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Macromedia Flash's ancestor started out as a core component of the pen computer, a keyboardless machine that used a pen stylus for input, making it much more portable than traditional keyboard-based designs and ideal for handheld devices. The system featured a vector-based drawing engine, which was more suited to input via a pen than more traditional bitmap-based systems.

The idea didn't take off, but a new avenue was beginning to present itself-the Web. The pen-based vector drawing program became FutureSplash, which was released around 1995 as a web-centric vector animation tool. FutureSplash was soon bought by Macromedia, and the first version of the renamed application, Flash, was released in 1996.

Late in 2003, Macromedia released Flash MX 2004 (and Flash MX Professional 2004) and the corresponding Flash Player 7 browser plugin and ActiveX control. In recent years, Flash has gained a number of important features, including multimedia handling capabilities (sound, images, video) and a full-fledged scripting language (ActionScript) to create nonlinear animation or client-side processing, as well as interfacing with remote data or server-side scripts.

Flash is now the standard web multimedia delivery platform. The Flash Player (the browser plugin that plays back Flash SWF files) is ubiquitous, and Flash can also create desktop applications. Web design continues to move away from traditional HTML and toward the interactivity and multimedia features offered by Flash. And Macromedia continues to expand the Flash platform with products like Macromedia Central (a personal browser for occasionally connected Flash-based content), Flash Communication Server MX (a real-time video and audio server), and Flash Remoting (enhanced remote connectivity to web services and server-side applications).

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