3 min read

Flash in the Pan? It's like Déjà vu (Mac 1984) all over again ...

So Flash wants 9% of the revenue for apps that use 'premium' features. I was reminded by Doug Sharp (he of ChipWits fame), of the launch of the Macintosh in 1984, when a similar situation occurred. What happened then is a precautionary tale for Adobe.

You probabily know this by now:

Starting from 1 August, all web games that use two premium features of Flash Player 11.2 will have to play Adobe 9 percent of net revenue (exceeding $50k). My immediate reaction was probabily the same as yours, what are they thinking? Sure, Apple takes 30%, but that 30% buys you a marketplace with discovery, digital delivery and an in-app commerce system.

I posted my comments on Facebook and one of my fellow oldtimers in the video game business reminded me of a situation that occurred on the Macintosh in 1984.

When Apple launched the "Insanely Great" Macintosh in 1984 the development system was a rather expensive LISA Computer ($9995 at launch, in today's $$$ that would be over $20,000) running Apple's own Pascal compiler. For many of us, this was simply out of budget.

Luckily there were some development systems available that could run on a 128K Mac. One of the best was a product called MacForth. FORTH itself was popular on memory constrained systems, the best way to describe it is sort of a macro assembler/interpreter for a stack based virtual machine. It's a language that could be described as the Haiku of Programming, but if you're good ... you end up with decent performing code that is even smaller than assembly (honest!). It's still in use today. PostScript is based on FORTH, for example.

MacForth was an excellent product, and fortunately I had been using FORTH since the Atari 800 days. So, when I decided in late 1984 to build a game for the Mac, it made sense to use MacForth. I purchased a 'FatMac' with some accessories for $3500 and created "The Pyramid of Peril", a 3D real-time adventure game, in MacForth:


With the first MacWorld coming up in Jan. 1985, we wanted to have the game ready to sell. With FORTH you package the app for delivery in a process called "Target Compiling". The idea is you want to remove all the programming tools and just deliver the app. The problem was that MacForth decided to charge for this. As a startup (Aegis Development) we simply couldn't afford the fees.

So what did we do? We found a local company that had a very basic FORTH for the 68000CPU (MicroMotion Forth) and worked with them to get it adapted to the Mac OS, and got it ready for the MacWorld show just in time (we were duplicating discs and heat shrink wrapping boxes the night before).

In the long run MacForth eventually modified its policies, but by then other development systems had taken most of the market. And "The Pyramid of Peril"? We sold a good number of them at the show, even got covered by the local TV news folks:

MacWorld 1985 (0:35 into the video)

So ... I think Adobe with this move ... is going to accelerate the existing move to HTML5, a move being pushed by Facebook and to a large extent Apple. Adobe is, in my opinion, hastening the demise of Flash.

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