Tuesday 16 April 2024

web elements (11. 491)

Via Waxy, we discover a unique time of digital time capsule in this tribute and trove of early 1990s clip art collections (see previously), capturing a snapshot of the decade frozen in time, like contemporary advertising ephemera—which were also informed by the graphic templates in the era before computers when designers had libraries of pre-printed icons at their disposal—showcasing obsolete technologies, vintage fashions and monoculture. More from Benj Edwards’ Vintage Computing and Gaming at the link up top, plus search for yourself, rummaging through the DiscMaster archives.


one year ago: the Shrug Guy from Wikipedia plus a new notional system

two years ago: a moveable feast

three years ago: assorted links to revisit 

four years ago: more found art, St Drogo, hug a tree plus flag mashups

five years ago: AI gives us the answers we want to hear plus Notre Dame in flames


Sunday 7 April 2024

7x7 (11. 474)

my dad is dracula (and a very good dog): the funny webcomic by Jason Poland—via Miss Cellania  

good night george: a last nostalgic look the Glasgow hotel featured in Trainspotting, Taggart and with other cameos in television and film—via Nag on the Lake  

volcanic vortex rings: Mount Etna is sending out smoke signals, a phenomenon never before documented on film  

penny hike: instructions to create a lodestone for mindful, distraction-free wandering, using AI, to return you to where you started—via Web Curios—it has a certain resonance but I’ll give you a magic pebble to keep in your pocket so you don’t get too lost 

spyware: the secret weapons of Cold War espionage  

carmel-by-the-sea: a historic hotel known as the birthplace of the Apple Macintosh restored  

bug bytes: US government created comic books to fight disinformation and increase media literacy fall rather flat of their goals appealing to old tropes—via Hyperallergic

Thursday 4 April 2024

9x9 (11. 467)

and palmeres for to seken straunge strondes: the Gentle Author makes a pilgrimage along London’s ancient Black Path 

the 2531 sato-san problem: given demographic trends, legal requirements and custom, all Japanese residents could eventually share the same surname  

symphony № 42: animator Rรฉka Busci presents forty-seven ironic vignettes  

double doors open, why aren’t i reacting in this shot: a literal video version of Total Eclipse of the Heart—I walk out on a terrace where I think I’m alone, but Arthur Fonzarelli’s got an army of clones  

into the butterverse: the variations of the Unicode emoji—via Pasa Bon!  

chalcolithic tattooing: a study of ร–tzi the ice mummy’s body markings on living volunteers—via Super Punch  

apiculture: experiments involving social problem-solving suggest that bees have the capacity to pass on learnt experience  

not a bug but a feature: a collection of absurd software and end-user errors solved—via Waxy  

the society of wood engravers: the art and illustration of carver Harry Brockway—via Things Magazine


one year ago: New York v Trump plus Finland’s accession to NATO

two years ago: Japanese police boxes plus the Ukrainian roots of world-wide wheat

three years ago: your daily demon: Samigina, Winston Smith makes a diary entry plus the Hildesheimer Dom

four years ago: the flag of Hong Kong (1990), assorted links to revisit plus St Tigernach

five years ago: the founding of NATO (1949),  saving the pollinators, the Buttigieg bid for US president plus historic mass transit systems

Wednesday 27 March 2024

9x9 (11. 453)

 you are old, father william, the young man said: Better Living Through Beowulf has been applying Lewis Carroll characters to the trials and tribulations of Biden and Trump  

gรผneลŸ enerjili santrali: power plant in Turkeyi’s Konya region is straight out of science fiction  

rotoscopio: artist Antoni Sendra celebrates his daring daughter’s favourite things with more than two thousand hand painted frames of animation ahead of her sixth birthday 

toto, i don’t think we’re in kansas anymore: the Ruby Slippers theft saga continues 

read/write drive: Infinite Macs and making computing history accessible, including an emulation of the original World Wide Web browser—via Waxy  

licensed broker: the rise and fall of the professional appellation electragist  

fleischer studios: the history and evolution of animation from the phenakistiscope to Pixar  

low-vacuum pipeline magnetic levitation technology: a hyperloop test track in the Netherlands 

come to jesus moment: Trump attempts to capitalise on Biden’s split with Israeli leadership

Friday 22 March 2024

intersection of prose and code (11. 442)

Via Web Curios, we are directed to the third annual anthology of an experimental webzine described as a “journal of literature made to exist on the on the internet” called The HTML Review. A selection of works radiating outwards as spokes from the issue are collected that incorporate both an essay or fable with an element of the interactive. We too especially enjoyed the “Game of Hope,” which combines John Horton Conway’s cellular automata with Pandora’s Box, and the tangential “Measure a Machine’s Heart” whose passion either ramps up or burns out according to a certain protocol.

