‘I saw the possibility of what could be done – so I did it’: revolutionary video game The Hobbit turns 40 | Games | The Guardian

The developer of the text-adventure game on how, at 20, she overcame 1980s misogyny to turn a Tolkien book into one of the most groundbreaking titles in the gaming canon

The Guardian has a story on Veronika Megler who developed the innovative text (and image) adventure game The Hobbit (1982), ‘I saw the possibility of what could be done – so I did it’: revolutionary video game The Hobbit turns 40. She went on to get a PhD and now is principal data scientist at Amazon Web Services!

You can now play The Hobbit on the Internet Archive.

The Internet is Made of Demons

The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is is not what you think it is.

Sam Kriss has written a longish review essay on Justin E.H. Smith’s The Internet is Not What You Think It Is with the title The Internet is Made of Demons. In the first part Kriss writes about how the internet is possessing us and training us,

Everything you say online is subject to an instant system of rewards. Every platform comes with metrics; you can precisely quantify how well-received your thoughts are by how many likes or shares or retweets they receive. For almost everyone, the game is difficult to resist: they end up trying to say the things that the machine will like. For all the panic over online censorship, this stuff is far more destructive. You have no free speech—not because someone might ban your account, but because there’s a vast incentive structure in place that constantly channels your speech in certain directions. And unlike overt censorship, it’s not a policy that could ever be changed, but a pure function of the connectivity of the internet itself. This might be why so much writing that comes out of the internet is so unbearably dull, cycling between outrage and mockery, begging for clicks, speaking the machine back into its own bowels.

Then Kriss makes the case that the Internet is made of demons – not in a paranoid conspiracy sort of way, but in a historical sense that ideas like the internet often involve demons,

Trithemius invented the internet in a flight of mystical fancy to cover up what he was really doing, which was inventing the internet. Demons disguise themselves as technology, technology disguises itself as demons; both end up being one and the same thing.

In the last section Kriss turns to Justin E.H. Smith’s book and reflects on how the book (unlike the preceding essay “It’s All Over”) are not what the internet expects. The internet, for Smith, likes critical essays that present the internet as a “rupture” – something like the industrial revolution, but for language – while in fact the internet in some form (like demons) has been with us all along. Kriss doesn’t agree. For him the idea of the internet might be old, but what we have now is still a transformation of an old nightmare.

If there are intimations of the internet running throughout history, it might be because it’s a nightmare that has haunted all societies. People have always been aware of the internet: once, it was the loneliness lurking around the edge of the camp, the terrible possibility of a system of signs that doesn’t link people together, but wrenches them apart instead. In the end, what I can’t get away from are the demons. Whenever people imagined the internet, demons were always there.

Why are women philosophers often erased from collective memory?

The history of ideas still struggles to remember the names of notable women philosophers. Mary Hesse is a salient example

Aeon has an important essay on Why are women philosophers often erased from collective memory? The essay argues that a number of important women philosophers have been lost (made absent) despite their importance including Mary Hesse. (You can see her Models and Analogies in Science through the Internet Archive.)

I read this after reading a chapter from Sara Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life where Ahmed talks about citation practices and how disciplines exclude diverse work in different ways. She does a great job of confronting the various excuses people have for their bleached white citations. Poking around I find others have written on this including Victor Ray in Inside Higher Ed in an essay on The Racial Politics of Citation who references Richard Delgado’s The Imperial Scholar: Reflections on a Review of Civil Rights Literature from 1984.

What should be done about this? Obviously I’m not the best to suggest remedies, but here are some of the ideas that show up:

  • We need to commit to take the time to look at the works we read on a subject or for a project and to ask whose voice is missing. This shouldn’t be done at the end as a last minute fix, but during the ideation phase.
  • We should gather and confront data on our citational patterns from our publications. Knowing what you have done is better than not knowing.
  • We need to do the archaeological work to find and recover marginalized thinkers who have been left out and reflect on why they were left out. Then we need to promote them in teaching and research.
  • We should be willing to call out grants, articles, and proposals we review when it could make a difference.
  • We need to support work to translate thinkers whose work is not in English to balance the distribution of influence.
  • We need to be willing to view our field and its questions very differently.

