Flash – The Origin

(I’m not always a huge proponent of looking back, especially when it comes to computer programs and platforms, but this is an interesting classic article from Computer Shopper touting the “great strides” of the original Macromedia Flash. Here we are, some 15 years later, and it’s still kicking. Something you really can’t say about many languages of the tech bubble era…)

Increasingly, the most attractive way to publish your multimedia is via the Internet or a corporate intranet. It saves the cost of burning and distributing CDs; it lets you update the product on a continuous basis; and you can be sure of an audience as large as you want–global, if necessary. Because plain HTML delivers static content, however, developers are always on the lookout for “active Web” tools that paint motion and sound–in a word, multimedia–onto the Web.

There are a variety of ways to create active Web content, most of which involve plug-ins. The ruling plug-in is Macromedia’s Shockwave, which has quickly become a standard for multimedia playback on the Web. Like other multimedia formats, Shockwave’s player is distributed free for download.

As might be expected, Macromedia Director movies can be easily “shocked”; in fact, Director is one of the major products used to create Shockwave presentations. Unfortunately, Director 5 cannot save files in Shockwave format. Instead, you’ll need to visit the Macromedia Web site and download Afterburner for Director, which compresses your movie and saves it in Shockwave format. Director 6, which will have been released by press time, will include lots of new Shockwave features. Instead of adding Shockwave via a separate app, version 6 will let you play and test Shockwave movies from within Director, and you’ll get the advantage of Shockwave’s smaller file size in all Director productions. Best of all, this new version will support streaming Shockwave, so surfers will no longer have to suffer through a 500K Shockwave download before viewing it.

macrom-flashFlash, another new active Web tool from Macromedia, is beginning to get a lot of attention. Formerly called FutureSplash Animator, Flash is a vector-drawing program that creates compact, interactive animations using its own plug-in. Flash has been used extensively on the Web on many high-profile sites (Microsoft uses Flash on MSN at www.msn.com) due in part to the simple authoring environment it provides. You can download a 30-day trial version of Flash, complete with tutorials and examples, at www.macromedia.com or buy it from Macromedia for $249 list.

Progressive Networks (www.realaudio.com) has long been a pioneer in this field with its RealAudio suite of applications. Now, the company has upped the stakes by releasing RealVideo as well–a real-time, streaming video player that lets you view full-motion video over the Internet, even at 28.8Kbps. The basic RealPlayer (which plays both video and audio-only broadcasts) is free to download; an enhanced version, which costs $29.95, features improved quality, a scanning feature similar to that on car radios, and preset “channel” buttons.

Hot on RealVideo’s heels, both VDO Live Video Player and Vivo Active Player (www.vivo.com) let you view live as well as on-demand streaming video. You can download either of these programs–as a Netscape plug-in or ActiveX Control–free from their respective Web sites.

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