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johnbeetem
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Re: PC's are boring

Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:13 am

SlayingDragons said:


I don't get the appeal of the old computers to be honest. I understand the role they had in developing modern computing and that a lot of them hold sentimental value to people, but they're not anything particularly special, and I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything growing up now. *shrug*


I am one of the lucky ones who lived through the "barnstorming" years, watching in amazement as computers went from mysterious big cabinets in glass rooms, through mini-computers, then micro-computers, and now modern PCs and tablets which are for most people locked away just as mainframes used to be.  Except now the barriers are layers of software and license agreements designed specifically to keep you from using your hardware as you'd like.

I use the term "barnstorming" to compare to the Dawn of Aviation, when airplanes were toys for hackers and flying was pure wonderment.  Sure, a modern airliner is vastly more efficient and powerful than a Curtiss "Jenny", but flying as a passenger in a modern airliner is generally pretty boring — after all, it's supposed to be.

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Jongoleur
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Re: PC's are boring

Fri Jan 06, 2012 7:00 am

Yesterday lunchtime,  I was browsing the bookshelves in a charity shop and came across "The Personal Computer Handbook" (Pan 1983).  In its 224 pages, it described what a micro was, how it worked, where it fitted into your lifestyle (ahh lifestyle, a true 80's preoccupation) and what to look for when buying one.

Machines covered included the Apple][e, Osborn 1, Sharp MZ80A, Commodore 64, ZX81, Spectrum, Atari 400/800, Epson HX20, the Camputers Lynx (the only computer with a Basic that allowed decimal line numbers AFAIK) and, the BBC B.  Looking forward to the future the Apple Lisa was mentioned.

The first two section headings were line drawings of the CBM 700 and a ZX81 circuit board and the section on how to buy your own micro included advice on kit computers and how to solder....

Reading this little book shows why PC's are boring, they're a pretty well a monoculture.  The bloom of 100 flowers in the early 80's has dwindled to two architectures (Intel and ARM) and four OS's (Windows, OSX, Linux and Android), all of which look pretty much the same and, to be honest, provide an identical user experience on machines of the same class.

The book?  A must-have buy! 
I'm just a bouncer, splatterers do it with more force.....

Wooloomooloo
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Re: PC's are boring

Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:46 am

hippy said:


Chromatix said:


I would instead say that PCs are boring because - unless you specifically install development software - they can only do what other people have set them up to do.  This is triply true if the PC happens to be running Windows.

The old 8-bit micros were the polar opposite.  Unless you went out of your way to obtain pre-made software, they could only do what you told them to do.  You therefore got a much more visceral thrill when you achieved something with them.


I would say that's true in the same way that a prodution line car is boring against a kit car where there's the excitement of getting it to work yourself.

You're absolutely right; if development software isn't installed you cannot do much though I'm not sure why this is "triply true" for Windows.


I think Chromatix has a very good point here. I'm not saying we all didn't thoroughly enjoy a few rounds of Invaders sometimes (fine, most of the time...), but I think the people buying micros were mainly doing it because they were interested in programming them (and were/became able to do so), not so much because they wanted a game console. These days it's quite the other way around, most people buy computers to be used as an appliance and most never manage to get them to do anything they'd like them to do even if they might have such an interest (yes, some do; many never manage and just give up).

hippy said:

Perhaps programming was more fad of its times, like the flood of garish 72-point font web page with a 'this is my kat tiddles' picture against a flashing yellow and pink background when 'the web' became mainstream. People simply evolved, found the tools they want, and moved on with what they want to do rather than having to build it all for themselves; most people are happy they can buy a car, not have to build it from a kit, can use Wordpress et al rather than have to write their own blogging and forum software.
Personally, I think we live in a particularly unfortunate period right now in this regard - getting a micro do what you want was not that much of a problem back then, and I firmly believe some time (hopefully soonish) we well see the emergence of tools that will allow anybody who can articulate what they wish their machine to do to actually achieve that without much/any overhead. Right now we definitely don't have that ability though; knowledge of arcane IT intricacies is orders of magnitude more important to actually achieve a goal than being able to see the way to achieve it - and I think that's a real damn shame.

Relative to your analogy - yes, people of yore are kinda similar to automobilistic pioneers who were happy to tinker around their machines as opposed to modern users of. But I also think contemporary software is rather like public transport - you can only get around between predefined stations using it, not were you'd like to go. And given the choice between that and your own car you can use to go exactly where you wish, I think we all know which one people tend to prefer.

hippy said:

There are always those who want something different, want to do it themselves, but there has been little holding them back from that. I would guess people, like me, have been knocking-out code on whatever platform they choose for years for their own and others' enjoyment. It's not that PC's are boring, but more that people are; in the sense they have no inclination to program or to learn how to or perhaps there is not enough help for those who wish to but cannot.
Let's just say I have at least one example of "those who wish but cannot" - There is literally no MCU I have met that I could not bend to my will (given appropriate level of documentation) with remarkable performance and reliability (once I find the odd bug or two), yet I have pretty much failed to do any meaningful programming on PCs every single time I tried in any single language - and I have tried lots of times; I manage to meddle just enough to realize I'm no good with them whatsoever. Sorry. Maybe I just have the dumb and cannot brain. Needless to say how much fun that makes reporting bugs for any software and getting the standard "fix it yourself or STFU" answer.

hippy said:


Programming as a hobby, for fun, entertainment and self-reward, is what's really diminished, much like other hobbies of metalworking, woodworking, ham radio and the like. I hope the R-Pi kick starts the hobby again, even leads to future education and careers in computing, but I don't think it's fair to say PC's have held back those who have wanted that.


