Will Carter


13 August 2010

Making Music with Adobe AIR

Will Carter is a developer/ programmer who likes building things. He is an alumnus of the Interactive Media division at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts with a background in Computer Music and Media, as well as web programming and mobile applications.  Carter has worked as Chief Experience Officer at the startup firm Protomobl and now freelances while acting as tactical Research Associate for the Near Future Laboratory. Veronica Paredes interviews him about his trajectory as a web/mobile developer.

VP: How did you get started as a developer/ programmer?

WC: I've been pretty interested in computers my entire life. I began doing stuff like programming games on my computer, and started low level using ResEdit to edit graphics and sound. I then started getting into making my own simple games before Flash came out. I began college pursuing Computer Science, but I ended up being really interested in multimedia and different kinds of electronic and computer-based things, along with music. So, I ended up doing a lot of interactive music programming. From that I segued into interactive video and music. All that time, I was building out, but then I eventually returned to games. I became interested in music narrative games that were sort of weird sounding. My MFA thesis was a music composition mixed with an interactive game that was built in Flash.  So, that's sort of the trajectory.

VP: What was the first programming language you felt comfortable in?

WC: I think the first environment I really had a grasp on was Java. I also began using Flash after version 4 and 5, when it became more object-oriented. It also used this scripting language, ECMAScript, which was similar to JavaScript—it had that same sort of design. That was what got me into Flash, being able to author in a way that was much more like a traditional development environment.

VP: When did you become interested in web programming?

WC: I've been doing web programming for a while. I’ve gotten more seriously into in the past 5 or 6 years, when I felt I could do more interesting things—much different from when I played around with HTML in middle school. Recently, the website has become a quick and easy way to prototype ideas, using various languages.  Within web development frameworks, it's easy to quickly build out ideas that are essentially server-based ideas. You can have any kind of front-end—whether it's Flash, or just HTML, or a cell phone, or whatever—connected to a server technology.  With that combination you can build and prototype a lot of different ideas. What really brought me back to the idea of web technology was the appeal of using that server side and data flow to create new experiences.

VP: When did you first begin using AIR? And why?

WC: I first started using AIR a year ago, back when it was called Apollo. I was interested in it partially because of its structure—it was using web technology and was built on WebKit, the same thing that Safari Internet browser is built on. Also, the aim behind AIR is to bridge the gap between web programming and the desktop environment, which are already kind of merging.  So, I wanted to check it out to develop this idea I was throwing around. AIR just seemed the technology that made the most sense to pursue it. And it worked out, it enabled me to do things I wanted to be doing—merging stuff happening on your desktop with stuff happening on the web, into one singular interface.

VP: Can you describe what it’s like to work in AIR?

WC: Well, it's a real standard, traditional workflow. You can create a number of different kinds of AIR applications. You can author them in Flash, FlexBuilder, Eclipse or Xcode, or any real development environment—you can also compile your own version, using your own IDEs to develop in. I've used Xcode and Flash, and it's nice because whichever development environment you happen to be used to you, you can deal with in using AIR.  It just makes a lot of sense.  It's just like developing an application; you consider all of the same kinds of issues.

VP: What are you working on these days?

WC: I'm working on a project that enables you to essentially gather data that's coming in from the web. It's a lightweight desktop application that's basically tracking what you are doing on your web browser and looking for semantic information.  For example, if you go to my website the application might know that you're on my website and it might just give a display of contextual information about whoever might own that site. Basically, I see AIR as a way to develop real lightweight desktop applications that look cool.   

Learn online

Will Carter led a four-hour workshop, Music for AIR, Adobe's runtime for RIAs on the desktop on March 31. Learn from Will at your leisure about using Flex 2 and ActionScript 3 technologies to create desktop-based AIR applications.