Websites sit on a design spectrum. On one end are applications, with their conditional logic, states, and flows—they’re software.
On the other end of the design spectrum are documents; sweet, modest documents with their pleasing knowableness and clear edges.
For better or worse, I am a document lover.
This is the context where I fell in love with design and the web. It is a love story, but it is also a ghost story.
The ideas and images that come to mind when you think of technology as an instrument are more useful than if you think of it as a tool. Instruments — I’m specifically talking about musical instruments — are a way to create culture.
You approach instruments with a set of expectations and associations that are more humane. It’s built into their very purpose. Instruments are meant to make something for other people, not making things. When you use an instrument, you have an expectation that it is going to take effort to use it well. Using an instrument takes practice. You form a relationship with that object. It becomes part of your identity that you make something with it. You tune it. You understand that there’s no such thing as a “best” guitar in the same way that there’s not necessarily a “best” phone.
If only all documentation was as great as this old manual for the ZX Spectrum that Remy uncovered:
The manual is an instruction book on how to program the Spectrum. It’s a full book, with detailed directions and information on how the machine works, how the programming language works, includes human readable sentences explaining logic and even goes so far as touching on what hex values perform which assembly functions.
When we talk about things being “inspiring”, it’s rarely in regards to computer manuals. But, damn, if this isn’t inspiring!
This book stirs a passion inside of me that tells me that I can make something new from an existing thing. It reminds me of the 80s Lego boxes: unlike today’s Lego, the back of a Lego box would include pictures of creations that you could make with your Lego set. It didn’t include any instructions to do so, but it always made me think to myself: “I can make something more with these bricks”.
This ever-growing curated collection of interface patterns on CodePen is a reliable source of inspiration.
Cancelling the future.
The future lives and dies by the state of the archives. To look hard at this world and honestly, diligently articulate what happened and what it was like in the present is a sort of promise to the future, a new layer to the palimpsest of history that can become someone else’s foundation.
A comparison of a few different tools for generating pattern libraries.
In this particular case, Fractal comes out on top:
It has the features we need, and I’m happier than I should be with how simple the directory and file structure is. The documentation has also been super helpful thus far. We’ve customized it with our client’s branding and are ready to roll.
One more tool for making pattern libraries. This one looks fairly simple and straightforward.
Jake describes the pivotal moment of his web awakening:
I explored the world wide web. I was amazed by the freedom of information, how anyone could publish, anyone could read. Then I found a little button labeled “View source”. That was the moment I fell in love with the web.
It all goes back to having a ZX Spectrum apparently. Pah! Luxury! I had a ZX81—one K of RAM …1K! Tell that to the young people today, and they wouldn’t believe you.
Anyway, this is a lovely little reminiscence by Jake, although I have no idea why he hasn’t published it on his own site.
Over 700 screenshots of ZX Spectrum games, captured by Jason Scott. Some of these bring back memories.
A short story set in a science-fictional future that just happens to be our present.
The best review of The Hobbit.
This is rather brilliant: recycle your old credit cards into plectrums.
Beautiful instrumental music: four tracks for a minimum donation of four dollars. Recommended.
An oldie but goldie: time travel in the age of the internet.
Jim experiments with canvas and audio.
This thread was supposed to be about dragons!
Top Trumps with typefaces.