Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: Does the Easel programming language still exist?
75 points by jschwar313 50 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 29 comments
Does the Easel programming language still exist and is it supported? I’m just curious, because I worked with it in 1994 at Sears. The last I’ve heard very few people supported it at the company that owned it.

It was event driven but not object oriented. By that I mean, code was executed based on responses from a control like a push button or when text was entered in a text area. You would have click responses to a button that would execute code written for that button. That’s why it was considered event driven. It wasn’t object oriented because it didn’t have classes. We used it for a marketing system at Sears for many years and I was wondering if the language still existed.




A handful of past HN comments mention it:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16631346 (March 2018)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9362115 (April 2015)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7030798 (Jan 2014)

The 2018 comment links to https://www.eslsyndetic.com/Documentation/overview_of_respon....

From there I got to https://web.archive.org/web/20030220213927/http://www.eslsyn..., which makes it clear that Easel was renamed ESL and https://www.eslsyndetic.com is indeed its current incarnation. I guess that means it still exists.


The 2003 date on archive.org makes it seem like Easel was renamed to ESL while ESL Investments was building its stake in (major Easel customer) Sears but well before ESL Investments took over Sears.


looks absolutely archaic.

    ESL is the world's most comprehensive development tool for easily connecting all of your current and legacy systems and presenting your users with an integrated and easy to use windows program.

    The latest versions of ESL are available to all of our customers with a support contract and are also available for a 30 day evaluation.


There are a few screenshots at: https://www.eslsyndetic.com/overview.htm

And it looks very dated -- old-style MDI interface and controls, System font everywhere, bare-bones interface... the discussion of "5250 and 3270 host sessions" doesn't exactly speak to its modernity either.


> And it looks very dated -- old-style MDI interface and controls, System font everywhere, bare-bones interface...

Maybe it's just me because I am used to that interface, but it looks much more user-friendly than many of the modern apps I use:

1. I can tell at a glance what is clickable and what is not.

2. I can see the accelerator/shortcut keys for most of the elements.

3. Sections are grouped together, and on a single page. I don't have to click 'Next' to see the next three clickable widgets.


If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. I assume all the people still using that language don’t give a whit about looks.


One of the images says: "Copyright 1982-2020 ESl Syndetic Limited."

They may still be putting out builds.


When you finish scrolling, it says:

  Copyright © 2002 - 2021 Esl Syndetic Ltd.
  All rights reserved
  Last modified: 19th May 2021


The homepage shows a release from November.

Hopefully some current Easel devs chime in. I took a look at the docs, it has an interesting approach to userinterface event handling and there seems to be some special "Screen Scraping" facilities.


Oh man, seeing "SQL Wizard" brought back memories. Thanks for sharing.


The quotes without the horizontal scroll:

> ESL is the world's most comprehensive development tool for easily connecting all of your current and legacy systems and presenting your users with an integrated and easy to use windows program.

> The latest versions of ESL are available to all of our customers with a support contract and are also available for a 30 day evaluation.


code quotes haven't had a horizontal scroll on HN for months (years?)


I remember that it used to scroll horizontally on mobile and was actually surprised when I saw the GP comment was wrapped even though it was formatted as code. Not sure whether I haven’t noticed the change before or if I saw it but forgot about it – either way I think it must be a relatively recent change.

I still prefer code formatting to only be used for code snippets, commands and command outputs though.

For quotes I like leading each quoted paragraph with a “>” sign and a space. Like we do in plain text emails. Same kind of thing that they talk about in http://catb.org/jargon/html/email-style.html


> was actually surprised when I saw the GP comment was wrapped even though it was formatted as code.

Same, when I saw it on a PC. Originally I saw it on a mobile app‡, which still uses horizontal scrolls - hence my comment.

https://f-droid.org/bo/packages/nl.viter.glider/


Not doubting it's dated, but that description exactly fits a lot of enterprise stuff today.


I worked at Sears in 92 and was tasked with evaluating Easel for the Promotional Marketing System, Steve Marchi's group. I recommended no. Sears went full in. I quit to write games, then to grad school. Easel and PMS went on for years. Eventually all my friends there quit. You gave me PTSD :)


Yea, I joined the marketing systems in '94 and it was called PMI then, Promotional Marketing Integration.


The PMS name didn't last long. It was a running joke on the project when it started :)

The best part of working at Sears was 92 was in the Sears Tower, and somehow noob me got a window office on the 46th floor overlooking Lake Michigan. On a clear day I could see the MI shores on the other side. It also gave me a lifelong aversion to working for big companies - too slow, too out of date.


I've worked with it at two companies - a finserv company in Eastern US through '96 where it was basically just an interface to the COBOL systems running on the mainframe, and IBM's ImagePlus via a C wrapper.

Then into the early 2000s at FirstUSA/BankOne/Chase, where it powered their card services CRM system. This application had a metric ton of business logic, and tied together DB2, 3270 scraping via custom C executable, ImagePlus for viewing customer letters and correspondence history (also brokered via custom C executable), and a few other systems. We eventually replaced with with a C++/MFC application on Windows backed by CORBA services in a massive port effort. For a very long time the new application was a much worse experience than the original.

Easel was commonly used in OS/2 financial shops (both of the above fit that category) with heavy mainframe integration. I would have to assume there are /some/ legacy users still kicking around, but the last I knew of were a few Boston-area companies phasing it out also in the early 2000s. Around that time, consultancy rates for the language started to go way up as domain expertise was pretty rare.

Easel's 'block' style (I don't remember exactly what it was called) for accepting input from external systems was the first time I ran into anything like the pattern matching I next saw in Erlang. I enjoyed working with Easel - it presented a reasonable abstraction for GUI creation and interaction, was easy to integrate, and the event model made a lot of sense.

It was also obtuse and sometimes painful to use, but no more so than any other language (then or now).

I started doing a little digging when I saw this article, and came across this in Jeff Sutherland's "The Scrum Handbook" [1]

    Scrum has risen from being a method used by a number of
    enthusiasts at the Easel Corporation in 1993, to one of 
    the world’s most popular and well-known frameworks for 
    development of software. The continued expansion of the 
    global rollout of Scrum is testimony to the fact that Scrum 
    delivers on its promise.
And

    The first Scrum team was created at Easel
    Corporation in 1993 by Dr. Jeff Sutherland (the  
    author of this manual) and the Scrum framework was 
    formalized in 1995 by Ken Schwaber.

[1] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301685699_Jeff_Suth...


In a HN comment around 2014 I referred to it as 'kludgy and annoying to code for, but ahead of its time'. It's funny how time has sort of reversed the order of those two attributes in my memory.


Wawanesa Insurance in Canada still uses it.


Seems like an autohotkeys-type of programming combined with MS Access. The 'low code' solution of the day?


Not really, it was used for ground-up development of new solutions, particularly as middleware between the user and mainframe systems. It marketed itself as part of the 'rapid application development' trend of the time, in that it let you create UIs pretty quickly using their tooling - but it always came down to code in order to implement anything useful.


I know a guy who used to work with it but no clue. I guess something like Delphi might be the closest thing to it today


Is this what you're talking about? I don't have any other information but was able to track this down: https://web.archive.org/web/20020102154718/https://www.resea...



I'd like to read this as a missed connection ad:

Me: young, new to the professional world, making my way around a new environment at Sears in 1994. You: an shy but engaging language, event driven, with a style that was new and exciting for that time and place. It's been a long time but I still think about you whenever I write addEventListener. Would love to reconnect, even if only to share some memories of that time.


This made me smile :)


No it doesn't. It vanished from the known Universe and now we have no idea on how it looked before.




Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: