Flash is an interesting phenomenon . It began with technology intended for pen computing. This technology ”which translated strokes into drawings ”was commercialized as SmartSketch, a personal computer drawing package. SmartSketch made it easy for artists to create pictures that were defined as geometry, not as a screen of pixels. The inventors of the program, such as, Jonathan Gay, understood the advantages of this technology ”vector drawing ”over the more familiar technique of pixel painting. Geometric descriptions scale perfectly and they are extremely efficient. It is easy to move these pictures from one computer to another. High-level drawing descriptions also make it easy to organize the elements of a drawing ”and to manipulate them mathematically.
Easy manipulation means powerful animation. SmartSketch evolved into CelAnimator ”a professional cartooning tool. The cartooning world is fairly small ”and was smaller still in the 1990s. This vector animation program might have disappeared like its predecessors except for the emergence of the Internet. Device independence and tiny bandwidth requirements were a great fit for the web ”which was starved for animation.
Macromedia was introducing its venerable animation system, Director, to the Internet under the name Shockwave. But pixel-based technology such as Director is inflexible and slow to load. In 1996, Macromedia acquired the product, then called FutureSplash. They changed the name to Flash and merged it into the Shockwave line.
In succeeding years , more interactivity and much more scripting were added to Flash.
This decision lowered the learning curve for developers and reduced a lot of confusion and ambiguity. It allowed Flash to develop from a simple animation system to a fairly robust environment for the development of interactive web applications.
A second wise decision also involved the adoption of web standards. Macromedia chose XML to be Flash's data-communication technology. Suddenly Flash developers were able to easily interact with an enormous number of web services. This changed the nature of Flash once more. Instead of a stand-alone web application, a Flash presentation can be integrated into a complex system of web-enabled software. Flash is no longer limited to entertainment. It is now ready to provide high-quality interfaces to all kinds of hard working web applications.