Xojo and Memory Lane

I happened across this article on a programming language and IDE called Xojo. I never used it under this name, but I have fond memories of using it when it was called RealBASIC. I learned it shortly after it came out in the late 1990s. I found it very intuitive and it was super easy to create fairly nice looking GUI applications for the Mac. In fact, the first optimization code I ever wrote was in RealBASIC, for solving the traveling salesman problem.

In the mid-2000’s when I was a grad student, I used it to build a GUI interface to JPL’s BlackJack GPS receiver. This included reading data from the receiver, as well as sending commands to it. There were numerous floating windows that displayed data and plots (see screenshot at right). At the time, JPL’s interface code only ran on pre-MacOS X systems, which were rapidly becoming obsolete. My RealBASIC app ran great on MacOS X. In fact, I believe JPL requested a copy when they saw it (I have no idea if it lives on somewhere at JPL).

In 2006, I traveled to Germany with a blue clamshell iBook to deliver some updated software to the TerraSAR-X satellite, which included the same type of GPS receiver. I remember during the update process, something unexpected occurred (the details escape me now). In any event, it was required to generate some binary command files to upload to the system in order to set things right. My RealBASIC interface app was already set up to do that, so I fired up my iBook and was able to generate the files in short order. I distinctly remember some surprise from the German engineers that I could do such a thing with this silly looking machine! After uploading the files, things got back on track. TerraSAR-X has been in orbit since June 2007.

I haven’t used it in years, but I’m glad to know that RealBASIC is still around.

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