We Band of Director Programmers

When I first started going to Macromedia conferences in 1994, they were all still held in San Francisco. The first couple I attended were small enough that they hadn’t yet started booking the Moscone Center — they were held in the conference facilities of the Marriott on Market Street. I was still working in the prepress business at the time, so I not only had to pay my own way but take time off from real work to go to a conference that didn’t have any bearing on what I was actually making money doing.

My second UCON (1995) was when Shockwave was publicly demonstrated. The prep shop I was working for had been on the Web bandwagon early on, I’d actually set up my own Web server in my home office on a dedicated phone line and a 14.4k modem connection that spring. I’d somehow picked up a gig teaching Director at Portland State University and was just starting full-time freelancing. The knowledge about Shockwave that I gained from the conference that year — combined with several months of creating text and graphics for online delivery and the knowledge of server technology — led directly to a contract for my first book by the middle of the next January. That book was essentially the hook for my entire multimedia career.

Those early years of conferences, Director was all over the place. There was so much information you needed more than one person to cover the various avenues. The expo floor was full of Director-related vendors. It’s almost hard to remember how prevalent it was back then.

By the 1997 UCON I’d written my second book, The Lingo Programmers Reference, and people recognized my name. Not because of any actual projects I’d done, mind you. It was my first and only UCON speaking engagement — covering time-based animation and Bezier curves — and it was intoxicating, because people actually came up to me and thanked me for writing about stuff, which was amazing to me because it’s something I can barely stop myself from doing. Left to my own devices, I’d spend all day writing articles and emails and not making any money.

Everyone switched coasts to New York in the spring of 2001 for what was to be the last UCON. In the four years since I’d spoken at UCON, I’d spoken at a number of other conferences, written a Flash book and some other Director stuff plus lots of articles, co-edited Macromedia User Journal, become the editor at Director Online, written parts of the the Director 7 and 8 behavior libraries, and made a pest of myself generally. I was really looking forward to the possibilities of Shockwave 3D, but as I’d warned a focus group I’d attended during a Flash Forward conference, they needed to make sure that there were easy ways to make content for the new technology or it wouldn’t take.

I fell off a ladder and broke my leg a few weeks before the Orlando conference in October 2002. I’d put off buying tickets, because business hadn’t exactly been great. As it was, being laid up with the leg and subsequent pulmonary embolism made the last quarter of the year even worse, but that is — as they say — the breaks.

In terms of Director content, the past couple of MAX conferences have been disappointing. I’ve gone largely to keep in personal touch with the other Director users I’ve known over the years and the members of the development team. I had fun in Anaheim last year riding “California Screamin'” over and over. And I must say that I’m forever grateful to whoever scheduled the 2004 conference into New Orleans because Barbara and I got a chance to see that city before it was devastated by the failure of the levees during Hurricane Katrina. But did I get any knowledge about Director out of the couple grand I spent on my conference ticket, airfare, and hotel room? Nah.

I was in Las Vegas a week and a half ago as a jumping-off point for a trip to southern Utah and northern Arizona with my parents and wife, and this was the view from our 10th-floor room at the Stratosphere. That’s the whole view, not just one portion of the window.

I’m not going back. I’d like to meet the new team, but I can’t justify it. The company I’m working for these days can’t justify it. I can meet up with nearly as many Director users at the Game Developers Conference in March as I can at MAX. And that’s a sad thing.

Those of you who know me know that I was an English Literature major. Way back when I graduated from the college that Steve Jobs dropped out of, I had to do an undergraduate thesis. Thwarted by the creative writing committee who disliked my proposal for a book that was along exactly the same theme as the new movie Man of the Year starring Robin Williams (thanks for thwarting my screenwriting career, assholes!) I ended up instead reading a lot about Shakespeare, in particular Henry V (then Kenneth Branagh’s movie version came out about two months after I gave my defense and its take on the play pretty much agreed with my thesis).

Before the big battle with the French at Agincourt, Henry inspires his followers with a little “courage” speech, which I feel absolutely no problem appropriating for my own uses here. Wednesday (25 October) is St. Crispin’s Day.

MP3 audio of “We Band of Director Programmers”

MAX. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those Flash programmers
That do our work to-day!

PLANT. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin MAX? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our Director loss; and if to live,
The fewer programmers, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one programmer more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if programmers my code appropriate;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a programmer from Flash.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one programmer more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, MAX, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for training put into his purse;
We would not die in that programmer’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he publish his code and show his DIRs,
And say ‘These movies I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Darrel the Plant, Holgate and Rosenzweig,
McCrystal and Pardi, Newton and Meijer-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good programmer teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that programs in Director with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And programmers in Flash now-ActionScripted
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That coded with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.