Saturday, June 27, 2009

The lagging edge

I was taking my daily glance through MacSurfer when I was struck by a press release from WaveMetrics announcing a new version of Igor, the data graphing program. That brought back memories, Igor was my absolute favorite graphing program back when I was in Chemistry grad school in the early 1990s and it could always be depended upon to make the slickest output of the myriad Mac or Windows programs used at what was then called the Center for X-Ray Lithography. I have not seen it since graduating in 1995, and it is good to see it is still alive.

But what really caught my eye, that it is now in 2009 that Igor has moved to Quartz rendering from QuickDraw. According to Wikipedia Quartz was first demonstrated at the 1999 WWDC and has been the recommended mode of rendering on OS X since its introduction. Such is the inertia in the software business that an application as graphically intensive as Igor, a program which would benefit hugely from the modern features one gets for little effort with Quartz, takes 10 years to make the transition.

I wonder if the proximal cause of this laggard transition is the impending doom of Snow Leopard, where QuickDraw using 32-bit apps are distinct second class citizens. A "Pro" graphing app, might well benefit from 64-bit status, and to do that every single QuickDraw call must be expunged. Apple had spent enough time on carrots in making Quartz a beautifully clean API generally superior to QuickDraw in every way, and is now bringing down the stick of enforced obsolescence to bring the last stragglers into the fold.

I will be doing this transition over the course of the summer, myself. I'm down to 800 or so deprecated symbol warnings, so I've a ways to go before the day job application sees 64-bit nirvana.