10 June 2013 — QSA ToolWorks, LLC today announced the release of Helix 6.2, putting the finishing touch on a two-year project that followed an epic struggle to bring all of its products to macOS.
Setting the stage for RADE
In keeping with QSA's policy of making technology available as soon as it becomes functional, the company began a series of “Preview Releases” of their macOS user interface products in 2008. Initial Preview Releases had very limited macOS functionality; if users needed the full-suite of Helix tools, they were able to fall back on the Classic versions of those products.
The Preview Release phase was a race against time. Old machines were dying off and new ones did not run Classic. And maintaining backward compatibility by supporting both Classic and macOS in the same application took its toll on performance in both arenas.
But by 2009 the product’s macOS performance on the Intel platform gave users and developers a product they could deploy with confidence in a macOS operating environment and the company was able, at last, to move on to completing the macOS transition for their sole remaining Classic application, Helix RADE.
Completing the suite of macOS tools
Helix is an application development and deployment environment that was one of the original thirty software products created for the Macintosh platform prior to its debut in 1984. In its last Classic iteration, it was comprised of eight principal applications:
- Helix RADE: the Rapid Application Development Environment, which is used to create applications, called "collections." RADE has two operating methods: Design mode and User Mode. RADE may also be used to deploy an application for a single user (User Mode).
- Helix Engine: a User Mode access tool that allows a Helix collection to be used but not modified. Engine is often distributed with Helix collections when designers produce demos of commercial collections.
- Helix Server: used to deploy a Helix collection to a workgroup in both local- and wide-area networks, using TCP/IP.
- Helix Client: used to visit a collection hosted by a Helix Server.
- Helix Utility: used to assure the data integrity of a Helix collection.
- Update Collection: used to update a Helix collection to the latest version of Helix and to assure a collection's structural integrity.
- Helix Developer Utility: a set of tools for the professional Helix application developer.
- Helix Maintenance Manager: a tool to automate the Helix maintenance process, including the ability to schedule and perform backups, diagnostics and notify the user of the results.
Originally known as Helix and shortly thereafter, Double Helix and Helix Express, the keystone of Helix development tools has been known as RADE since the late 1990s. When 2011 brought us a stable enough framework to complete the job, we solicited user support and brought RADE out in a series of “Preliminary Releases” that would appear on or about the 10th of each month. Participation was by subscription only.
While arduous, the process was carefully monitored and navigated with a weekly project status meeting to iron out issues and refine direction. “A tremendous amount of discipline and devotion is needed to make a project like this happen,” said Gil Numeroff, adding, “and this team outdid itself. The careful planning paid off because we learned so much along the way that by the time we got to the parts we feared the most, we had a much better idea of how we were going to tackle them.”
Will Helix 6.2 really be Intel only?
Beginning around 2005, the Helix 6 development line began. Now, eight years later, it features a macOS native Helix Server, Helix Client, Helix Engine, Helix Utility and Helix RADE. While the chief driver of the journey to macOS was the need to abandon Classic before Classic abandoned Helix, there are still significant numbers of Helix users with substantial investments in PowerPC Macs, many of which hum along quite nicely in Classic.
“While our inclination has been to cut the past off at PowerPC, we have not totally written off Classic for the simple reason that we still have a viable Helix Client that runs there,” says Numeroff. It works with the same 6.1.11 Server in current release. Thus, it may be possible to continue to use a Classic Client, even when Client/Server 6.2 debuts shortly. No decision has been reached as yet.
Helix was created in 1983 by Jonathan Schneider, Larry Atkin, David Harmon and Daniel Cheifetz and originally produced by Odesta Corporation of Northbrook, Illinois in November of 1984. There are Helix users in virtually every country on earth who have been running the product in their businesses and homes almost continuously since 1984. There are very few products on any platform that can boast that kind of longevity through the number of major changes that have occurred in the computer industry since the Macintosh and PC platforms debuted in the 1980s. In spite of its tumultuous history, and the difficulty in pigeonholing the product into any single marketing category, relatively few Helix users abandon the product once they get a taste of how truly powerful and flexible it is.