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Me: There was a point in computing history when we could have had high-level programming languages be a normal way to interact with and customize your machines, like on the Alto. Computers, even microcontrollers, have much more power to do that stuff now.

Guy: I just don't think it's possible.

Me: But...Alan Kay did it 40 years ago. His technical limitations are now moot.

Guy: We're going to have to agree to disagree.

Me: 🤨

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@JoshuaACNewman lately it feels like people are right on the cusp of mashing Smalltalk, web browsers, editors and OpenDoc together in productive ways

@misuba Are you familiar with Pure Data? I want it to become what Arduino has become.

@JoshuaACNewman one of my nine million music-tech todos is digging into PD again. Are you familiar with Norns?

@misuba Yeah! People have done really cool shit with it! Organelle is another like it that you program with Pure Data.

I’m about to see if I can get a RasPi to run PlugData effectively. Stick a ton of ADCs on it to receive control voltage, use its inherent audio outputs for audio and additional DACs for CV.

Are you a Patreon person? I’ve done a bunch of synth experiments up in there and I want more weirdomusicologists on my Discord.

@JoshuaACNewman I’m curious about this. Is there a book or resource you can point me at on the topic?

@joevgreathead Yeah, I think What The Dormouse Said is a really good review of the history. It suffers I think from some critical history from Berkeley being lost. Hackers is another perspective.

Most important is Seymour Papert’s book, Mindstorms. Papert and Alan Kay were really onto something, but it didn’t lead toward unit software sales. It led toward a competent, digitally literate and empowered population, so it’s been deprecated for decades.

@joevgreathead I got distracted answering a broader question. Mindstorms and Papert in general, as well as Kay’s works, are really what I’m talking about.

To some extent, Eric Raymond’s _The Cathedral & The Bazaar_ lays out some of the ideals, but then doesn’t recognize the arrogant gatekeeping he’s also doing.

But “The users are the developers” is a really good ideal that I aspire to.

@JoshuaACNewman Interesting. So is the base conceit that programming could be more approachable (let alone accessible for a moment) since you referenced more high level programming? And/or that users would be more inclined to reprogram applications or computers?

@joevgreathead Yes, and Kay’s intention with SmallTalk is that the line between using, and programming, a computer can be one of degrees and s immediate decisions motivated by personal needs. SmallTalk programs are always reprogrammable in the moment; you might be writing a book, and find that a menu item doesn’t exist or works wrong for your convenience, so you change the menu.

@joevgreathead Papert’s intention with LOGO was that it be part of a curiosity-directed system of education, where the primary function of programming is to be a creative medium. In retrospect I remember my terrible 5th grade teacher struggling with Papert’s principles, unable to recognize that her students liked to learn, and teach ourselves and each other.

@joevgreathead Our access to computers was also limited — there were maybe five Apple II clones for the school — so we couldn’t sit and use them outside very limited class schedule, which meant that our time was entirely about copying the assignment, rather than play.

But, though our environment now drips with computation, programming it has become a specialized task, and the machines require a completely different paradigm from normal use if you want to program them.

@JoshuaACNewman I expect you’re calling coding a specialized task because of the process to build and deploy the software, yes? Not because of learning the language itself since smalltalk’s syntax is kind of nuts. Therefore, are the two problems to solve (which smalltalk seems to delivers on) the following?
- We can’t edit applications that we get today on our desktops.
- Editing application logic requires rebuilding an entire application through a specialized process.

@joevgreathead Correct and Correct.
I have no particular love for SmallTalk as a language; rather I gained all of my initial creative computing powers through HyperCard, which it inspired. HyperTalk became ActionScript, which is how interactive web stuff was built for many years, and the problems associated with it were primarily about inefficiency in low-bandwidth, low-IPS environments that are no longer commonly found.

@joevgreathead I think there’s a lot to be said for interpreted languages as a medium of cultural exchange because you can open the results up to see how it works and change it.

That said, the benefits of compilation are obvious, but you need the entire social structure of OSS to make a creation shareable, rather than it being implicit in the medium.

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xenoglyph

A home for roleplayers, experimental musicians, hackers, and other weirdo artists. A project by Joshua A.C. Newman of the glyphpress