As part of this development iteration, we’re packaging Geocortex Essentials 1.2.2 onto a CD for distribution at an up and coming trade show. The CD will contain an installer for Geocortex Essentials and its quick-start guide in PDF format. When a user inserts the CD into his or her drive, we’d like the CD to launch an application that would that will allow the user to either view the quick start guide or install the software. There are lots of approaches I could have taken. One was to display an HTML page containing links to the guide and installer. This might work, but I was worried about browser security getting in the way when users wanted to run the installer. I also thought about writing a simple C# WinForms application with a couple buttons and a background image. This would work, but would require users to have .NET installed. The solution I settled on was to write a Borland Delphi application using the same approach I would have used for the C# application. It worked like a charm.
For those of you not familiar with Delphi, Delphi is a development environment that has been around for years. It allows you to create windows applications using the forms-based paradigm most developers now take for granted, but resulting applications are completely self contained Win32 executables with no external dependencies. No dependencies means no deployment issues. I almost forgot about Borland Delphi. In a former life, I wrote lots of Delphi code and as a result enjoyed many advantages that .NET developers enjoy today including forms based development, an event driven programming model, intellisense, a powerful IDE and sophisticated debuggers. Delphi was way ahead of its time. Many of the features that C# developers enjoy today were available in Borland Delphi, as early as 1995 or even earlier in its predecessor, Turbo Pascal which has been around since 1983. Interestingly, the inventor of Delphi, Anders Hejlsberg was also the inventor of Visual J++ and most recently the C# programming language after he left Borland to work at Microsoft. This would explain why Delphi was so good.
While I am not suggesting that we go backwards and port Geocortex Essentials to Delphi, it was nice to revisit an old friend and find that it is still useful, even after all of these years.