a glob of nerdishness

December 5, 2011

Beyond 1984

written by natevw @ 4:08 pm

A few weeks after writing that personal computers are no longer quite what they could be, I came across an article declaring that The Personal Computer Is Dead — with the implication being that this is not quite what it should be.

Jonathan Zittrain, in this article (which you should read) and in his book (which I should read), argues that a society in which a few corporations completely control our devices in the name of security, and to better serve their profitholders — that a society which allows that will ultimately end up an un-safe, and un-growing, society. So we should be building up and building on platforms that don’t discourage freedom and sharing and other similarly unpatriotic ideas.

Which is half, but not the better half, of my little Beyond 1984 project.

I’m tempted to say the other half is about homeland-warming things like such as in money making and consumer happiness. But that’s a cynical take. The other half is about putting away cynicism. We already have Zittrain’s “angry nerds”: they’re the Stallmanites, the cypherpunks, the anarcho-pacifists and other tinfoil-hat flouride-fearers that you’d never want at your company Christmas party.

Angry nerds? Angry nerds are a dime a dozen! We’re the solution to what exactly now?

Meanwhile, Twitter’s repressed are excited that maybe Google+Path can re-centralize the violence inherent in Facebook — O frabjous day! And if that’s already more than what 99% of computer owners care about, it’s certainly not the world’s richest 1% who are going to patronize the development of a free society either.

So the other half of going Beyond 1984 is going not so much by avoiding what’s wrong with the Orwellian but by embracing what’s good. Embracing well-distributed, privacy-respecting, citizen-empowering hardware and software designs may be a worthwhile goal — or maybe not.

I don’t imagine anger, or fear, or even schadenfreude, can inspire much great industrial design. Angry nerds like me need to go beyond building systems that are Anti-Ungood. Going beyond what 1984 represents will require abandoning those themes ourselves.

So that’s what this little Beyond 1984 project is: researching libertarian technology, if it could be built for healthy reasons.

October 22, 2007

Road to Mac OS X Leopard

written by natevw @ 8:08 am

AppleInsider has been posting a great series called “Road to Mac OS X Leopard” this month. The journalism shines not in the actual Leopard bits, but in the historical lead-up to each:

I’ll update this list as necessary. Tip: as elsewhere on teh adverwebs, the print version gives you the current article on a single page.

My favorites have been Safari (though sans Vannevar Bush and Ted Nelson), the Desktop, and Collaborative Services.

March 8, 2007


written by natevw @ 8:23 pm

Thanks to Ned, I found Old-computers.com, which has apparently been around longer than when I put up a list of vintage computers that I was playing with circa 1999.

I’ve just finished reading The Autodesk File in original book form (although it is now available online) and this site would have been a great reference to all the early personal computers mentioned therein!

Perhaps my first memory of computers was playing Starblaze on my dad’s Tandy Model 100. I remember him coding Tic-Tac-Toe on an Apple /// that sat in my room for ages, which I eventually “networked” with a long serial cable to a TRS-80 Model III that found its way into another corner. Then came the CoCo2(1) years, where I would turn the living room into a dance hall by looping the screen through colors controlled by a pair of joysticks. Good times! I sometimes miss those days when the guts of the computer were just a PEEK or a POKE away. Instead of surfing through a googol of sites, most of what I learned in those days came from poring through one BASIC Program Conversions book(2).

  1. it happens to be the site’s computer of the day today
  2. …which my mom graciously found for me when the library discarded it at last!

January 18, 2007

First actual bug remains in Washington, D.C.

written by natevw @ 8:17 am

You’ve probably heard the story about old tube-powered mainframe computers being susceptible to bug encounters of the insect kind. What you may not know:

  • The word “bug” was used to describe glitches in machines before any mainframe incident(s) occurred, according to the software bug article on Wikipedia.
  • The first actual bug found (actually Lepidoptera rather than Hemiptera) has been preserved in the Smithsonian’s American History museum, according to an interesting bug list from Ask Tog.

January 9, 2007

Welcome, iPhone.

written by natevw @ 12:38 pm

Apple, Inc. has put their patents to good use, reviving the Newton MessagePad as a Cocoafied iPod.
Update: Adriano of Notwen is excited.