Eulogy for Flash

Dear friends, we gather together at the cemetery for outdated technology to lay to rest our dear, dear friend, Flash. Some of you may have known him as Future Splash, Macromedia Flash, and finally Adobe Flash / AIR.

My first encounter with Flash was a cartoon of a cat in a blender. You could adjust the blender settings for different feline smoothy textures. Try doing that with an html5 video tag! Ok, I admit I’m a bitter. Even last year, 2014, most of my income came from Flash development. Now that’s gone and I have an expertise in something completely irrelevant. Thanks Steve Jobs, thanks iPhone, thanks Adobe for completely fucking up what could have been world domination!

Flash, you hit your peak with Macromedia. I remember clearly December 31, 2003. I phoned in my order for a program with the longest product name ever: Macromedia Flash 2004 Professional. It cost hundreds of dollars and I’ve never been and probably never will be more excited about a piece of software. At the time, most of my income came from PowerPoint presentations for big corporations. I was increasingly frustrated by the limitations of Microsoft’s program and tried to give my clients something better. The pro edition had a slides pane! Yes, I could easily make an entire powerpoint-like slide show in Flash! With glows, shadows, video, animation, 3D! It was totally awesome. Of course my clients had no way to edit the presentations I sent them, but that was a small hiccup that I was sure would be overcome. How could PowerPoint ever compete with this? This was one platform for that could be used for all kinds of content: Web, big screen, store displays, interactive kiosks, in fact Flash could be used for any kind of content that could be displayed on any kind of a screen. Why on earth would anyone use anything else?

Riffing on Flash being at heart a vector graphics animation tool I named my company, Vectorhog Productions. My Nokia cell phone with the one inch monochrome screen rang often. I made animations for big finance and pharmaceutical corps. I embedded Flash movies in emails that made sales reps feel like secret agents. I made interactive runway presentations for fashion lines. I built entire websites in Flash.  I hired friends to design and animate. Dressed in designer clothes for meetings with CEOs, even sipped whiskey on an Orient Express train from London to Gleneagles after from running a Flash based training app for liquor execs. I never got rich, but I did all right and it was one hell of a ride. At one point business dried up, I went to an employment agency, got sent out for a temp Flash Programing gig, and in two days was offered a staff job at an ad agency. That lasted exactly a year and a day. Three days after getting laid-off I found myself at another agency working on the same project. Soon, a major financial company hired me as a consultant, programing compensation grids and data based web sites though Flex, the app development framework for Flash. What had started with timeline animations with bits of code, now became entirely scripted user interfaces that manipulate complex data. That client kept me employed through last year. Now, I’ve told them, “No more Flash, it’s dead. Use something else, anything else, I personally need to move on and know of absolutely no one who still authors in Flash / Flex.”

I know what your thinking? Thank god flash is gone. Good riddance to all those annoying banner ads. Well, sorry, annoying ads aren’t platform dependent. They’ll come back through javascript/css, once the agencies catch up. Anyway, not once in my 10 plus years as a Flash professional did I make a banner ad. Even at the ad agency, the work was complex interactions for pharma sales reps using pre iPad tablet. It’s sad I know, Flash, that your legacy in the minds of most people will be those annoying banners and pop-ups. It’s like a great poet being remembered for bad greeting cards.

Even if most people remember you wrongly, I will always think of you fondly. I will never forget the promise, the way I felt like I held a bomb in my hand, and that bomb was the future. For as brief moment in time, Flash, you allowed me to feel on top of the world. Thank you for that.

Rest in Peace.

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