Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, November 08, 2021

start at the start
We already have the U.S. government to thank for inventing the Internet. Turns out the Feds bequeathed another digital gift upon the world, via Brookhaven National Laboratory: Tennis for Two, the world’s first videogame, concocted a whopping 50 years ago.

Simulated on a screen was a vertical side view of a tennis court showing the edge of a floor with the edge of the net perpendicular to it. Each player had a knob and a button. Rotating the knob changed the angle of the ball and a press of the of button sent the ball toward the opposite side of the court. If the ball hit the net, it rebounded at an unexpected angle. If the ball went over the net, but was not hit back, it would hit the floor and bounce again at a natural angle. If it disappeared off the screen, a reset button could be pressed, causing the ball to reappear and remain stationary until a hit button was pressed.

The game was run by an analog computer hooked up to an oscilloscope. “It was simple to design,” remembered [Dr. William A.] Higinbotham. “Back then, analog computers were used to work out all kinds of mechanical problems. They didn’t have the accuracy of digital computers, which were very crude at the time, but then you didn’t need a great deal of precision to play TV games.”

Proto-Pong, basically. It was a hit:

At [Brookhaven National Lab's] open house on Oct. 18, 1958, Tennis for Two proved to be a hit beyond Dr. Higinbotham’s wildest expectations. “Hundreds of people were lined up out the door,” said a laboratory spokeswoman, Mona Rowe.

Crowds waited patiently to serve and volley the little ball of light, pressing the button on the control box to hit the ball and turning a knob to adjust the angle, the hits punctuated with a satisfying clicking sound.

So popular was the game that Dr. Higinbotham worried that it distracted from rather than promoted the lab’s serious business. Discoveries here have been recognized by six Nobel prizes.

So Electronic Arts and the like owe their existence to the postwar military-industrial complex. Among the more worthwhile end results from the Cold War, probably.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 11/08/2021 06:48:50 PM
Category: Videogames
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With (almost) everyone on Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr et al, and the growing professionalism to be found on permalinked-posting sites like Huffington Post and Valleywag, it seems like the traditional personal blog is passe.

Social multimedia sites like YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook have since made publishing pics and video as easy as typing text. Easier, if you consider the time most bloggers spend fretting over their words. Take a clue from Robert Scoble, who made his name as Microsoft’s “technical evangelist” blogger from 2003 to 2006. Today, he focuses on posting videos and Twitter updates. “I keep my blog mostly for long-form writing,” he says.

Twitter — which limits each text-only post to 140 characters — is to 2008 what the blogosphere was to 2004. You’ll find Scoble, Calacanis, and most of their buddies from the golden age there. They claim it’s because Twitter operates even faster than the blogosphere. And Twitter posts can be searched instantly, without waiting for Google to index them.

As a writer, though, I’m onto the system’s real appeal: brevity. Bloggers today are expected to write clever, insightful, witty prose to compete with Huffington and The New York Times. Twitter’s character limit puts everyone back on equal footing. It lets amateurs quit agonizing over their writing and cut to the chase.

I know flame-bait when I read it, particularly since this is coming out of Wired Magazine. So I’ll refrain from a detailed defense of blogging. Just a couple of points on why I’m not about to shutter this site:

- Relying solely upon non-text media to “express yourself” is a dubious choice. Sitting through videos, podcasts, etc. is time-consuming, versus allowing your audience to read a post at their own pace. Delivering micro-chunks via Twitter (or SMS or any other constricted short-form text) is even more annoying. And the lack of true hyperlinking with other sources around the Web hinders this means of expression.

- If Internet-style searchability is the aim, there’s no worse way to get that than with multimedia instead of text. Tags help, but that in itself can be writer-like work — especially to those who don’t like to write in the first place, i.e. the assumed post-blogging crowd — and is bound to be incomplete. Like it or not, Google and other search technologies rely upon keyword recognition, and until that changes, text-driven sites like the typical blog will do better.

- Finally, on the overarching notion that the social network sandboxes are the way to play in Web 2.0: I’ll just reprint the stage-by-stage lifecycle that digital walled gardens have, and will have by the time the Age of Facebook runs its course (note this list wouldn’t convey well on Twitter):

1. They launch amid much hype over attracting groups of enthusiastic, hip, pretty young things

2. They attain a critical mass of a couple million members

3. They start to cross-promote and sell ads like crazy, cashing in on what’s assumed to be a captive audience

4. They roll out premium add-ons for nominal fees

5. They get so large and ad-driven that they turn off the very members that flocked to them in the first place, leading to defections and a loss of cool-cache

6. They sputter on, devolving into purely affiliate-marketing/spam-generating subscriber rolls of questionable value

And so on, until a new crop of sites roll out. What I can’t figure out is why people continually buy into them, swallowing the hype about how they’re new and innovative, when they’re far from it. Maybe the average joiner goes into it knowing that it’s got a short shelf life.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 11/08/2021 06:11:55 PM
Category: Bloggin'
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