John Roach, Pioneer of the Personal Computer, Is Dead at 83 – The New York Times

He helped make the home computer ubiquitous by introducing the fully assembled Tandy TRS-80, which was so novel at the time that it became a museum piece.

The New York Times reports that John Roach, Pioneer of the Personal Computer, Is Dead at 83Roach was the executive who introduced the Tandy TRS-80 in the 1970s, one of the first fully assembled microcomputers. I didn’t realize how dominant the TRS-80 was in the late 1970s. At one point it held 40% of the market. We usually hear about Apple and IBM, but not about the TRS (Tandy Radio Schack).

They later released a laptop or tablet computer that I lusted after, the TRS80 Model 100. This was a keyboard and a small LCD screen and enough software to type notes or edit text. There was also a modem to send your writing somewhere. I still think this form factor makes sense. You can’t really type on an iPad (unless you get a keyboard for it) and you don’t really need lots of screen for typing notes.

Lost Gustav Klimt Paintings Destroyed in Fire Digitally Restored (by AI)

Black and White and AI Coloured versions of Philosophy
Philosophy by Klimt

Google Arts & Culture launched a hub for all things Gustav Klimt today, which include digital restorations of three lost paintings.

ARTnews, among other places reports that Lost Gustav Klimt Paintings Destroyed in Fire Digitally RestoredThe three faculties (Medicine, Philosophy, and Jurisprudence) painted for the University of Vienna were destroyed in a fire leaving only black and white photographs. Now Google has helped recreate what the three paintings might have looked like using AI as part of a Google Arts and Culture site on Klimt. You can read about the history of the three faculties here.

Whether in black and white, or in colour, the painting of Philosophy (above) is stunning. The original in colour would have been stunning, especially as it was 170 by 118 inches. Philosophy is represented by the Sphinx-like figure merging with the universe. To one side is a stream of people from the young to the old who hold their heads in confusion. At the bottom is a woman, comparable to the woman in the painting of Medicine, who might be an inspired philosopher looking through us.

Masayuki Uemura, Famicom creator, passes

I just got news that Masayuki Uemura just passed. Professor Nakamura, Director of the Ritsumeikan Center for Game Studies, sent around this sad announcement.

As it has been announced in various media, we regretfully announce the passing of our beloved former Director and founder of Ritsumeikan Center for Game Studies, and a father of NES and SNES- Professor Masayuki Uemura.We were caught by surprise at the sudden and unfortunate news .

Even after he retired as the director of RCGS and became an advisor, he was always concerned about each researcher and the future of game research.

 We would like to extend the deepest condolences to his families and relatives, and May God bless his soul.

As a scholar in video game studies and history, we would like to follow his example and continue to excel in our endeavors. 

(from Akinori Nakamura, Director, Ritsumeikan Center for Game Studies)

The Lost Digital Poems (and Erotica) of William H. Dickey

In 1987, William H. Dickey, a San Francisco poet who had won the prestigious Yale Younger Poets Award to launch his career and published nearly a dozen well-received books and chapbooks since, was …

Matthew Kirschenbaum has written a great essay on recovering early digital poetry, The Lost Digital Poems (and Erotica) of William H. Dickey ‹ Literary HubDickey wrote some HyperPoems on HyperCard and so now they are hard to access. Kirschenbaum rescued them and worked with people to add them to the Internet Archive that has a HyperCard emulator. Here is what Kirschenbaum says,

Dickey’s HyperPoems are artifacts of another time—made new and fresh again with current technology. Anyone with a web browser can read and explore them in their original format with no special software or setup. (They are organized into Volume 1 and Volume 2 at the Internet Archive, in keeping with their original organizational scheme; Volume 2 contains the erotica—NSFW!) But they are also a reminder that writers have treasures tucked away in digital shoeboxes and drawers. Floppy disks, or for that matter USB sticks and Google Docs, now keep the secrets of the creative process.

