In case you’ve never seen or heard our dear friend and guest writer Jer Thorp speak on stage, this is a simple must. His talk from TEDxVancouver last November is finally online. Jer talks about the summer of 1985, when his father came home with a classic Mac. Loaded on that machine was a revolutionary program called HyperCard, which for him (and thousands of others) opened a door to expressivity through programming. Jer talks about personal work as well as most recent at NYTimes.
Jer’s post on CAN from September 2009 forms the basis of his recent talks, looking at the HyperCard history, a tool for making tools, once a legacy for Apple.
For those that do not know Jer, he is a generative software artist and educator from Vancouver, Canada, currently living in New York. A former geneticist, his work explores the boundaries between science, mathematics, and art using custom-written computer programs. Thorp is currently Data Artist-in-Residence at The New York Times, the first Artist-in-Residence at the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) of NYU, and a contributing editor for Wired UK.
Jer will also be speaking at Resonate, art and technology event taking place in Belgrade, Serbia in 2 weeks – curated by myself/CreativeApplications.Net.
- The HyperCard Legacy [Theory, Mac] In 1963, my dad was looking for a job. Born in England and raised in Africa, he ended up in London after a few years of travel by ship and train. In those pre-pre-Craigslist days, people still searched for employment in newspapers, and an unusual listing in a London Newspaper caught his eye: a listing looking for computer operators. For my father, the listing raised two immediate questions: What is a computer? And how do you operate it? (A similar reaction would have come from job listings for auto mechanics in 1914 or web designers in 1994). Responding to that listing turned out to be a life-changing decision for my dad, who has spent the last 40 years working with computers and technology. A very similar directional moment came for me 24 years later, in 1987, when my dad arrived home from work with a Macintosh SE computer HyperCard, Revisited The Mac SE was actually not as important to my life (and career) as was the software that came with it for free - in particular, an unusual and innovative application called HyperCard. HyperCard was a tool for making tools - Mac users could use Hypercard to build their own mini-programs to balance their taxes, manage sports statistics, make music - all kinds of individualized software that would be useful (or fun) for individual users. These little programs were called stacks, and were built as a system of cards that could be hyperlinked together. Building a HyperCard stack was remarkably easy, and the application quickly developed a devoted following. HyperCard was the brain child of Bill Atkinson, one of Apple's earliest employees, and the software engineer responsible for (among other things) the drop-down menu, the selection tool, and tabbed navigation. Bill played a big role in making the Mac what the Mac was - a personal computer that made the whole process of computing easy for the general public. HyperCard represented perhaps the bravest part of this 'computing for the people' philosophy, as it enabled users to go past the pre-built software that came on the machines, and to program and build software of their own. Assuming that a typical computer would and could learn how to may program seem like a mad idea, but its one that has a long legacy. When personal computers were first envisioned in the 1960s, scenarios included the owners of these machines making their own software. The small group of people who were working in computing probably couldn't imagine why anyone would want a computer if they didn't know how to program it! With HyperCard, the learning process was facilitated by pre-built UI elements, and a simple drag & drop interface. Maybe most important, though, was HyperCard's unique, innovative, and very easy to use programming language, HyperTalk. Say That again, in English? Reading programming instructions written in some languages can be confusing. Statements in HyperTalk, on the other hand, tend to read like sentences in English. For example, if I wanted to create a variable called â€˜nameâ€™ with the string 'bob dole' in it, I would write this: put 'bob dole' into name If I wanted to put the last name into a list of last names that I had already created, I could do this: put the second word of name into last_names And if I wanted to display the name on screen, I would simply write: put name into field 'name_display' This type of plain-language programming makes sense, particularly in an application that was designed specifically for non-programmers. I have been teaching programming to designers and artists for nearly a decade, and I find the largest concern for learners to be not with the conceptual hurdles involved in writing a program, but with obscure and confusing syntax requirements. I would love to be able to teach HyperTalk to my students, as a smooth on-road to more complex languages like Java or ActionScript. HyperTalk wasn't just easy, it was also fairly powerful. Complex object structures could be built to handle complicated tasks, and the base language could be expanded by a variety of available externdal commands and functions (XCMDs and XFCNs, respectively), which were precursors to the modern plug-in. Programming for the People This combination of ease of use and power resonated with the HyperCard user base, who developed and shared thousands of unique stacks (all in a time before the web). A visit to a BBS in the late 80s and early 90s could give a modem-owner access to thousands of unique, often home-made tools and applications. Stacks were made to record basketball statistics, to teach music theory, and to build complex databases. The revolutionary non-linear game Myst first appeared as a HyperCard stack, and the Beatles even got into the scene, with an official stack A Hard Days Night. During the same time, developers made hundreds of extensions. Some let HyperCard stacks talk to other applications on your computer (opening the door to the first computer virus, 'Concept', in 1993). Other let you communicate to the outside world - BeeHive Technology's ADB I/) box was a kind of â€˜Arduino for the 80's, and let stack-makers connect to sensors and send commands to electronics. A large community formed around HyperCard, providing tips & resources as well as a distribution channel for home-brew software makers. The HyperCard Legacy Over the last few years, we've seen many exciting projects that work in the spirit of HyperCard - projects that offer free and simple ways to create custom software tools. Replace the word 'HyperCard' in the paragraphs above with 'Processing' and the word 'stack' with the word'sketch', and many of the innovations and advantages described can be moved 20 years into the future without much of a re-write. HyperCard was the first real hyper-media program, paving the way for the web, and everything that came with it. It was used by thousands of people, and by most accounts, seemed to have been a fairly successful piece of software. Which, of course, begs the question: What happened to HyperCard? A small project in the larger suite of Mac software, HyperCard never really saw the type of development commitment that it would need to remain current as the Mac OS advanced. The small, black-and white application looked more and more antiquated as screens got bigger and more colorful. To compound matters, the project was shuffled back and forth between Mac and its software subsidiary Claris and seemed never to get any kind of sure footing. Though a second version of Hypercard was released in 1990, the project had made few advances since its release five years earlier. Ultimately, HyperCard would disappear from Mac computers by the mid-nineties, eclipsed by web browsers and other applications which it had itself inspired. The last copy of HyperCard was sold by Apple in 2004. The Importance of Middle Ground In new media, practitioners are often identified with the specific tools that they use. I started out as a 'Flash guy' and over the last few years have been connected more and more with the open source software project Processing. Though I originally came to Processing to escape the Flash Player's then sluggish performance, I value the platform as much for its ease of use and its teachability as I do for its ability to quickly add floating point numbers. Lately, I've been asked the same question, over and over again: 'Why don't you move to OpenFrameworks? It's much faster!' It is true that projects built in OF run faster than those built in Processing. This question, though, seems to be missing a key point: faster does not always equal better. Does every pianist want to play the pipe organ because it has more keys? Is a car better than a bicycle? In my case, choosing a platform to work with involves as much consideration to simplicity as it does to complexity. I am an educator, and when I work on a project I am always thinking about how the things that are learned in the process can be packaged and shared with my students and with the public. Which brings us to the broader concept of accessibility. HyperCard effectively disappeared a decade a go, making way for supposedly bigger and better things. But in my mind, the end of HyperCard left a huge gap that desperately needs to be filled - a space for an easy to use, intuitive tool that will once again let average computer users make their own tools. Such a project would have huge benefits for all of us, wether we are artists, educators, entrepreneurs, or enthusiasts. HyperCard, Revisited Over the years, there have been several attempts to revive HyperCard, most recently on the web. TileStack is HyperCard for a social media world, a site in which users can build their own stacks, program them with HyperTalk, and share them with friends. It's a bit of a time capsule, with many classic HyperCard stacks available to satisfy any nostalgic cravings for B&W pixel art you may be harbouring. Unfortunately, HyperCard, as much as we might love it, is 25 years old. These big initiatives to revive it directly end up looking and feeling antiquated. I could imagine a new version of HyperCard being built from the ground up around its core functional properties: HyperTalk, easy to use UI elements, and a framework for extensions. It's the kind of open source project that could happen, but with so much investment already existing in other initiatives such as Processing and OpenFrameworks, it might not be the best use of resources. So, let's forget for now about a resurrection. Instead of thinking bigger, let's think smaller. HyperCard for the iPhone? It might not be as crazy as you think. Imagine having a single, meta app that could be used to make smaller ones. This 'App-Builder App', like HyperCard, could combine easy to use, draggable user interface elements with an intuitive, plain language scripting language. As a quick visit to the App Store will show you, many or most of the apps available today could be built without complex coding. You don't need Objective C to make a stock ticker, or a unit converter, or a fart machine. These home-made apps could be shared and adapted, cross-bred and mutated to create generation after generation of useful (and not so useful programs). By putting the tools of creation into the hands of the broader userbase, we would allow for the creation of ultra-specific personalized apps that, aside from a few exceptions, don't exist today. We'd also get access to a vastly larger creative pool. There are undoubtedly many excellent and innovative ideas out there, in the heads of people who don't (yet) have the programming skills to realize them. The next Myst is waiting to be built, along with countless other novel tools and applications. With the developer restrictions and extreme proprietism of the iPhone App Store, it's hard to remember the Apple of the 80s. Steve Jobs, Bill Atkinson and their team had a vision to not only bring computers to the people, but also to bring computer programming to the public - to make makers out of the masses. At Apple, this philosophy, along with HyperCard seems to have mostly been lost. In the open source community, though, this ideal is alive and well - it may be that by reviving some ideas from the past we might be able to create a HyperCard for the […]
