There is a wonderful Twitch channel called OldTimeyComputerShow that just plays... old timey computer shows (via Carolyn Petit). I only just found out about it, but I feel like I’ve watched a day’s worth of programming already. All of these videos have been available on places like Youtube and the Internet Archive, but the consistency of the stream and randomness of the content is part of the joy. Just as I think I'm getting tired of it, something wonderful will pop up like an elderly woman demonstrating how she programs in Basic to chart her knitting:
The aesthetics, the sound effects—all of it is so calming and cozy. I even have it playing in the background while I write this newsletter. I just looked up the current episode, which is "Internet Power — Discover the World of Online Entertainment," and learned Andy Baio was the one who uploaded this in 2008.
My favorites are the 80s shows with The Soul of a New Machine/Halt and Catch Fire vibes like Computer Chronicles and Computers in Control:
The other day, it was playing a 90s British videogame show called GamesMaster with a set that looks equal parts Harry Potter and Apple's 1984 commercial. The participants play classic videogames like Super Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog, but toward the end it got weird. A contestant was set up at what looked to be a classic arcade station, but when he shot with a gun controller, the reactions happened on a studio set with actors. They were dressed up like cowboys in a Wild West saloon and would pretend to die when shot at. Hard to explain, but it was better than Westworld.
I'm glad the channel wasn't around when I was writing my book because I might have watched it all day and rationalized to myself that I was doing "research."
I wrote a list of my favorite books about “cyberspace” for Electric Literature. The anthology “Technicolor” is the newest to me, and if you are in any way interested in these subjects you need this book. I was highlighting and underling the hell out of it (one of my underlines.)
One book I wouldn’t quite recommend, but found fascinating for the moment in time it represents is Microserfs. I was reading it a few weeks ago and found myself in awe of how contemporary it sounded. Change the references from “The Gap monoculture” to “Everlane monoculture” and update a few tiny other things and you have, basically, a novel about “millennial culture.” Hmm… how utterly strange that an upper middle class white Gen Xer could sound like upper middle class white millennials. The thing is, it isn’t quite timeless so much as it is apolitical. There’s enough blank space in the novel to insert your own politics, even your own moment in time. Five years ago, Douglas Coupland praised Uber for its efficiency in a breezy piece for the Financial Times (an “artist in residence in Paris at the Google Cultural Institute” read his bio.) Those who might have expected more of a Douglas Rushkoff-style take had mistaken the vagueness in his books for a mirror image of their beliefs.
Well, that’s all from me tonight. I gotta get back to my OldTimeyComputerShow.
Thanks for reading.