Nine people came together at CERN for five days and made something amazing. I still can’t quite believe it.
Coming into this, I thought it was hugely ambitious to try to not only recreate the experience of using the first ever web browser (called WorldWideWeb, later Nexus), but to also try to document the historical context of the time.
The documentation itself is well worth a read:
Today it’s hard to imagine that web browsers might also be used to create web pages. It turned out that people were quite happy to write HTML by hand—something that Tim Berners-Lee and colleagues never expected. They thought that some kind of user interface would be needed for making web pages and links. That’s what the WorldWideWeb browser provided. You could open a document in one window and “mark” it. Then, in a document in another window, you could create a link to the marked page.
You’ll notice as you use the WorldWideWeb browser that you need to double-click links to open them. That’s because a single click was used for editing.
Good app to simulate colour blindness on your Mac. There’s also an iOS counterpart, to see the world in front of you as a colour blind person.
Since we’re on the subject, I recommend Contrast to quickly access WCAG contrast ratios from the menu bar.
Internet writing uses subtle punctuation choices to convey sarcasm and other tone of voice nuances. It’s not lazy.
Gretchen McCulloch wrote a book on how we write on the internet (it’s not out yet, but it’s available for preorders).
You know, the fact that for example the fullstop in the context of a text isn’t used to mark the ending of said text but rather to convey the addressee our utter aversion to their existence.
In its first era of popularity, it was all pop and pulp, but now it seems reserved for the task of adding just the slightest bit of a smirk to extremely straight-faced endeavors: elegant magazines, important books, experimental theater, and $80 ceramic pipes.
I didn’t realise how popular this typeface was until I stumbled across this article and started noticing it in bookshops or books I myself own (Mark Grief’s Against Everything).
It was used on the first cover of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake and for the credits of Friends. Quite a weird mix.
(Here’s a good reimagining of Lydia by the Colophon Foundry)
Speaking of how the model of reality which a technology adopts can end up influencing and changing reality itself, here’s George Dyson:
Their models are no longer models. The search engine is no longer a model of human knowledge, it /is/ human knowledge. What began as a mapping of human meaning now defines human meaning, and has begun to control, rather than simply catalog or index, human thought. No one is at the controls. If enough drivers subscribe to a real-time map, traffic is controlled, with no central model except the traffic itself. The successful social network is no longer a model of the social graph, it is the social graph. This is why it is a winner-take-all game. Governments, with an allegiance to antiquated models and control systems, are being left behind.
Maps make for a good example here. We’re all aware that the mercator projection is an inaccurate model of reality, one which distorts the true size of countries and is skewed in favour of Europe, nonetheless that’s what we use to describe the world. It’s the default map. It’s what comes to our mind when we think of a map.
From Robin Sloan’s newsletter, via Alan Jacobs:
There’s something happening in fiction now, and to a degree in film and TV too: the time in which stories are set is scootching back, with writers fleeing to the safety of 1994 or 1987 or much earlier. Why? Because we didn’t have smartphones then. We didn’t have social media. The world didn’t have this shimmering overlay of internet which is, in a very practical way, hard to write about. Writers of novels and teleplays have well-developed tools for the depiction of drama in real space. Drama that plays out through our little pocket-sized screens is just as rich – but how do we show it? We’re now seeing film and TV figure this out in real-time.
Unexpectedly, reading a webpage on the Apple Watch isn’t as painful as I imagined it being. I’ll have to update my websites to render properly on it. It seems fairly simple: all it’s needed is yet another meta tag and some adjustments to the images.
In Cuba, internet access is limited. But if you can’t get to the internet, there are ways of bringing it physically to you.
It’s known as “el paquete semanal” or “the weekly packet”, an external drive loaded with thousands of hours of media content that is delivered to customers by enterprising ‘suppliers’ like Alberto Jorge.
I remember reading about this same story a while ago, and yet it never ceases to dumbfound me — internet access in Cuba is expensive to the point that it less convenient than having a person coming around the house regularly to deliver a dump of the data via HTP (Hand Transfer Protocol).
From a CloudFlare post of a couple of years ago:
El Paquete is a weekly service where someone (typically found through word of mouth) comes to your home with a disk (usually a 1TB external USB drive) containing a weekly download of the most recent films, soap operas, documentaries, sport, music, mobile apps, magazines, and even web sites. For 2 CUC a week Cubans have access to a huge repository of media while turning a blind eye to copyright.
Cubans told me of children waiting anxiously for “El Paquete Day” when they’d get the next set of cartoons, music and shows.
Individuals are unlikely to make much money by selling their own data, yet the same data in the aggregate can be worth a lot. Gregory Barber, from Wired, who recently tried to put his facebook data on the market, managed to make a grand total of 0.3 cents.
The economics here are a bit like the economics of voting. If it were legal, and you tried to sell your vote and your vote alone, you might not get much more than 0.3 cents. That vote is unlikely to prove decisive. Yet average and marginal value do not coincide. If someone could buy a whole block of votes, which in turn could swing an election, the price could be much higher.
Bryan Boyer built an epaper display that shows movies at 24 frames per hour (instead than 24 frames/sec). He has called it Very Slow Movie Player (VSMP): it slows a movie down so that it can be experienced differently, so that its frames can be seen as paintings.
VSMP is an object that contains a Raspberry Pi computer, custom software, and a reflective ePaper display (similar to a Kindle), all housed inside a 3D printed case. Every 2.5 minutes a frame from the film stored on the computer’s memory card is extracted, converted to black and white using a dithering algorithm, and then communicated to the reflective ePaper display. […]
Films are vain creatures that typically demand a dark room, full attention, and eager eyeballs ready to accept light beamed from the screen or projector to your visual cortex. VSMP inverts all of that. It is impossible to “watch” in a traditional way because it’s too slow. In a staring contest with VSMP you will always lose. It can be noticed, glanced-at, or even inspected, but not watched.
Inspired by the project, Jon Bell built Slow In Translation: Lost in Translation, stretched out over the entire year as a webpage background.