Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Frontier Diary #1

Brent Simmons:

Maybe you’ve never heard of it. But here’s the thing: it was in Frontier that the following were either invented or popularized and fleshed-out: scripted and templated websites, weblogs, hosted weblogs, web services over http, RSS, RSS readers, and OPML. (And things I’m forgetting.)

Those innovations were due to the person — Dave Winer — and to the times, the relatively early web days. But they were also in part due to the tool: Frontier was a fantastic tool for implementing and iterating quickly.


The high-level goal is to make that tool available again, because I think we need it.

After learning how to really use it, I became a huge fan of Frontier. But the monolithic database was a problem in the 90s and would be an even bigger one now.

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The monolithic database (Frontier.root) became much less of a thing in later versions of Frontier - you had installable "tools" (separate databases) and even an Internet upgrade system for them (it's been a while, details are fuzzy). Even Frontier.root itself had an update system - you can see still see the changelog here: Modern Smalltalk systems still make do with monolithic images, just with lots and lots of overlays to interface with VCSs and so forth. But the Frontier database format would probably have to change, maybe be rehosted on one of the more modern databases available.

For me, Frontier was one of the most productive programming environments I've ever used (perhaps second only to Smalltalk). Some day I hope I can use something else that works as well.

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