This essay comes from his work for his new book Bistreams which documents this and other recovery projects. I’ve just ordered a copy.

Diggin’ in the Carts: Japanese video game music history

Meet the men and women responsible for creating the most iconic tunes in video game history.

We finished up the Replaying Japan 2021 conference today. The conference was online using Zoom and Gather Town where there was a hidden easter egg with a link to Diggin’ in the Carts: Japanese video game music history, a 5 part documentary from Red Bull that is quite good. The 5 15 minute episodes are part of the first season. Not sure if there will be other seasons, but there is a related radio show with multiple seasons. The documentary episodes nicely feature the composers and experts talking about the Japanese history along with other musicians commenting on the influence of the early music which would have been heard over and over in houses with Japanese consoles.

The creator of the show is Nick Dwyer who is interviewed here about the documentary and associated radio show..

One letter at a time: index typewriters and the alphabetic interface — Contextual Alternate

Drawing on a selection of non-keyboard ‘index’ typewriters, this exhibition explores how input mechanisms and alphabetic arrangements were devised and contested continually in the process of popularising typewrites as personal objects. The display particularly looks at how the letters of the alphabe

Reading Thomas S. Mullaney’s The Chinese Typewriter I’m struck by the variety of different typewriting solutions. As you can see from this exhibit web site, One letter at a time: index typewriters and the alphabetic interface — Contextual Alternate, there were all sorts of alternatives to the QWERTY keyboard early on, and many of them could accommodate more keys so as to support other languages including a non-alphabetic script like Chinese. As Mullaney points out there is a history to the emergence of the typewriter that we assume is normal.

This history of our collapsing technolinguistic imaginary took place across four phases: an initial period of plurality and fluidity in the West in the late 1800s, in which there existed a diverse assortment of machines through which engineers, inventors, and everyday individuals could imagine the very technology of typewriting, as well as its potential expansion to non-English and non-Latin writing systems; second, a period of collapsing possibility around the turn of the century in which a specific typewriter form—the shift-keyboard typewriter—achieved unparalleled dominance, erasing prior alternatives first from the market and then from the imagination; next, a period of rapid globalization from the 1900s onward in which the technolinguistic monoculture of shift-keyboard typewriting achieved global proportions, becoming the technological benchmark against which was measured the “efficiency” and thus modernity of an ever-increasing number of world scripts; and, finally, the machine’s encounter with the one world script that remained frustratingly outside its otherwise universal embrace: Chinese.

Mullaney, Thomas S.. The Chinese Typewriter (Kindle Locations 1183-1191). MIT Press. Kindle Edition.

The Best of Voyager, Part 1

The Digital Antiquarian has posted the first part of a multipart essay on The Best of Voyager, Part 1. The Voyager Company was a pioneer in the development and distribution of interactive CD-ROMs in the 1990s. They published a number of classics like Amanda Stories, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony CD-ROM, and Poetry in Motion. They also published some hybrid laserdisc/software combinations like The National Gallery of Art.

Unlike the multimedia experiments coming out of university labs, these CD-ROMs were designed to be commercial products and did sell. I remember ordering a number for the University Toronto Computing Services so we could show what multimedia could do. They were some of the first products to show in a compelling way how interactivity could make a difference. Many included interactive audio, like the Beethoven one, others used Quicktime (digital video) for the first time.

All of this was, to some extent, made anachronistic when the web took off and began to incorporate multimedia effectively. Voyager set the scene remediating earlier works (like the short film of A Hard Day’s Night). But CD-ROMs were, in their turn, replaced.

My favourite was The Residents Freak Show. This was a strange 3D-like tour of the music of The Residents that was organized around a freak show motif.

Thanks to Peter for this.