60 • Magic Ink by Bret Victor

2022-12-08

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Before the time-travelling talks, the programmable rooms, the ladders and rocket launchers, we had the first real Bret Victor essay: Magic Ink. It set the stage for Bret’s later explorations, breaking down the very idea of “software” into a few key pieces and interrogating them with his distinct focus, then clearly demoing a way we could all just do it better. All of Bret’s works feel simultaneously like an anguished cry and a call to arms, and this essay is no exception.

For the next episode, we’re reading Programming as Theory Building by Peter Naur, with a little bit of Gilbert Ryle’s The Concept of Mind thrown in for good measure.

Four Hundred of the most Chart-Topping Thoughts of All Time:

Paper Programs by JP Posma was inspired by Dynamicland.

“Computers aren’t the thing. They’re the thing that gets us to the thing.” from Halt and Catch Fire

Charticulator is Microsoft Research’s take on a Drawing Dynamic Visualizations-esq tool.

Jimmy’s Fender Jazz bass looks like this, but red, but like a decade older, but like $600 at the time.

We could probably post parts of this episode as Boyfriend Roleplay on YouTube.

Fitts’s Law is but one thing we’ve learned about the industrial design aspect of building good software.

The Witness is a game where communicating ideas through (essentially) graphic design is the whole entire point of the game. If you haven’t played it, know that it comes highly recommended by plenty of folks in the community.

A “red letter Bible” is a Bible in which the words spoken by Jesus are colored red, to make them easier to identify.

Toph Tucker has a pretty cool personal website. It’s rare to see these sorts of sites nowadays, and they’re always made by adventuresome programmers, trendy design agencies, or their clients. In the Flash era, it felt like everyone had a website like this, for better and for worse.

tldraw is a beautiful little browser-based drawing tool by Steve Ruiz. What few things it does, it does exceptionally well.

John while Henry had had had had had had had had had been my preference.

#devlog-together is the channel on our Future of Coding slack community where members post small, frequent updates about what they’re working on.

The (Not Boring) apps are arguably a counterpoint to Bret’s theses about information apps and harmful interaction, where the interaction and graphic design are balanced against being maximally-informative, toward being silly and superfluous, to great effect.

Did you know there’s a hobby horse, but also a hobby horse? I didn’t!

There are a few examples of folks doing FoC work that, in Ivan’s view, align well with the values Bret outlines in Magic Ink:

Robot Odyssey was a 1984 game for the Apple II (and some other, lesser systems) in which players would go inside various robots to reprogram them.

Music featured in this episode:

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