Tag: computers (page 1 of 2)

The Digital Dark Ages

The author of this article helps out with computer museums around the world. He talks about how its not just nostalgia which fuels them, but learning about the technological and social context in which the hardware were situated.

He then explains that future historians won’t have much of that context because of DRM, IP laws, and encryption.

To future historians—not just of computing, but of humanity—the current period will be a dark age.

How was Facebook used by students in the 2010s? We cannot show you, that version of Facebook is not hosted anywhere.

What correspondence did Vint Cerf have as president of the ACM with other luminaries of computing industry and research? We do not know; Google will not publish his emails.

What was it like playing Angry Birds on an iPhone 3G? We do not know; Apple is no longer distributing signed receipts for that binary.

What did the British cabinet discuss when they first learned of the Coronavirus pandemic? We do not know; they chatted on a private WhatsApp group.

What books were published analysing the aftermath of the Maidan coup in Ukraine? We do not know; we do not have the keys for the Digital Editions DRM. How was the coup covered in televised news? We do not know; the broadcasters used RealVideo and Windows Media Encoder and we cannot read those files.

Source: The Digital Dark Ages | De Programmatica Ipsum

Nostalgia, friction, and read/write literacy 

I probably need to revisit this (and the references) but I really enjoyed reading Silvio Lorusso’s essay on computer agency and behaviour.

Alan Kay’s pioneering work on interfaces was guided by the idea that the computer should be a medium rather than a vehicle, its function not pre-established (like that of the car or the television) but reformulable by the user (like in the case of paper and clay). For Kay, the computer had to be a general-purpose device. He also elaborated a notion of computer literacy which would include the ability to read the content of a medium (the tools and materials generated by others) but also the ability to write in a medium. Writing on the computer medium would not only include the production of materials, but also of tools. That is for Kay authentic computer literacy: “In print writing, the tools you generate are rhetorical; they demonstrate and convince. In computer writing, the tools you generate are processes; they simulate and decide.”

Source: The User Condition, Silvio Lorusso

Human and computer memory

There are some good points made in this article about ‘desktop’ operating systems but it’s a bit Mac-centric for my liking. I’m pretty sure, for example, the author would love ChromeOS or another Linux-based operating system.

One really interesting point is the difference between human memory and computer memory. In my own life and experience, I use the latter to augment the former by not even trying to remember anything that computers can store and retrieve more quickly. Kind of like Cory Doctorow’s Memex Method.

Maciej Cegłowski’s powerful “The Internet With A Human Face” highlights the cognitive dissonance between human memory (gradiated and complex and eventually faulty) and computer memory (binary: flawless or nonexistent). We should model fragment search and access after human memory, using access patterns and usage patterns as rich metadata to help the computer understand what is important and what is relevant. And what is related to what. That doesn’t mean auto-deleting documents after some period of time, but just as it’s a lot harder to Google something generic that happened a decade ago and garnered little attention since, it doesn’t need to be “easy” to find the untitled scratch spreadsheet we cooked up to check the car payment budget in 2013 (but we should be able to find it if we need to).

Source: Why We Need to Rethink the Computer ‘Desktop’ as a Concept | by Ben Zotto | May, 2021 | OneZero