Monday, March 19, 2007

In 21st century development, separate runtimes appear to be more popular than ever

Mike's post about the "Business Decision" to kill VFP reminded me I had this older post that was still stuck in drafts. As Mike says "Microsoft was hell bent against dynamic languages. But now? Microsoft is investing in creating versions of Python and Ruby for .NET and of course already has Jscript. If these dynamic languages can be developed for .NET, there's no reason VFP can't be ported to .NET."

I recall a time when the promoted disadvantage of FoxPro applications was that it required a separate runtime. "True applications don't need additional runtimes" was the mantra of many a developer, usually C at that time, but then when Visual Basic received native support as well, its developers joined that group (even though their support typically consisted of bundling the runtime directly with it).

Of course, it also made it easier to distribute VB applications when standard Office applications installed it by default as well. I even recall some discussion among FoxPro developers that all Microsoft had to do to make FoxPro applications more "acceptable" was to include the VFP runtime as a standard part of the OS.

No one makes those statements anymore. After all, Java requires a runtime (thankfully typically installed with your web browsers), DotNet requires a massive runtime (but since Vista, WinXP SP2 and Win2K3 all install it by default, no one notices) and now, Adobe's work with their platform independent Apollo will also require a runtime.

At least Adobe calls it a runtime - Java's Virtual Machine and DotNet's Framework all mask the fact that it's exactly what users have had to do with most applications for years. No one complains about this anymore.

But as FoxPro developers, we were often the ones who got crucified for having a separate runtime, until it become fashionable to do it.

1 comment:

Ted Roche said...

Yes, it's true. FoxPro was ahead of it's time in several directions. I've been doing a lot of research on ORMs lately (what a mangled field - everyone who's got a method on a object that reads data thinks they've got an ORM!) and the good ones look an awful lot like business objects from Codebook days, mixed with Andy Kramek's Data classes. And very little beats the 15-year-old architecture of Firefox! for reporting. What's old is new again, in some cases.

VM's are a little different, though. VFP's runtime allowed developers to poke through to the underlying operating system without restriction, and also could run into problems when multiple applications were running at the same time and sharing information, especially in DLL form. A VM ideally sandboxes the application from the underlying OS, abstracts what access there is for more uniform operation across heterogenous OSes, and isolates applications from each other.

But VFP was way ahead of its time.