Friday 15 March 2024

symbolics.com (11. 423)

The above domain of the now defunct privately held computer company spun of from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s artificial intelligence laboratory in 1980 that developed and sold the first single-user workstations utilising a high-level programming language especially fluent for hardware and peripheral integration was the registered on this day in 1985, making it the first of its kind and as it is still active, sold to napkin.com investments, also the oldest. The venerable property now uses AI to rate one’s domain, it appears. Maintained by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, the other core and original generic top-level domains .org, .edu, and .net were registered to the US Department of Defence research and development agency DARPA in January of that year, whose predecessor was responsible for the ARPANET project (see previously) that created the first computing network that allowed communication and resource sharing amongst remote terminals.

Wednesday 28 February 2024

paleofutures (11. 387)

Via Waxy, we come across a retrospective volume of predictions for the world of 2024 solicited from luminaries and futurists from half-a-century earlier collected by The Saturday Review for its own Golden Anniversary (established in 1924 as compendium of essays and reportage on a wide range of subjects, folding in 1986). A retrospective to better see the way forward, it features hopeful assessments by ecologist Renรฉ Dubos, who popularised the maxim to “think globally, act locally” in his capacity as advisor to the UN and foresaw sounder and smarter environmental policies, the honorific “Madame President” for the United States contrasted by a more sobering view of continued wage-inequality and glass-ceiling, Trans-Atlanticism versus nationalism, and Issac Asimov forecasting that while computer prognostications were not perfect, they would be a requirement for insurance liability purposes and decision-drivers in medical treatment. There are also quite a few boldly wrong and aspirational claims by human rights champion Andrei Sakharov like orbiting power-plants, large scale terraforming and quadruped electric cars that would prance over prairies with minimal impact and didn’t require roads, along with Neil Armstrong’s poignant reflections of decades of continued space exploration and exploitation. On the other hand, Werner von Braun accurately predicted the world wide web, email and teleworking plus their implications. Much more at the links above.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit

two years ago: the Horodecki House of Kyiv, Guernica vandalised (1972) plus the paper art of Charles Young

three years ago: more on the Mountain Dream tarot, the finale of M*A*S*H* (1983), artist Edward Hopper plus redesigning the hypodermic emoji

four years ago: ranking ringed-planet emojis plus hauntingly familiar images from the 1918 influenza pandemic

five years ago: anti-Catholic sentiment and the Lincoln assassination conspiracy, resurfacing a lost urban river plus more links to enjoy

Sunday 4 February 2024

anniversary edition (11. 320)

Found in the archives of redditor ForeverMozart7, we enjoyed browsing this extensive gallery of screen-grabs from 1990s edutainment computer games. A lot of the titles are stand-alone adventures but quite a few from the late nineties had ties-ins with established PBS programmes and children’s literature. There’s some impressive graphics and renderings to appreciate, even if one is not familiar with the characters and premise—most of the ones I was exposed to were in the classroom computer lab and not commercial software for home use.


one year ago: Karma Chameleon (1984), long walkies plus an archive of 1980s graphics

two years ago: text-placeholders plus the Latin motto drawn by fate

three years ago: your daily demon: Haures, quite a backdrop, the evolution of the day-bed, Facebook launched (2004), schools ban Simpsons t-shirts plus what withstood the explosion in Beirut’s harbour

four years ago: forced equivalence, the Yalta Conference (1945) plus the feast of Hrabanus Maurus

five years ago: the Cleveland museum of art shares its collection online, art on yachts, an official state cryptid, failed prophesies plus California lieutenant governor Mike Curb

