Past Present

Demos, Hacks, Robots and OK Computer

Over the past couple days, everywhere I turn it seems I’m finding stuff that has, for me, a nostalgic feel. So here’s my digital ramble…

It first started with a series of posts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6) at Rhizome on the demoscene. (Demos are computer-based audio-visual presentations that run in real-time with the goal being to show off programming, artistic, and musical skills.) I don’t follow the demoscene, but come across it from time to time. And while the work doesn’t deal with interactivity — it reminds me of the look of early software when I first started playing around with programming on an Apple II and later on a Commodore Amiga.


Sex'n'Crime #14, one of the first disk magazines (Commodore 64,1990)

Mindshare LA also came up for me this week. Their “enlightened debauchery” events are (from what I’ve heard — as I haven’t actually attended one myself yet) a crazy/smart mix of demo hacks, TED-like talks, and alcohol. Take a look at their archives for good sense of the types of speakers they have.

Many of the interactive pieces on display at Mindshare have been created by Mindshare Labs, which is now Syyn Labs. They do all sorts of interesting digital mashups of programming, environments, electronics, and events. Their Cloud Mirror is a kind of augmented reality mirror that superimposes information about you gathered from your online presence (Facebook, Twitter, etc. aka “the cloud”).

And although OK Go hardly needs another mention, it was kinda cool to learn that Syyn Labs was the company behind their Rube Goldberg Machine video This Too Shall Pass.

Lastly, I saw that the graduate program at NYU’s ITP posted their student Spring 2010 projects. It’s a crazy/cool mix of interactive design exploration and experimentation. Projects ranging from IKEA furniture with personality to cycling through data.

So what was the point of all this? Maybe I should start going to Mindshare, Dorkbot and Machine Project events.  The work is inspiring. It’s exciting to see designers getting their hands dirty. And it makes me a little jealous.