The Flash Time Capsule

When a new technology hits the scene, I struggle to recall the old guard. What did I do before my Nokia? Take the exit and find a pay phone at a nearby gas station? Before a pilot flipped the first inflight WiFi switch on, how did travelers function on cross-Atlantic flights? I imagined the world cheered. And then grumbled ten minutes later about a spotty connection.

If you don’t remember old school internet, take a look at Dole/Kemp’s campaign page. Asking for your vote, the pixels still pander in cyberspace, a time capsule to another era. Then, the Flash format evolved the possibilities of the internet. Pushed aside by slick animation and buttons that changed color with a mouse over, crude text-based sites became dinosaurs. Flash promised a future with tantalizing possibilities. Think Tide Pods, except replace the impulse to eat poison with the need to click a simple button. And did I mention the games? People poured their precious time into building and creating celebrity brawls and bathroom simulators.

“The soul of Adobe disappeared when Warnock left, He was the inventor, the person I related to. It’s been a bunch of suits since then, and the company has turned to crap.”

Steve Jobs

After covering new ground in the digital world, the technology lost adoption momentum and died. In a 2010 memo, Steve Jobs eloquently outlined the primary reasons including Flash’s proprietary nature, security vulnerabilities (the plague of the internet these days), and the power-hungry aspect of the technology. The mobile revolution had come calling. Better battery life equals happier customers. Yes, Apple had an agenda, and I cursed when I couldn’t get my kid’s school curriculum to load from an iPad. School districts loved Flash-based programs. But, having to manage a browser plugin wasn’t great. Every two days, I think browser updates came calling. Install. Install. Install. Always think security.

Despite these flaws (we only remember the challenges), Flash found certain strengths leading to the platform’s success: Open and Development Ease. A hallmark of success.


Before the hate mail comes calling, I’m tweaking openness definition as, by definition, Adobe controlled Flash. It’s a closed platform. Business interests created a wall between the future success of the standard. What do I mean by open? Almost anyone could create a site or page to look exactly like they wanted, an early page builder of sorts. No coding necessary to get started (not hard-coding anyway). Artists. Bands. School kids. Anyone with a few clicks and drag and drop could build slick animated buttons. Graphics no longer floated on the page. So, maybe openness here is similar to Nintendo’s Blue Ocean Strategy. Make a product anyone could play.

Development Ease.

Adobe built a slick timeline feature leading to the creation of cheap games of all types. Some users thought of Flash as a possibilities platform. Overnight, artists became web content creators. During this short era, art and tech converged. There were some cool games out in the wild including the Dark Tower, Mario Knock Offs (Nintendo even made their own flash-based games) and Celebrity Death Matches (these showed up weekly).

As the HTML 5 format pushed Flash to death’s door, legacy site owners had to make a migration decision. Because Flash wasn’t a truly open platform, I won’t be able to see a Flash version of the Kemp/Dole site forever. Yes, this era of the internet maybe lost.

Recently, I stumbled across an old Flash application, aptly named the Time Capsule of Beliefs, I had built as part of a side project. Nothing too spectacular. Crude. Easy to build. Remind you of a Flash application? To use, a form asked the user to finish the sentence, I believe … And there were a few more questions including: (1) your name, (2) the year you left your childhood home, and (3) your email address. Once you entered in your particulars, a script logged the responses into a database and surfaced your responses. In perfect font, your beliefs rolled across the page.

I loved the high-minded concept of the Time Capsule, but, sadly, spam did too. Before deleting the database, I had thousands of bogus entries. Still, a few gems deserved praise. As these were real users, I’ve elected to show only the responses, omitting the names and corresponding email addresses.


I believe … that’s it’s better to do something than to sit back and think about doing something.

I believe … that there is always something worth working towards.

I believe … it is not the challenge that matters. It is how we respond that defines us.

I believe … that Elvis is alive and well.

I believe … making it through each day is harder than I thought it would be.

I believe … little kids are precious and can change adults.

I believe … Labrador retrievers are the greatest dog on earth.

Also, some spammers/hecklers had a few good ones too. The usernames are clever so I elected to include them.

Those Who Heckle.

I believe … in god and country. Uncle Sam, 1776.

I believe … in the constitution. Uncle Sam, 1776.

I believe … that freedom will live forever. William Wallace 1221.

I believe … Snape is Voldemort. JK Rowling, 1972.

I believe … in sleeping because it’s an important part of life. Westphal, 1857 (known for inventing the spring mattress).

I believe … Gore beat Bush in the election. Gore, 1968.

Flash will not live forever (it’s going to die a slow, painful death); however, some ideas are worth holding onto. Perhaps, the users who built their clever creations figure out a means to keep their creative spirit alive. Who knows, one day, maybe I’ll relaunch an html version of the Time Capsule project. Think the long game.


  • Adobe recently announced the end of an era, and the tech world is preparing to move on. Yes, there are a number of flash-based games and sites in the wild still.
  • Because early standards are still relevant, history is out there. Hopefully, someone keeps Dole’s campaign going forever, so comical this still exists.
  • One of the cooler time capsules in the great state of Tennessee. The post picture comes from the recent solar eclipse.