Saturday 3 February 2024

9x9 (11. 319)

thinking of you. i mean me. i mean you: a new exhibition on the artist Barbara Kruger advances her legacy up to the present—see previously  

hi neighbour: Johnny Costa introduced jazz to Mister Rogers along with his audience  

una vincenzo, the lady troubridge: fashion icon, sculptor, translator and unashamed, power lesbian  

baud per second: Eclectic Method’s dial-up modem song  

unexcused absences: obstructionist state senators cannot run for re-election in Oregon after constitutional amendment—via Super Punch 

unwatering: researchers find the solution the Richard Feynman’s hypothetical reserve sprinkler  

amateuraufnahmen: colour footage of Berlin, Leipzig and Bad Schandau from the 1960s  

please don’t try to print it: unlocking the page dimensions in Adobe to create a PDF larger than the entire Universe—via Kottke  

friend or foe: Clownfish count stripes to keep out adult interlopers from their territory—via Damn Interesting’s Curated Links—see also strange sex lives of the species

Thursday 1 February 2024

we don’t service your type here (11. 311)

Incredibly just introduced in 1994 (we thought that font snobbery and people, ourselves included, being so vested in these details had been going on for much longer), we enjoyed this excerpt from a new book outlining the history of the much-maligned Comic Sans, designed by Microsoft employee Vincent Connare (also creating the typeface Trebuchet and the rather cryptic levitating businessman emoji) in order to give a friendlier look for a new user interface the company was developing, more legible and scalable than the default Times New Roman, inspired by comic book captions and speech bubbles. Despite its reputation as ugly, ubiquitous and misuse, studies have shown that its superior legibility can help with retention and comprehension, particularly for those with dyslexia and Connare takes no offence to the endless barrage of insults. More on Thomas Steeles’ book at It’s Nice That at the link above.


one year ago: The Bird Cage (1973) plus assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: Bush meets Yeltsin (1992), more links to enjoy, Late Night with David Letterman (1982) plus a classic Neil Young album (1972)

three years ago: Kepler’s Cosmic Bowl, Anglicisms in Greek, Imbolc, more links, a historical sci-fi glossary plus a huge graphic design archive

four years ago: Trump on trial by a jury of his peers, the overcrowded mail-order mattress field, AI facial morphs plus an immersive art experience

five years ago: Iceland’s prime minister, disembodied intelligence, more mass-transit upholstery plus women’s suffrage in Switzerland

Tuesday 30 January 2024

8x8 (11. 307)

1,44mb: some Japanese ministries are phasing out the requirement of submitting official documents on physical media 

forensic linguistics: language experts and crime-solving 

jurassic lark: Poseidon’s Underworld recaps the 1960 cinematic experience Dinosaurs!  

painting with plasticine: Olive Harbutt, daughter of the medium’s inventor, creates art in this 1958 short  

: Letraset fill patterns—see previously 

throwing eggs: popular Chinese card game Guandan may receive sanction for the classroom  

esperantido: linguist Manuel Halvelik created an auxiliary diglossia to make translations sound more archaic 

omnichord: Suzuki brings back the portable music-maker from 1981

kingdom of daventry (11. 306)

Thinking earlier about King’s Quest (as one does, prompted by the mention in the previous post how rudimentary language subroutines helped enable their popularity and playability), we were happy to be referred to this authorised emulator, portal for rediscovering classic Sierra On-Line graphic adventure games. I remember being especially devoted the first and third iterations particularly and curiously poking around the Police Quest/SWAT series and finding it to be a little too adult-themed and a bit contrarian (a lot of the commands in general had some pushback built into them) but was a good representation of law-enforcement procedurals. See if you can guide Sir Graham to save the kingdom.

that’s eliza with a z (11. 305)

We had seen this demonstration of the nearly six-decade old chatbot, a study of natural language interaction between a computer and humans, researched and published by pioneering informatics scientist Joseph Weizenbaum knocking about for about a week now and were intrigued by the therapeutic suspension of belief that came from these trials—and were appreciative of Messy Nessy Chic’s invitation to indulge it again—that’s how blogging works sometimes. Used as a heuristic tool from the late sixties, revived in the 1980s and recently pitted against large-language models, proving surprisingly robust in keeping up with the cutting-edge competitors, its handlers were just as shocked as they were when originally witnessing test-subjects convinced of empathy in their dialogue partner. Though the counselling approach was always emphasised—people want to impart and attribute feelings particularly if they feel heard, the ELIZA effect for the tendency to project human traits—but the programme and schema of pattern matching and substitution also played a role in the development of gaming interface and text-based commands. Much more at the links above, including video testimonials.

one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus the visual identity of the Duneiverse
two years ago: Bloody Sunday (1972), the first computer virus (1982), Steamed Hams as a text adventure, early airpods, root systems visualised plus Lady Gaga as mushrooms
three years ago: your daily demon: Andras,  another MST3K classic, cheese and magic, a classic from Journey, a Midcentury Modern vacation village plus Pigs is Pigs (1937)

four years ago: the latest batch of emoji, more links to enjoy plus a cryptic monument
five years ago: the Beatles’ rooftop concert (1969), more links worth the revisit, Dia de Saudade plus a composer’s gravestone

Thursday 25 January 2024

11x11 (11. 292)

liar’s dividend: digital propaganda and implausible deniability—via the New Shelton wet/dry 

working cows dairy: a collection of superlative cheeses—via Kottke 

the blazing world: a 1666 novel considered the first world of science fiction by a woman author 

everglades jetport: uncovering the ruins of a failed supersonic runway floundering in the in the Florida wetlands—see previously  

the furby panic: US National Security Agency compelled to release a trove of documents outlining their ban of the toy as a potential instrument of espionage—via Waxy  

press-gang: while most news outlets block AI crawlers used to scrape training data, right-wing media welcomes them—see previously 

mac@40: a website showing every model of the Apple computer as it enters its fifth decade  

winter in aizu: a woodblock series from Sosaku Hanga artist Kiyoshi Saito 

you are both so much more than kenough: Hillary Clinton weighs in the Oscar nominations for Barbie—via Super Punch  

time in a bottle: one bar’s water-clock has drained—though we’d not be adverse to a Harvey Wallbanger  

white stork: the Ukraine war-sandbox and the rise of the AI-Military Complex—see previously


one year ago: data-scrapping and copyright

two years ago: MediaWiki Day, more custom cars, Roman milestones plus an inexplicable fast food mascot

three years ago: your daily demon: Valac, assorted links to revisit plus the Torlonia Marbles

four years ago: vintage virtual dressing rooms, happy birthday Volodymyr Zelenskyy, more on the US Space Force plus Mendelssohn’s Wedding March

five year ago:  photojournalist Jessie Tarbox Beals, a Droste homage, more links to enjoy, a Trump associate arrested plus cardinal notions

Friday 12 January 2024

#tbt (11. 261)

Via Web Curios, we are pointed towards an intriguing albeit a touch nostalgic and could have, should have been written for Gen X or any other cohort about the phenomena of ageing out of the internet in an NYT opinion column—which to a degree rises above the on-going argument that fun is work and its been haemorrhaging from being online for a while now and bemoaning the cannibalisation and repackaging of the old web that was no one’s particular bailiwick—and posits a generational shift to platforms, engagement and presentation that honestly does feel insufferable and burdensome. The places worth the visit are drying up (which is why we must cherish those who do remain) with some old standbys absolutely desiccated and much fewer opportunities for serendipity or at least shilly-shallying. Decades later, of course, we are also getting old and curmudgeonly, but the prospect of signing up for the next social media platform with its attendant “enjunkification” seems onerous (much the same way that the pivot to video has been) and not an in-group to be envious of.

Friday 5 January 2024

9x9 (11. 243)

sine cure: many jobs in the tech sector are busy work and inducements to stymie the competition—via the New Shelton wet/dry  

smooth operator: one-hundred eighty songs and other cultural touchstones turning forty this year 

shake your hips, puppet legs: a David Byrne dance tutorial—via Nag on the Lake  

crackberry: a physical keyboard attachment for one’s smart phone  

the rise and fall of ziggy stardust: the chance encounter with Vince Taylor, the inspiration for the David Bowie persona 

 long live friendship: the Cantonese version of Auld Lang Syne (see previously) performed at the handover ceremony of Hong Kong in 1997  

the (disco) sound of music: a Meco-like dance rendition of the classic tracks (see previously) from Sarah Brightman  

