Wednesday, January 20, 2010

HyperCard and Night Driver


There's something terrific about being my age, which is that your life spans a period of time from when it was normal to get an electric typewriter to take with you to college, up to now. And, it's not actually that long, so it's not like I'm 150 or something.

I remember when my friends first got their little Macs in their dorm rooms. This was a whole new way to create a term paper! Of course, you still had to plan your time to allow for the printing process, in which the tractor-feed printer would sit there and make awful noises in its strain to output all of your pages. But shoot, that was nothing next to re-typing or white-out.

And boy, I got excited about HyperCard. Here was something that let you come up with your own interface! I would make little stacks of cards and click through them over and over.

My age also means that as a kid I played on an Atari. We had Pong, and Night Driver. And Asteroids. And, we had Space Invaders. I had a system whereby I NEVER LOST at Space Invaders. I could play it infinitely. The only thing that controlled the length of play was basic human needs like eating and going to the bathroom. I had a choreographed set of moves that I could replicate over and over and score 100,000 points. Ask anyone who knows Space Invaders - that's a lot of points.

And get this - at my husbands childhood home, in the drawer in the coffee table, there's one of those original electronic Football games. You know, the one that goes "BDEEEE! BDEEEE!" when you score a touchdown. It still works. We still play it.

I think that knowing about these things keeps you humble. I feel grounded in a world that doesn't just include rectangular screens, because I used to dial rotary phones. And this helps me to remember that when designing or illustrating, all you're doing is thinking visually and that the screen isn't the point. The human experience is the point.

We dig the Internets not because they happen on a screen, but because they enable people to actually meet and date and get married. And find rare comic books. And get tickets to the monster truck rally.

These days as I look over the landscape of people slouched over their rectangular devices, I know that the world they are relating to is still lumpy and human and messy. The device isn't going to change that. You can get a rude email just like you can get a rude phone call or talk to a rude person. So when we draw or design it's all still just people. Mostly people who think rotary phones are hilariously sad, but people nonetheless.

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