February 24, 2003

from the archives

Legacy technology integration has been much on our minds recently, now that Mena and Ben have shown us the way. Somehow I foresaw this excitement and got on the bandwagon twenty years ago.

A piece first typed on my KayPro II, I offer you the following oldie from my digital archives:

800K REPORT

Imagine, if you will, being able to take your personal entertainment system with you on your spring vacation. You walk down the sun-drenched beach, searching for that particular combination of sea, sand, and sky. At last you find it--the perfect spot. Far from any electrical source, unencumbered by battery packs, cordless receivers, or headsets, you stretch out on your towel and silently begin to enjoy your program.

Sound impossible? The Japanese have done it again. At a press conference yesterday, Aif™ru-yu Corporation announced a new product for the personal entertainment market. The latest model of this new system is being advertised and sold under the name 800K in U.S. and British markets. Initial availability will be limited, but an Aif™ru-yu corporate spokesman said that the company expects to be able to supply all interested dealers by the end of June.

What is this new form of personal entertainment? The 800K is a non-electronic analog information/text storage system. It is self-contained, portable, and light weight--many models are the size of a videocassette, some even smaller. The necessary hardware is cheap (generally costing less than $25) and the library of available, compatible software is enormous. Hardware and software are integrated permanently, so a user must buy new hardware to get new software, but industry representatives maintain that this is far outweighed by the system's advantages.


A prototype 800K, called the scr-011, was shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in 1981. However, that early model had serious limitations. The scr-011 was unwieldy, and it had no good indexing system, so a user could not scan it quickly. It was not easily made in quantity; not much recent software was available; and the only available program languages were compatible with very few American machines. All in all, the scr-011 was not practical.

The 800K is the next generation of the scr-011. Last July, when central air conditioners broke down at the Aif™ru-yu corporate headquarters in Osaka, some employees pleated scr-011s, attempting to make fans. One young engineer realized that this might be a solution to the scr-011's indexing and scanning problems. A person could now skip directly to the interesting parts of a text without having to view 30,000 words of historical background first. Further refinements involved attaching one edge of the fan to a protective cover, and reducing the bulk of the storage system by slitting the folds and printing on both sides of the pressed pulp medium.

If you examine an actual 800K, you will note that some information or entertainment is printed on every sheet inside the cover. These sheets may be read sequentially, skimmed, or skipped manually. A brief menu in the front, (i.e., beginning of the program) called the "Table of Contents," lists parts of the program, in order of sequence with corresponding sheet numbers. More useful, but not available in all models of the 800K, is a rudimentary (manual) indexing system found after the main body of the text. You do not have to scan the entire program to get to the index. Simply turn your 800K over (printing on the cover facing down) and open the other side of the cover. Called "turning to the back of the 800K," it is one of the most efficient and dependable ways of finding the index--if, of course, your model has one.

If you are interrupted, you can put down your 800K, and come back at any time (even years later) and pick up right where you left off. You can also scan the same scene over and over again, as many times as you like. The 800K is designed to open first to the section most opened to in the past. It helps you find your favorite parts with a patented "broken binding" memory.

The 800K still has some limitations. Most of them result from the fact that once hardware and software are integrated, the software cannot be altered or in any way debugged. Sceptics point to this as a major drawback; however, projected production costs may be low enough that second generations (updated and debugged) of any existing 800K may be built as demand warrants.

Perhaps you were one of those who doubted that the Sony Walkman would catch on. You may also remember that within one year it captured an impressive portion of the international entertainment market. Some industry insiders are predicting that the 800K will be equally popular. Certainly it is today's novel gift.

Posted by EGP at 10:34 PM | Comments (1)

February 21, 2003

magnetic poetry

Make magnetic poetry out of words from any web site, courtesy of a cool bit of programming hosted by dive into mark.

To make your own poems, try visiting http://diveintomark.org/magnetic/elizabethperry.com/woolgathering, or http://diveintomark.org/magnetic/markstroup.com, or http://diveintomark.org/magnetic/cnn.com, or you can hack the URL to find your own places to play.

(In your browser, just type http://diveintomark.org/magnetic/ and then add the web address of the page you'd like to use.)

Posted by EGP at 1:11 PM

February 20, 2003

interactive collages, continued

Phillip Buehler's Quicktime panorama: Self Portrait with My Grandmother, 1952 & 1999 joins past and present on the S. S. United States. The panorama sweeps across the ship's rusted hulk. A man in shorts sits on some derelict piece of equipment. As the panorama moves past him, you notice a black and white photo of a woman standing at the rail. The man's gaze is away from us, towards the woman in the past. No special attempt is made to blend the distinction between past and present. The present is panoramic, digital, rusting. The past is bounded, palpable, and new. They are separate; they regard one another.

I was moved by the artist's discovery of his grandfather's height. In order to blend the 1999 image with the 1952 photo, he had to position his camera so the angles of the two images matched exactly. He had to set his tripod where his grandfather stood, and raise it to the same height...

