Zombie Mathlets

So… For any who have been wondering about the lack of posts recently, here’s a partial(*) explanation for the most recent gap.

Back in the waning years of the last century, I became interested in the potential for web-based “applets” to support the learning of mathematics by providing an opportunity for the student to interact with diagrams in a way that might help build an intuition for how relationships are either maintained or changed when the situation is varied. Several people were developing such “Mathlets” in the widely promoted Java programming language, and I joined in and used some both in class demonstrations and in some early attempts at on-line instruction.

Unfortunately, concerns about security eventually led to the abandonment of support for Java in web browsers and so a large body of really useful material became unavailable in the years following my retirement in 2010. Similar materials were provided by other means of course, but a lot of ‘classics’ disappeared (along with my own lesser efforts as well).

With the onset of COVID, the need for both alternatives to the classroom and ways for students to fill in the gaps left by missed classes led to a renewed interest in on-line instruction and I wondered if there was any way to revive those old materials without re-programming them all from scratch.

It turns out that a lot of businesses who had been running software in web browsers had the same problem, and that there was in fact a way of taking existing Java programs and running them on the server rather than the client – with an interface in the browser that made it look just like the old applets.

So I decided to see if it would work for me.

And to make a long story short, in the end it seems to have done so; and, while I don’t know if it really took less effort that rewriting everything from scratch, I have been able to restore the function of my old page of  Mathlets.

(Whether they will be of any use to anyone else now is another matter, but at least I enjoyed getting them to work again!)

(*)- other factors being holiday travel, focus on a new family member, and possible failure of the old automatic email system.

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One Response to Zombie Mathlets

  1. John Butler says:

    Your post reminded me of Nina Simone’s song “Rags and Old Iron”. It is not a disparagement to say you have been a contemporary rag and bone man, rescuing what some might consider old and no longer useful. Yet you saved, it, it may well prove very useful, and the joy was in finding and saving.

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