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Chime was a free plugin for web browsers that displays interactive rotatable/zoomable renderings of 3D chemical or macromolecular structures. Also called MDL Chime, Chime was developed by MDL Information systems in 1996, and was available only for Microsoft Windows.


Origins of Chime

The rendering and molecular visualization command scripting language of Chime were adapted from the C source code of an earlier program, RasMol, developed by Roger A. Sayle and generously placed in the public domain. Tim Maffett, a computational chemist employed at the time by MDL, was the primary architect and programmer of Chime. Although MDL's main interest was in visualization of small organic compounds, Maffett had the forsight to leave RasMol's support for macromolecules intact, and to extend it. The result was a program that was the best in its class from the late 1990's until the early 2000's, and that became enormously popular with biochemists and drug companies as well as chemists.

Popularity and Decline of Chime

Chime was very popular with biochemists, biochemical educators, and drug companies, as well as with chemists and chemical educators. Over a thousand publicly available websites and tutorials utilized Chime in 2008 (as was documented in the now defunct World Index of BioMolecular Visualization Resources. After a decade of being the best of its class, Chime's popularity waned due to lack of continued development by MDL, the absence of a version for Apple Mac OS X, and MDL's refusal to open its source code to the community of Chime users. By about 2005, Jmol had emerged as a superior, free, and open-source replacement.

Screen Capture of Chime in Action

A tutorial on hemoglobin written using RasMol in 1996 was subsequently ported to Chime, then the unsigned Jmol Java applet, and then to JSmol. Screen capture videos of the earlier versions were made in 2018 on a Windows 98 virtual machine:

There is also a detailed history of this Hemoglobin tutorial.

See Also

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