, but the interface looks like a duplicate of VB.

Wondering how they did it, I took a look at the specs. It appears that they've built a buncha classes on top of MFC that add interface widgets and properties (Form, Label, etc.) that look like VB. Their interface-builder works with those classes to make something that looks like VB, but uses C++.

I'm giving this tool a hard look. One thing I liked about my old class-library, StarView, was that building a user-interface was so simple that I could hack together a quickie utility in an hour. MFC and ClassWizard never came close. It appears, though, that these folks might've come up with something that finally equals and even improves on my old standby.

Note: Yes I know that Inprise C++ Builder and even the old Optima++ have the same motif. I'd really rather have an add-on for my old tried-n-true compiler than to have to defer to a different compiler every time I wanna write a little quickie file-filter.

The previous mention brought up a thought. . .

Remember Optima++? About three years ago, that was the tool that was gonna take over the industry. Sybase spent a lot of money to build a very cool VB-style user interface coupled with the very nicely-optimizing Watcom C++ compiler. It appeared in stores for a few months, got a few decent reviews, then fell into obscurity. It still exists as Power++, but it never became one of the big players.

Ditto for Symantec C++ for Windows. Symantec proudly stated that, after buying Zortech, that they had the finest compiler and IDE programmers around, and they were gonna do what it took to take over the market. They spent a lot of effort to make a compiler compatible with Visual C++, and their user-interface was a winner. That, however, didn't keep it from fading away within a year. Symantec still has a page describing it, but there hasn't been an update in over three years.

Even more interesting, however, were the VB killers put out by Oracle and Computer Associates. Oracle put out a tool that was a virtual duplicate of VB, but ran on the Mac as well as Windows. While an interesting product that would certainly have had a market (if only to folks who wanted VB on the Mac), it seems to have disappeared without a trace.

Computer Associates also released their own tool. While it looked a lot like VB, it had some important improvements. For one, the language was extended to be fully object-oriented. Second, it was a true compiler, using their Clipper technology and pre-dating VB's compiler by at least a year. While I was able to find a page about it, it's obviously well on CA's back burner.

I'm just wondering. These products certainly cost the developers quite a lot of money to make. What was it that doomed these products to obscurity while other similar products, like Delphi, actually got a following? Was it a lack of advertising? Was it a negative perception of the companies? Was it a failure to capture the imaginations of the user communities (which Delphi certainly did)? Was it just a frighteningly clogged market that was unable to support that many products?

Just musing. . .
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