There are few things sadder than a pile of old technical books. They live on dusty bookshelves and in torn cardboard boxes as testament to the many things we never accomplished in our lives. Some cover fads that came and went before we even had time to peruse their contents. Others cover supposedly essential topics we turned out to be able to program perfectly well without – topics like algebra, geometry and software methodology.
The saddest thing about old technical books is that by “old” what we really mean is anything published more than three years ago. We no longer burn books in civilized countries so these 3+ year old books simply take up space. We can’t throw them out. We can’t sell them on eBay. We can’t even give them away.
Take for instance the New Masters of Flash series. These are first of all beautifully designed books. They are written by a slew of masters of the technology who are each given a few pages to discuss their inspirations, provide a cool concept and then show how they approached the solution. Cool concepts include animating a 3D chessboard, animated typography vis-à-vis The Matrix, creating a pointillism artistic mask for text and images, and taking a simple shadow effect to its logical extremes. The highlight of the book is probably Irene Chan’s introductory essay on feminism, art and the role of websites. It’s not something one would expect to find in a technical book and speaks to the amazing community that developed around Flash.
All of this is simply a way of observing, once again, that plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, even in software where we often pretend that we are in constant Kurzweillian motion and slouching toward the Singularity. It is also a recognition of the essential role Flash has played in interactive media. Flash has shown us what can be done and, in many cases, we have yet to surpass what it accomplished all those years ago. Flash is dead. Long live Flash.