That is possible, but I can't shake that "the train has left the station" feeling - actually, the minimum standards departed to some nearly unattainable heights. Yes, some people happily code away at (indie) games that make my jaw drop. A bunch of others, however, are left with the choice of creating grossly sub-par stuff or admitting they are unable to hit a decent standard. When "Invaders" was cool I could create and animate 8-bit pixel sprites as well as they could, but today that will get you nowhere both art- and coding-wise. Just look around the websites of a bunch of "easy-to-use beginner languages", in the "sample apps" section and you'll know what I'm talking about; the general (and quite often the top!) level of the stuff you'll usually find is enough to make one cry... Yes, I know it has been mentioned that technology is not the most important part of making something really good, imagination is. And incidentally I mostly agree. But only mostly: if imagination is enough, why aren't we all playing / creating text-based interactive fiction or games like Nethack instead of the likes of Mass Effect...? </rant off. sorry...>

barnaby
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Re: PC's are boring

Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:54 am


But only mostly: if imagination is enough, why aren't we all playing / creating text-based interactive fiction or games like Nethack instead of the likes of Mass Effect…?


Mmmm, text based games… I always liked those.

I think the huge popularity of Minecraft shows that people still like games that revolve mainly around creating stuff. It's a real pity that Minecraft's gone all mainstream with 'monsters' and 'magic' and rubbish like that. But it's a move in the right direction, for sure. If nothing else, it proves that graphics aren't everything

Cheers,

Barnaby

Wooloomooloo
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Re: PC's are boring

Fri Jan 06, 2012 11:27 am

Barnaby Walters said:


Mmmm, text based games… I always liked those.


You might want to check out Adam Cadre's stuff - I had a blast, especially with Lock & Key...

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Chromatix
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Re: PC's are boring

Sat Jan 07, 2012 4:53 am

To make a high-class game like Mass Effect, or Portal 2, or even Freespace (to go back about a decade) you need more than just programming skills.

You also need to understand the mathematics that makes the player's avatar and the enemies behave plausibly.  You also need various artisan skills such as model making, texturing and - heaven forbid - writing.  It is extremely rare for all of those skills to be well developed in a single person.

It is however entirely possible (and increasingly common in the indie arena) to make an all-over good game with a small team, with just one or two people professing each required skill, or even two or more skills per person.  This is occasionally known as "teamwork".

Nevertheless, there are many resources now available on the Internet to act as surrogates for your artisan team-mates, so you can write a satisfying game without having to convince real humans to help you first.  Maybe after that you can find artisans to help put some polish on it, if it's really good and just needs new artwork and/or story.

It is perhaps worth noting that "pixel artist", as in making sprites for 8- and 16-bit games, is or was a skill and profession in it's own right.  These days, when a 2D game is made, it has more in common with cel animation, as in cartoons.
The key to knowledge is not to rely on people to teach you it.

hippy
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Re: PC's are boring

Sat Jan 07, 2012 3:38 pm

Chromatix said:


To make a high-class game like Mass Effect, or Portal 2, or even Freespace (to go back about a decade) you need more than just programming skills.


I think that's the crux. When the bar was lower many of us thought "I can do that" and went ahead and did it; Battle Zone, Myst, text adventures were all amongst things I cloned and would say delivered equally as good as the pro's, and I then built further upon those ideas.

These days I don't have the skills nor time to gain them to compete with the current vogue and what's expected by most players so I don't try to, went in a different direction.

"I can do that" being lost is I think largely behind the decline in newbie interest in programming, particularly for games, OS's and even computer architecture designs; there's little left for us to better in any field and it's hard to do so even if one would like to. Without a feeling of being able to deliver something better there's little incentive to try, so why even bother.

Perhaps what the R-Pi will bring is a renewed appreciation of 'old school games' and create a culture in which such simpler games are appreciated and potential programmers can get back to "I can do that" and be inspired to do so.

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nathanpc
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Re: PC's are boring

Mon Jan 09, 2012 2:44 pm

I've made a very simple td;lr (and added my opinion) of this topic on my site: http://www.dreamintech.net/201.....ers-again/

Just sharing, I hope you guys like it

Dudeofdoom
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Re: PC's are boring

Tue Jan 10, 2012 10:05 pm

Jongoleur said:


Yesterday lunchtime,  I was browsing the bookshelves in a charity shop and came across "The Personal Computer Handbook" (Pan 1983).  In its 224 pages, it described what a micro was, how it worked, where it fitted into your lifestyle (ahh lifestyle, a true 80's preoccupation) and what to look for when buying one.

Machines covered included the Apple][e, Osborn 1, Sharp MZ80A, Commodore 64, ZX81, Spectrum, Atari 400/800, Epson HX20, the Camputers Lynx (the only computer with a Basic that allowed decimal line numbers AFAIK) and, the BBC B.  Looking forward to the future the Apple Lisa was mentioned.

The first two section headings were line drawings of the CBM 700 and a ZX81 circuit board and the section on how to buy your own micro included advice on kit computers and how to solder....

Reading this little book shows why PC's are boring, they're a pretty well a monoculture.  The bloom of 100 flowers in the early 80's has dwindled to two architectures (Intel and ARM) and four OS's (Windows, OSX, Linux and Android), all of which look pretty much the same and, to be honest, provide an identical user experience on machines of the same class.

The book?  A must-have buy! 


I remember this book when it came out

but your right, its hard to explain to people the buzz in the 80's about computers.

I used to read Personal Computer Weekly and honestly they reviewed 3 or 4 different machines a week and each was totally different !!!!!

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