programming

Bret Victor: inventing on principle

Bret Victor – Inventing on Principle from CUSEC on Vimeo.

Bret’s talk takes a while (53 minutes) but man is it worth it. Don’t be put off by the code (if you don’t code), it’s less about code, more about tight interactivity leading to more creativity as a guiding principle. When you couple excellent coding skills with a creative person who enjoys sharing many things are possible and this video is a demonstration of that.

Seymour Papert, various folks at the IBM Watson Research Lab, Bill Atkinson, Alan Kay, Larry Tesler, and others at Xerox PARC, and many other people have been working in this area but I have to say, Bret’s talk is the best I’ve heard (and I’ve heard many). He uses Tesler’s invention of modeless text editing as an example, among others.

Bret’s web site: Bret Victor

[via Kottke.org]

Chipwits

Just after the Macintosh came out there was a rumor about a programmable robot game called Chipwits that was coming out within year one. It sounded great to me and I was an early buyer of Chipwits.

Chipwits was one of those hard to describe applications: sitting on the fence between game, simulation, and programming instruction. As soon as I got it and ran it (from disk, of course) I realized that what sounded cool was going to take a bit of time to learn.

Chipwit in Greedville

Chipwits consisted of a number of “environments” or rooms with different layouts and different obstacles. The object was to program the chipwit to navigate the room, zapping bugs, eating pie, and turning when necessary before his energy level ran low.

Chipwits Brain

The programming was done, in typical Macintosh fashion, by dragging tiles around into logic arrays, then saving them and running the chipwit in a room. This was an interpreted environment so if the chipwit ran into problems a few clicks and you were back in his brain futzing with his logic.

What was great about this application was that it was hilarious while at the same time challenging and fun.

Chipwits was soon out of sync with the Macintosh world as more powerful programming languages supplanted MacForth and the program grew incompatible with newer systems. I like to think of Chipwits as my pre-HyperCard warm up with amateur programming. It was also a load of fun and as I remember it, a number of people in the Eugene Macintosh users group got deeply into it along with me. Wow, 20 years is a very long time.