If you've been involved with Flash for any length of time, you've seen it evolve from a simple multimedia tool used for creating animated Web graphics and interactive buttons into a multimedia powerhouse that can play external MP3 files, load graphics, play video, talk to a database, and more.
The passionate and innovative community of Flash developers worldwide drives this evolution, to a large degree. By constantly pushing Flash development to new heights, they make us aware not only of the possibilities, but also of the limitations of what can be done.
Fortunately for us, with each new version of Flash, Macromedia strives hard to address these limitations, providing developers with the tools that enable us to do more cool stuff, in the easiest, most efficient manner.
Since its introduction in Flash 5, ActionScript has enabled Flash-based content to soar to new heights, yet there have been obstacles and limitations discovered along the way.
The execution of ActionScript in the Flash 5 player tended to be slow. Tasks that required milliseconds in other scripting/programming languages took seconds with ActionScript. Ask game programmers and they'll tell you that the speed of processing seemed like a lifetime, and it really limited the kind of interactivity that could be used.
In addition to slow processing speeds, ActionScript in Flash 5, while powerful, wasn't very flexible. There wasn't an easy way of implementing object-oriented programming techniques, which enable the creation of more complex and manageable Flash applications.
ActionScript in Flash MX, though not officially dubbed anything more than ActionScript 1.0 with some enhancements, probably could have rightfully been called ActionScript 1.5. It addressed a number of the processing speed issues that plagued Flash 5 ActionScript. In addition, the capabilities of ActionScript in Flash MX were enhanced in ways that enabled the implementation of common object-oriented programming techniques, including the creation of custom object classes and inheritance. While this was definitely a huge step in the right direction, there was still room for improvement.
With Flash MX 2004, Macromedia has introduced ActionScript 2.0. With it come some new capabilities and, more importantly, some new syntax and a new way of structuring and working with your code.
As we discuss in the next section, the changes are somewhat subtle, but they move ActionScript into the realm of a professional-grade programming language. And with what people are demanding from their Flash applications these days, this is definitely a move in the right direction.
If you're just learning ActionScript, feel free to skip this section (which probably won't make sense) and move on to the next.