Links We Like: Paik’s Electronic Superhighway, Computer Portraiture, & Hacking the Universe

Pilot ACE James Ball

Pilot ACE Photograph by James Ball && INK

Last week, fordsfords, xtacocorex, UnixOutlaw, jooshboy, and I had a lively conversation stemming from a link to a card sorting device. Thanks for the link suggestions and keep ’em coming!

This week’s links dive into a more artistic and abstract side of technology and history.

Nam June Paik & Envisioning a Connected Future

Until yesterday, I had not heard of Nam June Paik, the man many consider to be the father of video art. Fortunately, I hit a link-finder’s-block and asked Michael for his link recommendations. He immediately said that I should look into Paik. He was so right!

The image above is of Paik’s Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, which consists of 336 televisions, 50 DVD players, 3,750′ of cable, 575′ of multicolored neon tubing, and occupies an imposing 15′ x 40′ x 4′. One interpretation of the work is that it’s Paik’s reflection on the scale and freedom he found while traveling the highways of the United States.

According to the 2002 Washington City Paper article, when the Smithsonian acquired Paik’s archives and Electronic Superhighway, the work arrived in boxes, damaged, and missing the televisions!

After learning about Paik yesterday, I’m definitely trying to get to D.C. to checkout his work in person. Thanks again for the recommendation, Michael!

A Visual Guide to Early Computing

Harwell Dekatron via

Harwell Dekatron via James Ball

Old computers have never looked so good!

London based photographer, James Ball aka Docubyte, recently teamed up with INK to shoot a few of the early devices in computer history. According to INK, many of these machines have never been shown in color photography before.

Unquestionably, these are stunning, vibrantly colorful photographs of classic and historically important machines. If you’re unfamiliar with the hardware, you’ll find a fantastic supplement, offering basic information about each computer.

(And expect more from me on some of these computers very, very soon.)

Hacking the Universe and Known Reality

Cathode Ray Tube via Backchannel

Cathode Ray Tubes were at one time the go to technology for monitors via Backchannel

This week’s final link is an article by Marcin Wichary in which he reminisces on how a faulty cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor provoked him to write a program to trick his computer.

When it worked, Wichary’s 14″ CRT monitor supported two distinct modes of operation. The first, a mode that output a high resolution of pixels, but became choppy with animation. This mode was well suited for business applications such as spreadsheets. The second mode, produced a lower resolution but rendered smooth animation –ideal for games — or as he calls it, “casual mode.”

Though two modes were available, the applications, not the user, determined which should be used. Much to Wichary’s horror, his CRT monitor began to improperly render any application that used casual mode.

Rather than buying a new CRT, Wichary hacked together a program where he essentially tricked his machine to run applications designed for casual mode in business mode.

[There’s] always a way out. Always a solution. That if you care enough, put in enough time, and take ownership of the messy consequences, you can sometimes bend — or, in my case un-bend — the rules of the universe.

At times the article meanders, but so too do all memories. Wichary’s account is a cogent reminder that problems are best solved with creative persistence and an unfettered willingness to disregard assumptions.

Have a great weekend, and make sure to share any interesting links you found in the forums!

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