Friday, November 05, 2004

Journey To The Past (10): Visual Chat (1998)

My course curriculum for computer science included an assignment for a medium-scale project. I decided to build a chat program, which would let the user move around in a 3D world, and meet people at different locations. For several reasons I abandoned the idea of using standard protocols like IRC or VRML. Instead, I ramped up the complete solution (server and client) in Java, employing my own communication protocol and 3D engine. The client actually runs inside any internet browser, without the need to install any additional software. This was a very valuable experience, and included issues like threading, synchronization and networking. This was my first pure OOP project (disregarding the previous Smalltalk experience), and I remember it as a great field for experimenting, without tight schedules or sealed specifications. Of course when I look at the old code today, I can clearly notice that I was still lacking some experience back then.

Anyway, the size of Visual Chat's user community has risen steadily to more than 150.000 by the end of 2002. There are dozens of other Visual Chat Server installations on the internet today (it's freeware).