Object Windows Language. It is development software maker Borland's object-oriented wrapper around the Microsoft Windows API.

OWL uses C++ to encapsulate much of the Windows API into object-oriented classes. Common user interface (UI) elements in a Windows programs (buttons, menus, toolbars) are represented by classes that can serve as bases for derived objects. This way, programmer's can act on UI elements as if they were objects, as opposed to continuously messing with all nuances that the raw API demands--such as handles, device contexts, and window registering.

OWL does a lot with Windows. It represents a Windows application as an object. It encapsulates windows as objects. It overrides the << and >> operators to simplify serialization. It provides abstraction for OLE operations. It even has full support for document/view applications.

Simply put, it's almost the exact description people use to also describe MFC, the Microsoft Foundation Classes.

The similarities between OWL and MFC are stunning. If you take most of the common MFC control classes (CEdit, CButton, CStatic) and replaced the C's with T's, you would have an application written in OWL. It should be noted that OWL 1.0 did come out before MFC 1.0 in 1992.

Many programmer's still consider the OWL framework more elegant and simple to code for. From a design point of view, OWL is a clear winner: it doesn't depend on macros nearly as much as MFC, it's more consistent across the classes, and it represented true object-orientation. Borland successfully ported OWL to OS/2 at one point. Microsoft's attempt at a Macintosh MFC port proved hopeless.

However, MFC became the clear winner in the marketplace. It happened because:

  • Any new features Microsoft introduced into Windows were encapsulated with MFC well before any other class libraries could catch up.
  • Programmers already familiar with the raw Windows API could more easily transition to MFC than with other libraries.
  • Microsoft provides the full source code of MFC with the product.
  • Many more third-party developers built add-ons to MFC than OWL.

Borland continually had to play catch up with Microsoft. Microsoft, having exclusive access to the code that would eventually find its way into released Windows versions, always had the leg up on Borland.

Borland doesn't support OWL anymore, and hasn't since 1996. At one point, Borland had to agree with Microsoft not to develop OWL anymore in exchange for some API support. Borland's C++ Builder now uses MFC by default.

When I moved away, most of the birds that stayed at home were older birds. Birds get to a point in old age where they hardly move – they just sit in the same position and make small noises. It's like they're deep in a dream, stuck in one point in the past. It begins to blend in with the rest of the house. Their smell becomes the smell of the house and their quiet calling becomes the sounds of the house, merged with the rest of the family - the fridge clicking on at night, the rumbling of the washing machine and the shutting of doors. So eventually you don't even notice them – you only notice the absence of them; the fact that they're not there. It begins to stick to you like the feeling of cheap hotel bed sheets.

Back at home the older birds weren't all mine. There were my dad's, a couple of my mum's and a few more for my brothers. Again, these ones didn't fly much any more. They just stayed in their cages in their respective owners rooms. They didn't take much tending too either, didn't call like younger birds, just sat there and occasionally needed feeding. They gave the house a kind of dusty warmth which you missed elsewhere. It was the combination of all of those little hearts beating and tiny brains clicking over, made everything seem singular, eternal.

Then there were some birds who were sort of communal. Ones that had been passed down the family for generations. Sort of like a family heirloom. They sat in the living room, the hallway or the kitchen; hidden away in corners and shelves, placed on mantelpieces like ornaments.

They seemed almost like the glue which held our family together.

"That family with the birds," people would say.

And, while me and my siblings have differences, we could all come to an agreement on the love for one or two of the larger old birds that hung around the house. Everyone chipped in on looking after them – no one ever complained.

The oldest bird of them all was perched in the hallway, on a table, under a mirror. He was a massive Eurasian Eagle-owl. Passed down so long in the family no one really knew how old he was any more. His feathers looked like dry old parchment that had been scribbled over with a pen a hundred times over. His feathers seemed to collect the static in the house, it was brushed all over him like dust. His eyes were huge, a deep round amber that shone in the darkness.

Years back when I'd found my Dad with the bluebird downstairs he'd been there – I can remember seeing those eyes, following me in the dark as I'd crept down the stairs, deeply sunk into his rotating head. That was mainly what he did, watch people with those amber eyes – filling his large body with secrets and feelings.

And he never called, he never spoke to anyone. Sometimes at his most aggravated he would rustle his feathers but that was all. He just sat there, watching and growing.

And there was a shadow of sadness about him, which was unusual, because in most ways he didn't really have much emotion at all. Most of the older birds were what you would call emotionless.

The odd thing was he seemed to command such respect in the house. Owls are not clever animals, by anyone's judgement, and we used to love playing tricks on the stupid birds. He looked a little bit dopey sitting there in his perch, watching everything and not talking. It was like he didn't really have a clue what was going on. But everyone treated him with care, not in a patronizing way, but in a respectful way. It was as if he knew better than to talk like the rest of us, better than to squabble and squeal and moan and cry.

As children, when we were naughty, our parents sent us to go sit on the stairs, next to him. I remember it vividly. We didn't really resent it. It was definitely a punishment but it was just how we dealt with stuff like that in our family. It became routine.

Sitting on the itchy pastel carpet, his silent judgement was unavoidable. It wasn't godly, it wasn't absolutist, it was the opposite. It felt like being scratched, peeled, by the strain of a thousand generations of our family, everyone else looking on. It was selfless. He looked deeply into you with those amber eyes and read you so quickly it was embarrassing. Stripped of all your pretence and manipulation, it felt like being caught naked in public. Deeply embarrassing, horribly revealing, with a seam of silent, deep rooted excitement.

We were usually in tears within a few minutes. Mum or Dad had to come and take us away. But there were never any hysterics. Just sorrow, adrenaline, love and grace.

A release, to be so utterly understood.

Owl (?), n. [AS. le; akin to D. uil, OHG. wila, G. eule, Icel. ugla, Sw. ugla, Dan. ugle.]

1. Zool.

Any cpecies of raptorial birds of the family Strigidae. They have large eyes and ears, and a conspicuous circle of feathers around each eye. They are mostly nocturnal in their habits.

⇒ Some species have erectile tufts of feathers on the head. The feathers are soft and somewhat downy. The species are numerous. See Barn owl, Burrowing owl, Eared owl, Hawk owl, Horned owl, Screech owl, Snowy owl, under Barn�x3c; Burrowing, etc.

⇒ In the Scriptures the owl is commonly associated with desolation; poets and story-tellers introduce it as a bird of ill omen. . . . The Greeks and Romans made it the emblem of wisdom, and sacred to Minerva, -- and indeed its large head and solemn eyes give it an air of wisdom.

Am. Cyc.

2. Zool.

A variety of the domestic pigeon.

Owl monkey Zool., any one of several species of South American nocturnal monkeys of the genus Nyctipithecus. They have very large eyes. Called also durukuli. -- Owl moth () Zool., a very large moth (Erebus strix). The expanse of its wings is over ten inches. -- Owl parrot Zool., the kakapo. -- Sea owl Zool., the lumpfish. -- Owl train, a cant name for certain railway trains whose run is in the nighttime.


© Webster 1913.

Owl, v. i. [imp. & p. p. Owled (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Owling.]


To pry about; to prowl.

[Prov. Eng.]


To carry wool or sheep out of England.


⇒ This was formerly illegal, and was done chiefly by night.


Hence, to carry on any contraband trade.



© Webster 1913.

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