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the yearly flurry of email messages...
- To: udanax@xxxxxxxxxx
- Subject: the yearly flurry of email messages...
- From: Hans-Martin Mosner <hmm@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2011 00:31:08 +0100
while looking for Xanadu-related material I stumbled upon this mailing list and realized that it's been *only* about one
year since the last message - so there might be some mailing list members still alive and waiting for messages :-)
To introduce myself: I'm a professional Smalltalk programmer since 1987, have been working with the whole range of
ParcPlace Smalltalk ranging from Smalltalk-80 v2.x to VisualWorks 7.x (the current versions from Cincom). So the base
system on which Udanax Gold was built is not foreign to me, although the memory gets a bit rusty of course...
During the advent of the WWW, I became interested in hypertext (wrote a browser and HTML editor in Smalltalk). At one
customer site I had a chance work with KMS and found it at the same time awkward (with its fixed-size frames) and
inspiring (with its liveness).
Some of that experience found its way into an online help system I wrote which resembled the old Windows help system
superficially. But it was a hypertext editor with multi-user capabilities and the ability to run arbitrary Smalltalk
code including animated graphics, not just display static text.
We used this editor in a two-person somewhat agile programming project where we rewrote TeX in Smalltalk for a TeX
WYSIWYG editor. During that project, we maintained hyperlinks between our code and the documentation written in the
hypertext system, allowing us to fluidly note which portions of the code were completed and what design decisions were made.
This TeX system (http://www.heeg.de/~hmm/projects/WysiTeX/) is available under an open license and can probably be
ported to a current VisualWorks Smalltalk easier than Udanax Gold :-)
One other hypermedia system which I used extensively was The Analyst by Xerox Special Information Systems. This system
had typed bidirectional links, somewhat like the Xanadu links (but a bit weaker since you could not link to arbitrary
ranges, and of course it was all local to your workstation only)
Off and on over the years I glimpsed various information snippets about Xanadu - wondering whether it would be possible
to revive a project that took longer to not complete than Duke Nukem Forever. Seriously, I'm not the person to revive
such a project, but I would be very interested in getting available code to run mostly like it did when it went into
hibernation, and to proceed from there in ways which probably weren't possible 15 to 20 years ago.
What would I do to get the code running again?
Since I'm still using Smalltalk after 23 years, it can't be that wrong :-) When I saw the C++ translation efforts in
Gold (and the more recent efforts generating Java) I wondered why folks can't just use Smalltalk as it is, at least
today raw performance is not a problem. Even a pure interpreter such as Squeak (before the newer Cog JIT VM) can run a
very dynamic, media-rich desktop environment on moderately powerful hardware. The power of a language and environment
that does not burden its user with static typing and file-based edit-compile-crash cycles should not be underestimated.
So I would like to get as much of Udanax Gold running in a free Smalltalk dialect (read: Squeak). Rigging the compiler
to accept the idiosyncratic code should not be a big problem, but getting all the bits and pieces together (especially
the parts that are entangled with ParcPlace IP) seems to be a bit more difficult. Anyway, I'll give it a try. The most
difficult part is to extract design goals and choices from the code, but I've seen a number of very nice approaches to
this on the net. Currently I'm collecting a link list for some more reading.
I'm not promising anything (as I don't have that much free time at my disposal), just wanted to announce that I'm here
and I'm interested...