All of us have a story on how we came to use Real Studio, what we’re doing with it today, and what we plan on using it for in the future. I thought it would be interesting to get some stories on how I, and others, came to use the product.
For those that don’t know, I didn’t start off as a software developer. I have a degree in electrical engineering from an engineering school, IIT (Illinois Institute of Technology), in Chicago. I did take some programming courses (since they were required), but was never into programming. That might have had something to do with the state of software development at the time since Pascal was the hot language and as engineer we were more concerned with FORTRAN and Assembler. User Interfaces were pretty bad at the time too.
In school I joined a fraternity and was immediately immersed in the Greek culture. Our fraternity had a lot of committees and activities that required a fair amount of planning, work and communication. This led to being placed in the various committees that communicated with parents and alumni, and remember that this was before email and the internet.
As a freshman (IIT allowed freshmen to be Greek), we did all of our newsletters the old fashioned way. One of our members that worked at the newspaper used the typesetter to create a high res proof, we laid it out, and then we sent it out for printing. It was a long and rather expensive process.
They did that for years – until the year that I was on the Parents Committee and was in charge of the newsletter. That year, the upperclassman that had done it was gone and we had no one on the newspaper staff. Our resource was gone. After the suitable panic period another upperclassman recommended that I take a look at one of “those” Macintosh computers in the computer lab and take a look at some program called “PageMaker”.
So I did and it was like water to a fish and that started my love affair with the Macintosh. It won our fraternity some award for newsletter design and it helped pay my way through college as the more I did the better I got at PageMaker, FreeHand, and Persuasion. I did a ton of work through MacTemps doing miscellaneous stuff and still have friends in the Chicago area because of my Mac work. And my skills translated into really good looking lab reports that consistently got good grades despite sometimes shaky experimental results.
But, after graduation I entered the engineering work force and was stuck with DOS and eventually Windows. At home I always had a Mac and was dumbfounded that more people didn’t write software for the Mac because it couldn’t be that hard, right? So I bought the Inside Mac book series, practically every book written on Mac software development, Think Pascal and then Code Warrior and programmed for fun in Pascal and then C/C++. During all this time I was the lone Mac user in the engineering wilderness.
Fast forward a bunch of years and I meet my wife, a long-time software developer. She gives me permission to change careers since during all this time I’m still developing for fun and she’s “hired people with less experience.” Cool.
At that point I get into Access and Visual Basic programming and really, really enjoy it (despite working in Windows). Then my son is born and I have the honor to stay home with him. Literally just a few weeks after I start staying home with him I get contacted by a local company that needs a part-time Code Warrior developer. Awesome!
Over the next couple of years I do more and more C++ work and one day they call me in for lunch (I was remote worker) and they ask me to do some prototype work for a photo management app they were thinking of developing. They wanted to do it as quickly as possible so they recommended this product called REALbasic which, at the time was at version 3.5.
I learned REALbasic as quickly as I could and did a quick and dirty prototype for them. Weeks later though, Apple introduced iPhoto, so my work never went anywhere. But, it was enough to show me the possibilities of REALbasic.
Over the next year or so I kept using RB for small utilities including one that would eventually become Task Timer. Task Timer made me money the first week I used it because I was always underestimating the time I spent on my projects.
The CodeWarrior gig ended and I joined the Real Software referral program (still the best way to find Real Studio work, by the way) and started doing REALbasic consulting. I’ve done that ever since.
REAL Studio (as it’s called now) has come a long way since the version 3.5 days. It’s gone through a lot of changes. They now support Windows and Linux in addition to Mac OS X. Even Mac OS X support has transitioned over the years from Mac Classic and PowerPC support to Universal Binaries and soon Cocoa.
The move to Cocoa has been a long, rough road for Real Software. I remember sitting through a Cocoa session at one of the REAL World conferences (2007, 2008?) thinking there was no way this was going to fly with the user base because it was simply hackish and way too hard to use. With the amount of work you had to do to implement Cocoa in your RB app you might as well have learned xCode and Interface Builder. Thankfully they pulled it and started over.
In 2005 they transitioned from the old code base and User Interface to one that relies upon REALbasic itself. Some people hated it and some people loved it. If nothing else, ‘eating their own dog food’ proved to be good in some respects and just as frustrating in others. At the same time they introduced the Rapid Release Model where every 90 days a new version is released. The upside is that you can set your calendar to when a new release is going to happen. Every release brings new features, enhancements, and bug fixes. The downside is that every 90 days you may discover a critical bug in of those new features, enhancements, or bug fixes. I know I’ve been bitten by this in the past (as anyone whose read this blog can attest).
Late last year they introduced the Web Edition which was their second attempt at making web applications. A version codenamed SwordFish was demoed earlier in the decade (2006?) but was never released since Ajax and other web technologies took off about the same time and it was apparent Real Software missed the boat on that one. Only time will tell if Web Edition is everything they promise it to be. It’s still very young and has some very annoying limitations as well as difficulties in deployment.
Over the past ten years as a Real Studio consultant I’ve done work in a dozen different industries. I’ve written accounting, professional athletic training, military strategy, legal utility, movie editors, foreign country election, and credit repair applications and dozens more that I’d have to go look up. Some of these have been for private use in a single company or individual use, some for Fortune 100 companies, some for entrepreneurs in vertical markets and some for myself.
So that’s where I came from and what I’ve done in the past. What did you start using Real Studio for? What version did start with and what do you remember about the ‘old days’? Was there a transition that was particularly painful to you?