index2019-02-18

ongoing: writing ritual

night 1 feb 10

This is the beginning of my ritual. What is a computer? Why does it look like this? How do each of the keys that I am pressing actually put a symbol or letter on the screen? I am using this particular software. It’s a text editor. Could I do this programmatically? Without a text editor? If I wanted to do this physically as in move all of the switches just so in order to display a letter. I’m not sure that even makes sense. The GUI is necessary for the display of text right? No. No. No it’s not. It’s really not. When computers were just terminals. When computers were just humans. When computers were only solving really long math problems. When did text as in not programmatic text become a thing for computers? When did it become clear that we could use language and send human readable messages that did not care about the computer itself? Is there a marked time when the transition from computer as doing a long math problem transformed into computer as carrier of human message? Is it problematic that we use the same tool to express our selves as to calculate the tip for a waiter at a restaurant? Thinking a lot about the pre-GUI computer. How can I get my hands on one? Can I get my hands to build one? How much can be deconstructed until I realize I have to stop because I don’t actually understand how circuits work yet. I do kind of. But not really.

morning 1 feb 11

According to Wikipedia, a computer is a device that can be instructed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically via computer programming. The word computer was first used in a book The Yong Mans Gleaning written in 1613. It was, of course, referring to a human computer. A person who could also carry out sequences of mathematical operations through manual programming of switches. By the 1940s, most computers were women. One of the first laptops, which is the type of computer that I am writing on, was designed in 1979. It was the first to have the clamshell design and was inspired by Alan Kay’s design for the Dynabook. It was primarily used by NASA. Computer keyboards use a series of switches and circuits that translate the inputs into computer-readable signals. This specific keyboard that I am typing on is the latest design from Apple. The one that gets all sorts of stuff stuck underneath the keys and has a very loud click sound that is trying to overcompensate for the short travel time for the depression of the keys themselves. Regarding text editors, before this kind of text editor, which exists within the GUI, there were command line text editors. Before command line editors there were punch cards. It’s probably safe to say that the shift between programmatic text and social text is due to the emergence of the personal computer. Although I do wonder about programmers who were using computer text in a social way before the GUI and large networked communication platforms. I guess a raspberry pi is like a pre-GUI computer. More interested maybe in building a computing system like this.

night 2 feb 11

Here I am. I decided to take advantage of restarting my computer this time by updating my software to Mojave ten point one point something. It took 15 minutes. During that time I just stared at my computer. I thought about school and how asking questions with the intention of getting answers as opposed to more questions is annoying to me. To ask questions without the need for answers. I think this is anti-patriarchal. I asked so many questions in last nights writing. This morning I was excited to at least research some of the things I was asking. I found out some things I had never known like the design of the first laptop. Before the software update I opened an email which I immediately recogonized as spam. It had a subject about rare earth elements. I opened it without really thinking. Then I realized it was spam. Then I changed the password to my email. Then I did the software update. I feel dumb for doing all of these things as a reaction to a piece of e-mail whose affects I might never know.

morning 2 feb 12

It’s funny to me that Mac operating systems are named after California landscapes. I didn’t even know Mavericks was a place. Before 2013, the year Mavericks was released, the operating system releases were named after wild cats, the first one being Cheetah. World War II German military tanks were also named after wild cats. There a like 80 species of wild cats but Apple stopped after four in order to switch to California specific landmarks. Was this a shift to make Apple as a company more U.S. centric? Are we meant to be reminded of the American landscape as “frontier” and “free”, the same problematic way that Silicon Valley thinks about the technological landscape? I think I still agree with this idea of not needing answers as also operating in a non-patriarchal mode. Shoshana Zuboff writes here that Google has exploited this very human need for dealing with uncertainty. She explains that while uncertainty contributes to anxiety it is also a means for social connectedness and organization. I guess I am happy to ask questions that can’t be googled. For example, with the intention of finding some kind of theoretical reference, I just tried to google this idea of asking questions without answers. Google did not get it.

night 3 feb 12

Thinking about my computer. If I am actually closer to understanding it on night three of this ritual. I do think I have demystified the operating system just a little bit. It’s arbitrary aesthetic. Or at least arbitrary to me. Computers are metaphors. Is this obvious? I actually don’t understand what’s going on here. This is just a screen that magically displays the things I like to make…like text and images. I might like the computer as much as I do because I like to archive things. I like to move stuff around. I like to organize things in one way and the re-organize them in another way. This might be why I don’t like most software because it’s too deterministic. I like to have flexibility with the files I am working with. Is everything just files? What are folders? Are those files too? How do folders really work? If I were to design a GUI what would it look like? I’m still so curious about pre-GUI computers. What would a pre-gui social network look like? I guess echo.nyc is a pre-gui social network. I’m having trouble free writing tonight. Maybe it because I spent 10 full hours looking at my screen today.

morning 3 feb 13

Folders! There is a difference between a folder and a directory. A folder as far as I can tell is just an old metaphor that falls in line with the desktop metaphor. A folder is not a directories. All directories are sub directories of the root user. Folders “contain” files. Files take up space on a computer’s disk. Interestingly enough folder do not take up any space. They are non existent in the physical sense. They are simply pointers that tell the computer where to access the files in memory. Isn’t it a shame that the GUI just mimics the work desk? Like what if files were just icons that represented their file size in the actual size of the icon. And mabye folders were just incredibily complicated and layered tagging systems? This is so not far from the GUI…its hard to think about new interfaces without always bringing in the interface as we know it.