- The Sketchbook of Susan Kare [News] How did we get from command line to computer interfaces we know today? PlosBlogs's NeuroTribes offers an insight into the sketchbook of Susan Kare, the Artist who's high-school friend Andy Hertzfeld, the lead software architect for the Macintosh operating system, offered a job to design fonts for the Mac. Inspired by the collaborative intelligence of her fellow software designers, Kare stayed on at Apple to craft the navigational elements for Mac’s GUI. Because an application for designing icons on screen hadn’t been coded yet, she went to the University Art supply store in Palo Alto and picked up a $2.50 sketchbook so she could begin playing around with forms and ideas. In the pages of this sketchbook, which hardly anyone but Kare has seen before now*, she created the casual prototypes of a new, radically user-friendly face of computing — each square of graph paper representing a pixel on the screen. Read more on http://blogs.plos.org Kare’s work gave the Mac a visual lexicon that was universally inviting and intuitive. Instead of thinking of each image as a tiny illustration of a real object, she aimed to design icons that were as instantly comprehensible as traffic […]
- flight404 at Decode / V&A [Events, News] Robert Hodgin aka flight404 has just posted this video of an application he is working for the Decode event at London's V&A to open next month. Robert was asked to rework his older Solar piece so that it could be audio responsive in real-time. Whilst the details of the actual exibit are yet unknown, it is nevertheless exciting to see Robert's work at the V&A. Video at the bottom is the older piece but do make sure you watch at HD / full screen. He will be joined by the names such as Golan Levin, Daniel Brown, Daniel Rozin, Troika and Simon Heijdens. More about the event here. 8 December 2009 - 11 April 2010 // Curated in collaboration with onedotzero (via Homage to Radiolab « all manner of […]
- Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) [Events + Giveaway] The Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) is the leading electronic music conference and the biggest club festival for electronic music. Founded fourteen years ago, ADE first came to light in 1996 as a small conference with a few hundred music professionals and a festival program in 3 clubs with 30 DJs. Now in 2010, ADE has grown to become the ultimate platform to meet international business partners, introduce businesses to a worldwide audience and get in touch with new people, new music and new trends. Check out the full program. After a successful match between Amsterdam Dance Event & MUSIC & BITS in 2009, the groups are teaming up once again for this edition. Music & Bits brings together a team of international professionals and speakers to share thoughts and knowledge on the endless developing digital era. I am pleased to announce I will be speaking at the event together with Dave Haynes (Soundcloud, MusicHackDay), Minivegas, Brian Whitman (Echonest) and others. Filip will discuss digital ecosystems, designing for immersive experiences and what role both physical and digital play in our daily life. The talk will focus on iPhone and iPad platforms covering topics such as tools and frameworks, design, production, curation and distribution of digital content relating in particular to music and sound. If you always wanted to venture into iPad/iPhone development or simply wondered about the role these devices play in the future of music creation, production or performance, this is a talk you wouldn't want want to miss. When: 20-23rd October 2010 Where: All over Amsterdam Music and Bits Conference: Felix Meritis We are also giving away one full pass (€320) to the full Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) with entry into every ADE venue (41 venues) without any hassle or entrance fee nor standing in line. Also included is access to full day conference with leading experts from across the globe participating in the program. (The event is totally sold out, only conference tickets remaining) All you have to do is Tweet this and you will be entered in the random draw next friday. Read below for Rules and Information. One lucky winner will be chosen Friday (8th Oct). Winner is Eralda van Zurk aka @EraldavanZurk! Make sure you are following @creativeapps as we will send you DM if you are a winner. Facts & figures ADE 2009: festival visitors 90.000, conference visitors 2.100 (sold out), ADE Next visitors 400 (sold out), Nationalities 52, Artists 700+, Clubs/venues 41, Journalists & Media 211. Rules and information 1. The event is being held in Amsterdam/Netherlands: http://amsterdam-dance-event.nl/ from the 20th-23rd October 2010. You will need to arrange your own travel and accommodation (not included). If you win the ticket and you can't make it to the event, we would appreciate you let us know so we can give the ticket to someone else. 2. Competition is open to everyone and anyone but you must be over 18 years of age. There will be a total of ONE winner for this competition. 3. Winner will be selected by random. 4. Winner will be contacted via email and will be asked to provide their full name and postal address. If they wish to pass on a ticket to another person, we will need their name and postal address. If the winner does not respond by the following Friday (15th Oct) we will pick another winner. 5. Only one entry per […]
- Cyclotone (2012) by Paul Prudence This new piece by Paul Prudence takes conceptual cues from cyclotrons and particle accelerators and alludes to aspects of particle physics, space exploration and 4-dimensional space. It is inspired to commemorate the first wave of Russian cosmonauts and also the artists of the Constructivist movement who conquered space […]
- The Culture of Game Jams [Games] Game jams here in Europe are this weird thing. You meet up with people to develop a game in a really short time, usually something between 24 and 72 hours. Most jams have a theme that the games should be about. It's either something very open or something very silly. I attended three game jams so far, the last one being at the Blekinge Institute of Technology in Karlshamn, Sweden. You can download the games from the jam here – there's some quirky, funny stuff in there. I had a really good time at every one of the jams - it's a great way to meet people. I'm never really happy with the games I (co)-create at a game jam though and I usually don't want to publish them. If you work in a team, it can be really hard to decide in which direction to go, especially if you work together with people you have not worked before. Even if you work alone it's not so much about the result you are achieving but more about just creating something in a really short time. In North America it seems to be much more common to have jams without any fixed theme or competition. Take TIGJam Winnipeg for example, where people just meet up and work on their own stuff. They get inspired by what everyone else is doing, but they stick to their visions and ideas and don't have to compromise it by working under the restriciton of a theme or other ad-hoc team members. I'm curious if this is a cultural thing. What's your experience? Photo above by Roger […]
- Golan Levin on TED.com [News, Inspiration] Golan Levin, an artist and engineer, uses modern tools -- robotics, new software, cognitive research -- to make artworks that surprise and delight. Watch as sounds become shapes, bodies create paintings, and a curious eye looks back at the curious viewer. via Golan Levin makes art that looks back at you | Video on […]
- FORM+CODE Book + Giveaway [News] FORM+CODE is the latest book by Casey Reas, Chandler McWilliams + LUST and published by Princeton Architectural Press. The book offers an insight into design by code used by designers, artists and architects to explore and derive to new ways of generating and translating ideas. Broken down into eight chapters, the book attempts to categorise different techniques used in creative code through both current work and historical references and precedents. It also acts as an introduction to anyone interested in this area or work providing both visual and code examples to get quickly started thinking about code as creative medium. Whilst somewhat lacking theoretical point of view, FORM+CODE explores work through more practical application categorising and giving examples of different techniques. These include Repeat, Transform, Parameterize, Visualize And Simulate. Each one is further broken down to for example REPEAT; Qualities of Repetition, The Computer’s Talent, Modularity, Repetition Technique: Pattern, Repetition Technique: Recursion as well as offering actual code examples you can download from the website. It is a clear classification of most popular techniques used and although by no means comprehensive in describing the pieces it does acknowledge the body of work they each encompass. FORM+CODE is neither a technical guide and it does not provide tutorials or step by step directions to how any of these techniques work. The book is about the state of creative code now in reference to the past. It is a clear and elegant collection of ideas and pieces of work that have influenced, inspired and continue to incite new generations working with digital media. The book is also a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to learn code, not from the technical point of view but more as a reference to how the work is derived to. It is a collection of methods, their application and the possible output. Casey and Chandler have done a wonderful job in collecting some of the most stunning work out there and LUST in assembling it. Whilst we have seen many books that offer step by step guides there have been very few if any that provide such an enjoyable collection of the work by artists, architects and designers using code in the work. Back to back it is filled with wonderful imagery and not just from the current era but images such as the one of Ivan Sutherland. Beautifully laid out with clear graphic distinction between the chapters and example pages makes it a wonderful read. Highly recommended! Once the exclusive domain of programmers, code is now being used by a new generation of designers, artists, and architects eager to explore how software can enable innovative ways of generating form and translating ideas. Form+Code in Design, Art, and Architecture offers an in-depth look at the use of software in a wide range of creative disciplines. This visually stimulating survey introduces readers to over 250 signiﬁcant works and undertakings of the past 60 years in the ﬁelds of ﬁne and applied art, architecture, industrial design, digital fabrication, visual cinema, photography, typography, interactive media, gaming, artiﬁcial intelligence (AI), artiﬁcial life (a-life), and graphic design, including data mapping and visualizations, and all forms of new media and expression. The book retails for $24.95 and is available for purchase from Amazon (US, UK). formandcode.com We are also pleased to say that we have one copy of the book to giveaway. All you have to do is Tweet this and you will be entered in the random draw next friday. Read below for Rules and Information. One lucky winner will be chosen next Monday (4th Oct). Contest now closed! 270 Entries and random winner is: Edwin Beauchamp aka @sleepysleepyed Make sure you are following @creativeapps as we will send you a DM if you are a winner. Rules and information 1. Postage and Packing included. 2. Competition is open to everyone and anyone but you must be over 18 years of age. There will be a total of ONE winner for this competition. 3. Winner will be selected by random. 4. Winner will be contacted via email and will be asked to provide their full name and postal address. If they wish to pass on the book to another person, we will need their name and postal address. If the winner does not respond by the following Monday (11th Oct) we will pick another winner. 5. Only one entry per […]
Posted on: 01/03/2012
Posted in: News
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