pole position: the Vectrex, the 1982 revolutionary but mostly forgotten video game console, gets a second look 

mobile aloha: an off-the-shelf, DIY robot that can perform complex tasks and chores—via Waxy


one year ago: US mid-term elections

two years ago: two Star Wars adjacent films set in 2022Twelfth Night plus building the Golden Gate Bridge

three years ago: Waiting for Godot, Moonstone plus an unusual patent-filing

four years ago: puffy planets, the asteroid Eris, mobile car-chargers plus Nazi name mandates

five years ago: notes on Dante plus animal sounds in other languages

Saturday 23 December 2023

from the depths of wikipedia (11. 207)

Via Super Punch, not only do we learn that Colonel Sanders guest starred on the soap opera General Hospital (on National Fried Chicken Day in 2018, which also exists), there is also a chaotic, esoteric—but serviceable programming language called Malbolge (see also), named after the eighth circle of Hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy, Malebolge, for fraudsters. The level of the inferno itself is divided into ten concentric trenches, bolgias, to segregate the panderers, mediums, grafters, grifters from the thieves and hypocrites and is guarded by a horde of torturing demons called the Malebranche. Someone is trying to kill Sanders to obtain the secret recipe of eleven herbs and spices and has placed a detonation device in the hospital. Because the Colonel knows Malbolge, he is able to disarm the bomb and stop the destruct sequence. Though not such a deep rabbit-hole, earlier in the week we also learned that aptly none of the original text from a 2003 entry on the philosophical quandary “The Ship of Theseus” remains.


one year ago: Chinese internet slang, how to draw Christmas plus more data-visualisations from Daniel Huffman

two years ago: Latinisation of Chinese, Tibb’s Eve, coal-mining operations in Essen cease (1986), the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493), graphic designs of Uruguay plus the coat of arms of Paul McCartney

three years ago: assorted links worth revisiting 

four years ago: hortatory Antiphons

five years ago: St Thorlak, investigating glitter plus the Extinction Rebellion

Wednesday 13 December 2023

7x7 (11. 186)

itsy-bitsy: a performance on the SpiderHarp, a large scale model originally developed to study vibrations and triangulation on a web  

origin story: how Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer began as a department store promotional giveaway  

owl001: BBC hacked live on the air in 1983—see also—via Damn Interesting’s Curated Links  

marie mathรฉmatique: the adventures of the younger sister of Barbarella, scored by Serge Gainsbourg—see more  

ggwp: the E3 gaming conference has been shuttered permanently  

the great toy robbery: an animated classic from the National Film Board of Canada 

ikea monkey: the happy life of Darwin the macaque after its moment of fame—previously

Friday 1 December 2023

⌘ (11. 155)

Via Things Magazine, we are only introduced to the enthralling blog of Gingerbearman but also can put a name to the early computer artwork and illustrations of Barbara Nessim as featured in Byte magazine and elsewhere. Not just pixelated renditions, these graphics, produced thanks to a residency with Time-Life in 1984 that gave her access to state-of-the-art technologies, were vector drawings formatted and encoded to display on televisions and terminals. See more of Nessim’s extension portfolio and learn about her contributions at the link up top.

6502 (11. 153)

With news that it’s available as an emulator for almost any platform, we are reacquainted with the version of the Beginners’ All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code as the native programming language for the micro personal computer released in 1981 as part of a UK computer literacy initiative (see also) by the national broadcaster in 1981. Chiefly written by Sophie Mary Wilson, a transgender pioneer in design and informatics fields, the optimised dialect ran faster that than Microsoft versions and an inline feature for assembly language. BBC2 series launched the following year, The Computer Programme (see also), was an accompanying primer on its use and capabilities and stirs memories of experimenting with lines of code and tweaking until getting the desired outcome but wonder what the utility is with such a skill nowadays when debugging is automated.


one year ago: a day without art, fifty-two lessons from fifty-two weeks plus TRON reimagined with the help of AI

two years ago: World AIDS Day, office parties plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: Wรถrter des Jahres, Japan’s buzzword of the year plus St Elsewhere

four years ago: a duet from Leon Redbone and Dr John, the Moravian star, Germany’s Word of the Year plus Gorbachev’s Pizza Hut ad spot