Do-it-yourself notebook computer made by a 4 year old.
While working on my mega-post about Steve Jobs over the course of a month or so, I put off reading Walter Isaacson’s new biography. I knew I would never finish my article if I started on his book. But I did go back to a lot older material on the web when checking facts.
One of my favorite is Andy Hertzfeld’s Folklore.org where the early Apple engineer and some of his friends have posted a hundred or so anecdotes about the creation of the original Mac. You’ll find many of the same characters and stories that show up in Isaacson’s book (which I did finally pick up and completely enjoyed). I think the material all got included in an O’Reilly book called Revolution in the Valley, but you can read them for free at his site.
In one story, he relates how, during a much-needed break from Apple in 1984, he came to build the “Switcher” utility that gave a semblance of multi-tasking to the early Mac. It’s got some good insight on product design, a little history of the challenges of writing software for a PC with only 128K of RAM, and great appearances by both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
“The ghost was her father’s parting gift, presented by a black-clad secretary in a departure lounge at Narita.” – William Gibson, Mona Lisa Overdrive
1. Unboxing the Past
It was a few days after Steve Jobs died, and I was talking with an old friend. Actually, we were unpacking an original Macintosh computer, which we’d brought down from my attic to try to re-start as kind of an impromptu homage. The golden October sun poured in my office windows. We were here to talk business, but it wasn’t long before the subject changed to Jobs. It was sad of course, we said, but totally expected.
This computer hadn’t really been used since 1990. Last seen, it must have been ten years ago, hastily wrapped in an old curtain and stuffed in a plastic storage bin before my last move, another memento to hang onto. Now picking up the compact and surprisingly heavy beige box with its integrated handle somehow activated old muscle memory, and we remembered seeing it for the first time in 1983, our younger selves standing in the Harvard Coop before this strange new thing. Read the rest of this entry »
Back in 1985 when I got my first Mac, there was a program called MusicWorks by Hayden Software. It was a beautiful little application that allowed you compose and play synthesized music using either regular notation or a grid form. The latter was perfect for me since I’m a play-by-ear musician and only read music at about a first grade level. The Mac’s built-in sound chip could only produce four voices, and Musicworks gave you a half-dozen or so instruments and a few effects. You could make a little figure, copy it, paste it, invert it, raise or lower the octave, duplicate it, etc. It was a natural for looping, before that was even a word. Other than MacWord, I definitely spent more time on MusicWorks during the 1980s than any other piece of software. When Steve Jobs died recently I got the old Mac out and listened to some of the files from way back. This one was called “So Long.”
Wrote this on a 1985 Mac 512K running Hayden Software “MusicWorks” Ripped the sound in Garageband (using the 3.5mm miniplug audio out on the Mac). Video done with iPhone. Edited in iMovie.
This post originally appeared on PracticeLab.com
“Each pattern describes a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it in the same way twice.” A Pattern Language (Christopher Alexander, et al., 1977)
Architect Christopher Alexander is one of the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. You know, he “thinks different.”
In the 1970s, he conceived and co-wrote A Pattern Language, a strange and endlessly interesting book that proposes to describe a grammar of design for the built environment based on archetypal patterns that have worked successfully in the past, can be observed in the world, and be reused and recombined in endless variety to create new designs. The book also lovingly documents 253 of these patterns ranging in scale from regions and towns to houses, rooms, furnishings, and even ornaments, and with names like Industrial Ribbon, Corner Grocery, A Place to Wait, and Children’s Realm. Just read it.
Although madly theoretical and the author of many other books, Alexander has also put his ideas into practice in many real-world design and construction projects, some of them designed and built by the actual end users. But as his Wikipedia entry says, “Alexander is widely considered to occupy a place outside the discipline, the discourse, and the practice of Architecture.” Like Jane Jacobs or Buckminster Fuller, he goes against the grain of contemporary design and planning, or simply lives out on his own planet. Read the rest of this entry »