Tags: story

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The world-wide web (PDF) by T.J. Berners-Lee, R. Cailliau and J.-F. Groff

Well, look at these fresh-faced lads presenting their little hypertext system in 1992. A fascinating time capsule.

Turing Complete User

A superb 2012 essay by Olia Lialin. J.C.R. Licklider, Vannevar Bush, Ted Nelson, Douglas Engelbart, Don Norman, Lawrence Lessig, Jonathan Zittrain, Douglas Rushkoff and Cory Doctorow all make an appearance.

There’s a lot to think about here. I’m particular struck by the idea that calling people “users” isn’t necessarily the dehumanising Lakoffian language we think it is; users have power and control. If we stop treating people like users, we may end up infantilising and disempowering them.

But when you read it in a broader context, the denial of the word “user” in favor of “people” becomes dangerous. Being a User is the last reminder that there is, whether visible or not, a computer, a programmed system you use.

History of Icons – a visual brief on icon history by FUTURAMO

An illustrated history of digital iconography.

Keeper of the Clock

An unfolding series of vignettes written by Danny Hillis back in 2010. It’s all very Borgesian.

Smithsonian 3D Apollo 11 Command Module

This is so wonderful! A 3D fly-through of the Apollo 11 command module, right in your browser. It might get your fan whirring, but it’s worth it.

Click through for lots of great details on the interface controls, like which kinds of buttons and switches were chosen for which tasks.

And there’s this lovely note scrawled near the sextant by Michael Collins (the coolest of all the astronauts):

Spacecraft 107, alias Apollo 11, alias ‘Columbia.’ The Best Ship to Come Down the Line. God Bless Her.

29 Bullets

Russell wrote an article for Wired magazine all about PowerPoint, but this extended director’s cut on his own site is the real deal.

Who knew that the creator of PowerPoint was such an enthusiast for the concertina?

Unfathomable

A marvellous piece of writing and design. The family drama of two brothers who revolutionised the world of diving and salvage, told through beautifully typeset hypertext…

…which for some reason is rendered entirely using client-side JavaScript. Unfathomable indeed.

The Tragedy/Farce of the Open Web according to journalists – Baldur Bjarnason

Continuous web death.

The modern journalist is not an expert on the web. They and their colleagues have spent a large part of the last twenty-five years dismissing the open web at every stage. They are not the people you can trust to either accurately assess the web or to make usable websites. You can’t even trust them to make sensible decisions about web strategy. Just look at their damn websites!

The Digital Transition: How the Presidential Transition Works in the Social Media Age | whitehouse.gov

Kori Schulman describes the archiving of social media and other online artefacts of the outgoing US president. It’s a shame that a lot of URLs will break, but I’m glad there’s going to be a public backup available.

Best of all, you can get involved:

In the interim, we’re inviting the American public – from students and data engineers, to artists and researchers – to come up with creative ways to archive this content and make it both useful and available for years to come. From Twitter bots and art projects to printed books and query tools, we’re open to it all.

jwz: They Live and the secret history of the Mozilla logo

Jamie Zawinski tells the story of how John Carpenter’s They Live led to Shepard Fairey’s Obey Giant which led to Mozilla’s logo.

So that was the time that I somehow convinced a multi-billion dollar corporation to give away the source code to their flagship product and re-brand it using propaganda art by the world’s most notorious graffiti artist.

Rockets of India – Medium

The fascinating history of India’s space program is the jumping-off point for a comparison of differing cultural attitudes to space exploration in Anab’s transcript of her Webstock talk, published on Ev’s blog.

From astronauts to afronauts, from cosmonauts to vyomanauts, how can deep space exploration inspire us to create more democratic future visions?

Fermat’s Library | Why the Internet only just works annotated/explained version.

A ten-year old paper that looks at the history of the ARAPNET and internet to see how they dealt with necessary changes.

Changing a large network is very difficult. It is much easier to deploy a novel new protocol that fills a void than it is to replace an existing protocol that more or less works.

The Web is not Fashionable. - The blog of Ada Rose Edwards

This is such a great perspective on what it’s like to build for the web over the long term. The web will always be a little bit broken, and that’s okay—we can plan for that.

The Web has history. If you build with web technology it will stick around. We try not to break the web even if it means the mistakes and bad decisions we have made in the past (and will make in the future) get set in stone.

“Resilience” - View Source Conference Closing Keynote by Jeremy Keith - YouTube

Here’s the video of the talk I gave in Berlin recently. I had a lot to squeeze into a short time slot so I just went for it, and I got bit carried away …but people seemed to like that.

The Internet Should Be a Public Good | Jacobin

A gripping history lesson of the internet and the ARPANET before it, emphasising the role of government funding.

Silicon Valley often likes to pretend that innovation is the result of entrepreneurs tinkering in garages. But most of the innovation on which Silicon Valley depends comes from government research, for the simple reason that the public sector can afford to take risks that the private sector can’t.

It’s precisely the insulation from market forces that enables government to finance the long-term scientific labor that ends up producing many of the most profitable inventions.

Today we have an internet effectively controlled by a small number of private companies.

Instead of trying to escape the bigness of the Internet, we should embrace it — and bring it under democratic control. This means replacing private providers with public alternatives where it’s feasible, and regulating them where it’s not.

There is nothing in the pipes or protocols of the Internet that obliges it to produce immense concentrations of corporate power. This is a political choice, and we can choose differently.

The scorpion express | Butterick’s Practical Typography

This is easily the most wrong-headed piece of writing I’ve read in a long time.

“But cus­tomers ben­e­fit from smaller file sizes too, be­cause that makes web pages faster.” Cer­tainly, that was true in 1996. And some web de­vel­op­ers per­sist with po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tions. But with to­day’s faster con­nec­tions—even on mo­bile—op­ti­miz­ing for file size is less use­ful than ever.

I’ll leave it to you to see the logical flaws in every one of the arguments presented here by Matthew Buterick. Meanwhile I’m going to get off his lawn.

The web is not print and other stories

Rachel takes a look back at twenty years of building on the web. Her conclusion: we’ve internalised constraints that are no longer relevant, and that’s holding us back from exploring new design possibilities:

Somehow the tables have turned. As the web moves on, as we get CSS that gives us the ability to implement designs impossible a few years ago, the web looks more and more like something we could have build with rudimentary CSS for layout. We’ve settled on our constraints and we are staying there, defined by not being print.

The Long, Remarkable History of the GIF

The history of the GIF—a tale of licensing, compression, and standards.

The rise and fall of the Gopher protocol | MinnPost

A deep dive into the history of Gopher. For a while there, it looked like it was going to be bigger than the World Wide Web.

This article is filled with timely details:

The programmers were young guys, mostly in their 20s and, like McCahill, mostly huge Nirvana fans. Paul Lindner, a coding wunderkind from northern Minnesota who was dubbed the Gopher Dude for his evangelism, had long metal-head hair and signed Gopher emails with lyrics like “You have to spit to see the shine” from Babes in Toyland. Early Gopher servers were named Mudhoney, Danzig, and Anthrax.

Ah, Babes In Toyland! It’s like the soundtrack to my time in art college in the early 90s. I remember one of the best gigs ever being a triple bill of The Sultans Of Ping, Babes In Toyland, and Theraphy? at Sir Henrys in Cork.

Empire of the Air: The Imperial Airship Service

The first in a series of articles looking at the history of British airships a century ago …just in time for the revival.