GUI programming Nostalgia

Back in the day (read: 1991ish) I thought that programming GUIs must have at least as sophisticated an interface as the GUIs themselves. Shortly thereafter I got to spend a day with a color Next Slab. That short exposure to the Next Interface Builder seemed to prove that supposition.

Sure, it was only a couple of hours, and really, I wasn't in the drivers side of the demonstration, but watching a word processor being built in an hour or two with lots of visual drag and drop was amazing. And this wasn't just a Form editor, but you actually visually connected visual components to code components. Cool stuff. Unfortunately, NeXT didn't make it (ok, a good bit of NeXT tech is in Mac OS X). Nonetheless, an expectation was set.

So I tried my hand at MPW (Macintosh Programmers Workshop) under Mac OS 7.1. Ugh. Not what i'd call elegant. And visual? No chance. I tried ThinkC.. A little easier to understand, but still all sorts of calls to toolkits originally written in Pascal, and nothing visual about that development.

Then came the new kid in Mac Development, Metrowerks. In its Codewarrior development suite there was a tool called Powerplant. It helped build the interface and create code stubs to fill in. It was ok at the time, and in many ways, it's what's now standard in most form builders. But still, it seemed like a lot of typing to do something inherently visual

Still pining for NeXT, i became a BeBox developer as soon as it became available for sale. I was full of that kool-aid drinking enthusiasm that comes naturally to any Mac Geek. Everything about BeBox screamed "technically superior". The community was full of people whose hopes and dreams were used to being crushed: Mac Developers, NeXT developers, Amiga programmers. I even saw a guy with a Taligent Pink T-shirt at the developer conference.

The one thing that didn't enter my mind when thinking BeBox was "immature technology". And it was. Very cool, with much potential, but the OS was still being written as people started doing development of application. Lots of things changed rather radically under the hood. The edition of Codewarrior that came with it didn't even have Powerplant. There were stories about and Interface Builder coming, but when it came it wasn't revolutionary in any sense of the word.

Long story short: Development under BeOS was no more advanced than any other OS and I moved on from the platform after realizing that it wasn't going to make it, especially when Apple didn't buy BeOS and bought NeXT instead.

Last couple of years I've spent most of my time working on the server side, saying "Bah!" to non-browser GUIs.

Now I'm back in GUI land, this time with C# under Visual Studio .NET and, all things considered, it is probably one of the best out there. Even if it is only incrementally more advanced than other suites for GUI development I've worked with. It's fun (even lacking Emacs mode) and quite productive.

But I still think that the potential of Visual Programming has not even had it's surface scratched. Ho hum.