Friday, April 12, 2013

An Easter-Egg-Hunt game... from 1983

I first laid eyes on a computer back in the 7th grade. The school had received a bunch of TRS-80 Model 3's, and without having a class curriculum for them, set the kids loose on them at lunch. I was hooked immediately, and started bugging my parents for a computer.

That Christmas (1982), they bought me a C-64. I of course took to it immediately. However, so did my dad and my sister, in different ways.

The next Easter, rather than the usual chocolate egg hunt, which we were getting a little old for anyway, my dad took it upon himself to write an easter egg hunt game on the C64. 

I was delighted that he found it recently in his notes (he'd written it out on paper first, of course). He scanned it and sent it over and I've inserted it below. As a game it's pretty simple. Text input and answer the questions to proceed. Typical of the first BASIC programs one learned to write back then. However, it's valuable to me for a couple reasons.

First, it worth remembering that machines used to come with manuals that explained how to program them. We've somehow lost touch with that as computers have become appliances aimed increasingly at consumption.

Secondly, I think the trivia questions he put in there say a lot about how my sister and I were raised. There are questions there to make us think and others to make us laugh, and some freebies to keep us encouraged moving forward. He always had a pretty good mix of all three.

Thanks Dad!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Book Review: Makers

I've been tinkering with 3D Printing over the past few months, trying to get a sense of what can and can't be done and how user friendly it is (or isn't). I have a number of friends doing 3D-printing-related startups (Alice Taylor's Makies, Ed Fries' Figureprints, and my Printxel printer is from Billy Zelsnack's kickstarter effort), and so the sense that something big is afoot has been very much tickling my brain. When I heard about Chris Anderson's Makers, I hesitantly picked it up to see how he tackled the subject.

I say hesitantly as I had very mixed feelings about The Long Tail, and worried that Anderson would fall into some of the same traps with Makers. He does, and I'll get to what those are in a minute.

On the plus side, he very much captures the sense of excitement afoot, and profiles a number of companies doing small scale manufacturing or design + outsourced manufacturing, that are allowing for a 'long tail of fabrication' and a nimbleness of physical product manufacturing. Many of the companies, individuals and examples profiled are well known if you've been following this stuff on the web, but there are always details to be learned and some of the examples were new to me.

On the down side, there are two main flaws that made this a 3/5 book for me, vs a 4- or 5-out-of-5. First, as with The Long Tail, Anderson stretches the definition of Maker too far, and inconsistently. In some instances, he's clearly focused on the disruption of computer controlled manufacturing hitting consumer price points. In other cases, if you cook your own food, you're a maker! Similarly, he profiles some companies that are by no means small, and dismisses this by pointing to the fact that they embody 'the maker spirit'.

Secondly, he over-states the consumer readiness of these technologies. A metaphor I use is that it's like saying "look, you can buy a router and a lathe for under $500, so clearly anyone can make furniture now!"

If you can see past these flaws, are are looking for a good overview to take with a large grain of salt, then Makers may be for you. If not, you are better off reading articles on the web that cover the subject adequately.

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution