In one of the early papers I wrote on this topic (back in 1997):
Why can't an academic producing courseware (online or otherwise) work like a science teacher producing a laboratory demonstration?
By that I meant:
when I design an experiment for my students, I don't need to worry about the design of an apparatus. I go to the laboratory preparation room, look at what kind of apparatus are there that I could use to illustrate the idea I would like to teach, hook the apparatus together, play with them a bit, get some sample data,...
I saw a need to create a technology solution so that teachers, those without sophisticated skill in software technology, to assemble an interactive web page from functional components similar to Physics teacher preparing an experiment set-up. I called that "virtual apparatus framework".
Since I left the University, the original project web-site has disappeared. I recovered an old backup, bought the domain name and put the copy online.
Virtual apparatus framework is based on a component-based software development blueprint. There are three major components in the model:
At that time, the main technologies to create animation/interaction are Java-applet, early flash movie and some active-X objects. The main "glue" for these components to work (or communicate) is via "Live Connect". The technology was in a flux, almost changing monthly.