Technology28 February 2016
The mists of time have of course dulled the memory, but it was the early nineteen seventies, was probably a very early, very basic, very Casio pocket calculator (replacing a slide rule) that started me off down the road to…
I’m pretty certain my dad bought the thing whilst we were on our annual 2-week holiday, somewhere on the south coast of England. It was awesome, it was perfect with its green LED display. It just worked. Little did I know at the time where it would lead me…
To live in an age of such rapid technological advancement is a constant source of wonder for me. Though the transistor predates me by a significant number of years, the miniaturisation it enabled brought possibilities unimaginable a few years earlier.
My dad was an electronics hobbyist; his life spanned the time after the creation of the first thermionic valve devices, through the transistor revolution, through amateur radio enthusiasm, right up to the home and business computer boom.
He might have viewed younger generations’ disdain for learning about the technology which makes things ‘just work’ and their ‘need’ for the newest, fastest, best devices their parents (or disposable income) can buy. He wasn’t, as far as I can recall, an old curmudgeon, he simply liked to get his hands dirty.
So do I, to a point; but I’m as guilty as the next child in wanting ‘improvements.’
I did my bit in the nineteen-eighties though. Computer hobbyist! My third computer had a rich collection of programming languages available, and so I used most. It had analogue/digital interfaces, and those briefly opened up a whole new world to me.
I typed magazine program listings ‘in’, fixed the typos introduced by the technologically-illiterate publishers, and adapted the knowledge I gained to create even better routines.
Heck, I even flowcharted my programs!
I designed and built a digital joystick (microswitches) and, from rotary potentiometers and microswitches, an analogue joystick and a baseboard-mounted 2-arm graphics tablet. I wrote software to control what happened onscreen, taking inputs from the…
I messed about with a few variants of BASIC, played with Forth, Pascal, steered around anything to do (with (Lisp’s braces)), and even dabbled with 6502 Aasmbly language (a text character Space Invaders clone that ran way too fast to play.)
And then life got in the way, though I did play games during the interludes between life and work. Programming was largely forgotten, consigned to history.
We don’t need to create stuff nowadays though; talented developers, designers, creators - they can do it all for us. Pick up a modern computing device - computer, network, tablet, phablet, phone - and stuff is but a quick download away. Life is easy.
Things indeed just work. There’s the expectation that they just work, but a very basic lack of understanding of the ‘how.’ It’s fine, I recognise that not everyone had the desire to spend time, is capable of, designing a program to do even the simplest of tasks. Life is easy for a reason - we’re standing in the shoulders of giants every time we breathe, it seems.
Ive been blogging - stream-of-consciousness style - of my Raspberry Pi Linux playtime. I started with the intention of creating a niche blogging aid, yet the ‘something’ that’s followed me from the early nineteen-seventies persists still.
I could blog on any number of host platforms, yet I choose to restrict my words to four:
- I self-host. This option brings by far the most enjoyment, but it’s fraught with unforeseen technical difficulties and the need to slide a learning curve.
- I use GitHub Pages. Slightly less complex, though I used the framework the service provided as the base for my self-hosted site.
- I use 10Centuries v2. A personal project by Jason Irwin, it saw a fair amount of traction with App.net users, me included, for its simplicity. It’s in the process if being superseded.
- I recently started to use 10Centuries v4, v2’s successor; and would very much like to migrate all my v2 posts there eventually.
10Centuries isn’t simply a blogging platform though, there’s:
- Blogging (of course),
- Podcasting - almost painless,
- A burgeoning social network (posts are Blurbs, not Tweets.) Until this weekend the network was a limited private beta, everyone followed everyone else, but now it’s about to expand - with a limited number of user invites available,
- Developer access to the 10Cv4 API (application program interface!)
I’ve already had a brief play with the API; created an app authorisation token, and then an access token to interact with the API before my first ‘hello world’ post - at which point my head asploded!
It’s not every day I’m programming on a computer controlled by the computer on my lap. (SSH is magic, pure and simple.)
I’m not alone attempting to develop stuff. Fortunately everyone else has relevant skills!
For its freshness, newness, openness and all-round friendliness I can easily recommend 10Cv4. It’s a place that both promises and delivers on the promise that App.net emerged with and, to a degree, still retains.
Owning your data, no ads, no sophisticated algorithms to re-order posts in what often seems like a totally random manner elsewhere - all powerful draws. It worked for me.
The ‘paint is still drying’ on a few features, some are in a state of rapid development and heck, some aren’t even implemented yet! But there’ll be nothing obvious getting in your way.
If you’re like me and simply want to chat about ‘stuff’, have no message to spread, no desire to attract legions of followers just for the sake of numbers, then 10Cv4 is for you.
If you’re dissatisfied with the state of your social network (or ‘social’ in general) and want a change, a fresh start perhaps, and would welcome my invite, let me know!
Don’t expect me to be there all the time, or be a social network evangelist though, I’m spreading myself too thinly as it is! Neglecting you on more than one network is weighing heavily.
But I’m having fun and that, for me, just works.