Posted by EGP at 10:05 PM

February 18, 2003

collective art?

Steven Berlin Johnson writes in Slate about new collective games (performance pieces? scavenger hunts? interactive experiences?) being played out either with cell phones on city streets or entirely online. The real and the virtual begin to blur when in his own weblog he writes of getting a phone call (on an unlisted number) from a fictional game character within hours of the Slate article being published.

I can't quite get my mind around the many directions of these dispersed projects. I get dizzy thinking of the possibilities. I'm reminded of Janet Cardiff's video and audio tours. Then what happens when you mix in GPS and geocaching? And blogs and moblogs?

I didn't mark the sites (and BoingBoing seems to be down today) but I remember reading about a GPS sketching project (here it is) where participants created virtual drawings by driving a car from point to point and logging their position with a GPS device.

So... as a culture we have these new spaces to explore. New processes of abstraction. New ways to reflect and communicate our experiences. I descend into generality (but it's either that or make a sharp turn into high theory) because I don't have any specific projects to offer.

Yet.

Posted by EGP at 3:56 PM

February 14, 2003

404 not found

The weapons you are looking for are currently unavailable.

Posted by EGP at 11:17 PM

February 13, 2003

tennis anyone?

No, I don't play. But if I were to pick up a new sport, I think it would be Photoshop Tennis. In the words of its inventors, " It's a very simple idea. One player creates a layer in a photoshop document and emails it to the other. Each player progressively adds a layer until the match is over, either by reaching ten volleys, a player's withdrawal or mutual consent. A guest adds comments and the whole thing happens and is diplayed in real time. Finally, the people watching vote for a winner. " I've just revisited one of my favorite matches.

Posted by EGP at 11:28 PM

February 10, 2003

fill in the blanks

Office supplies delight me - what could be so full of possibility and hope as a blank sheet of paper or a new box of index cards? I used to love to look at the different kinds of ledgers. Knowing nothing about accounting, I'd be drawn in by the crossed single and double colored lines, the variable-width columns, the eye-ease green. Even paper-bound record books had a nineteenth-century stateliness and order about them, the implication that all information could be organized, catalogued, contained. I'd go in and try to find the perfect notebook, or set of folders, or manila envelopes with windy strings and buttons to close them. And each time I'd imagine that the right kind of paper would transform my habits.

Now the internet offers me a chance to make my own - at one-twelfth scale. Perhaps now I can devise a minute filing system, a new model for organizing my life on paper.

Posted by EGP at 11:10 PM

February 9, 2003

green paintings and tiny cars

I remember several years ago when my mother and I talked about painting with moss. Gardeners are told to use moss mixed in the blender with buttermilk or diluted yoghurt and then to brush the mixture onto the stone or other surface where they'd like moss to grow. We wondered about making living paintings, but didn't take the idea very far.

Today I found out about Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey, artists who develop photographic images using photosynthesis. Grass is their medium. Depending on the amount of light which gets through the negative, the grass varies from yellow to dark green.

The family tiny car project today evolved from Mark's discovery of a site featuring photos in which matchbox cars were held up so that they appeared to be the same size as parked cars. We challenged our extended family to try it out. Here are some of the results so far.

Posted by EGP at 8:57 PM

February 8, 2003

interactive collages

The Archaeological Collage Interactive lets a viewer see historical images in a new way. Gregory Cosmo Haun scanned antique photos of a cityscape and then figured out where to stand to take the same photo in the present. He combined them in collages which you can alter on line, adding more of the past or more of the present. You can control how much of each view you see at any moment. It's hypnotic. In one of my favorites (Fremont Bridge) ghostly ships appear and disappear as you move the control bar...

Posted by EGP at 7:39 PM

February 4, 2003

a waltz for giants

This makes me happy, every time I think about it. Anne Troake, a Canadian choreographer and documentary filmmaker has made a dance for giant bucket loaders at a construction site. A mini-documentary about the project takes some time to download (it's 9MB), but it is worth waiting for. Art should make you see the world differently - this does.

Posted by EGP at 8:56 AM | Comments (2)

February 1, 2003

It doesn't change...

A local District Attorney has determined that state troopers behaved appropriately when they shot an unarmed twelve-year-old boy in the back on Christmas Eve. He had jumped out of a stolen SUV and was running away from them. Oh, yeah, he was black...

An upper-middle class lawyer went to work at an all-white country club as a busboy in 1992. He wrote an article about the experience, which I ran across as I was looking for something else. I stopped to read it and have been thinking about it ever since. Have country clubs changed much in 11 years? I don't know. Would twelve-year-old Michael Ellerbe be alive today if he'd been white, or rich? These aren't easy questions to answer. Or perhaps they are - the question becomes, what do we do about them.

Posted by EGP at 9:52 AM