Atari 520 STM

Having just read The Jackintosh: A Real GEM – Remembering the Atari ST, I feel a massive nostalgia rush coming on:

After Commodore Founder Jack Tramiel was forced out by his board, he decided, after a brief hiatus, to get revenge.

Tramiel knew that a 16-bit computer was next on the horizon for Commodore, and he wanted to beat them to the punch. So, in early 1984 he formed a new company, Tramel Technology (spelt without an ‘i’ to encourage people to spell his name correctly), and lured a number of Commodore engineers to jump ship and come work for him. […]

Back in the late 1980s, after several years of following Sinclair Research’s product line up to and including the Sinclair QL1 I found myself tempted by the Atari 520STM, the model with a decently high-resolution (for the day and price) monochrome monitor. OK, so the 520STM was never going to be a games machine, but it was a cracking little workhorse for Desktop Publishing (I adored Timeworks Desktop Publisher) and I spent way too much money on nifty GEM-based word processors and spreadsheets over the years. That first version of Digital Research’s GEM environment worked beautifully on the hardware, to the point that several years later when I finally gave in to the rising tide and bought a Windows 95-based machine for my personal use (having long since been using DOS/Windows systems at work) I genuinely felt like I was taking a step down usability-wise and looks-wise.

[Via Extenuating Circumstances]

Replacing Instapaper

As time passes and EU-based users find themselves waiting in vain on word from Instapaper’s owners, our thoughts inevitably turn towards replacing Instapaper:

I chose Pinboard, not because it is the most slick service – it is very minimalist – but because it works, and for everything I read, it will likely be there for as long as I pay them to be.

The thing is, Pinboard is terrific at storing and organising a list of bookmarks, but that’s only part of what Instapaper was good for: it’s the other half of the process – the seamless storage of articles so that my queue of unread items was available (offline if I wanted it) to read at a moment’s notice – that I’m missing. As far as I can see, the solution the linked article proffers, ReadPaperback, is entirely an online solution to the reading-a-stripped-back-to-readable-text-version-of-an-article problem that Instapaper used to solve so nicely for me.1 Perhaps that’s the best we can do in Instapaper’s absence, but it’s not really solving the problem I wanted solved.

The prolonged silence from Instapaper’s current owners makes me wonder what, precisely, they were doing with our Instapaper user accounts that a) was at risk of bringing down the wrath of the GDPR on them, and b) made their lawyers think that it would be as well not to allow EU users anywhere within a mile of their service.

[Via The Overspill]

Dancing in Movies

When I first saw a link to Dancing In Movies a week or so ago I wasn’t all that impressed: yes, someone had put a lot of effort into stringing together clips from nearly 300 films but I wasn’t getting a thrill from it. But now I’ve taken (several) further looks at it and I love it! I think on the first viewing I was too obsessed with identifying the sources of the clips, and as they’re such short clips I found myself overwhelmed by the need to try to mentally catalogue them in real time and was too busy to get round to appreciating the art of the compilation itself.1

Fortunately – perhaps it caught up with me on a day when my case of trainspotter’s syndrome was in remission – I saw it again the other day, and this time I just settled back and enjoyed the quirky spectacle of it all. Magnificent stuff, strongly recommended.

Untitled, 1971

A Work of Art, by Janet Malcolm:

For many years my late husband, Gardner Botsford, kept a small black-and-white snapshot on his desk of a man and woman wearing shorts, walking one behind the other on a tennis court. I didn’t know who the couple were but assumed they were friends from Gardner’s life before our marriage, people he had been close to and fond of. One day I asked him who they were and he laughed and said he had no idea. He had plucked the picture from a pile of rejects on their way to the wastebasket. It had leaped out at him as an example of an outstandingly terrible snapshot, one that had everything the matter with it. The couple had their backs to the camera; the tennis court showed a few white lines; there were undifferentiated shrubs and trees edging one side of the asphalt. That was all. I saw what my husband saw and laughed with him. There was no reason for the existence of this picture. Keeping it was a wonderful exercise in absurdism.

A few years later, in 1980, I had occasion to think of this picture in a new way. […]

2001 remembered

Stephen Wolfram, on the legacy of seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey when he was eight years old:

It’s hard for me to believe it’s been 50 years since I first saw 2001. Not all of 2001 has come true (yet). But for me what was important was that it presented a vision of what might be possible-and an idea of how different the future might be. It helped me set the course of my life to try to define in whatever ways I can what the future will be. And not just waiting for aliens to deliver monoliths, but trying to build some “alien artifacts” myself.

[Via Sentiers No. 37]

Farewell, Saga

I was so pleased to see that after four seasons The Bridge stuck the landing_ so nicely.

I’d half expected that the show would end with one of the leads killed off – very possibly having sacrificed themselves to save an innocent victim – but the writers resisted that temptation and instead showed us a Saga who had let go of the guilt that drove her to be a detective and seemed to have resolved to try to decide on a different career.

I’ll confess that I had a moment of doubt when Saga pulled in while crossing the bridge and went to peer at the grey, choppy sea below, but we left her driving away in her odd-coloured Porsche to a new life doing something she wants to do. Part of me wishes we’d get to see what she does next, but most of me is just glad that such a complicated, troubled character made it to the end of the story with, if anything, fewer psychological scars than she’s carried over four seasons. Good work, writers.

One obvious question now is what Saga is going to do with her life if she’s no longer going to carry a badge. Given her personality it’d be hard to see her becoming a private investigator and building up a client base: she’d definitely need someone with more people skills to act as her liaison with the rest of the world.1

Assuming that Saga is going away for a while, I wonder what sort of stories Henrik is going to tell his daughter Astrid (who, after all, only met Saga briefly and under extremely stressful circumstances) about his best friend Saga while she’s away?

Two keyboards

Michael Lopp’s Two Keyboards at a Bar is just delicious:

INT. EVENING. CUPERTINO, CALIFORNIA. BJ’S RESTAURANT AND BREWHOUSE. A RECENT FRIDAY NIGHT

The bar is full. Two keyboards sit at the bar: APPLE EXTENDED II and MACBOOK PRO. The front door opens, TOUCHBAR looks around, sees the two keyboards at the bar, grins, and heads their direction. Skipping.

APPLE EXTENDED II sits at the bar nursing a Macallan 18. Next to him is MACBOOK PRO who has not taken a sip of his glass of water.

[…]

There are times when the only proper response is to stand back, recognise that you’re in the presence of genius, and applaud. Go on, follow that link. You won’t regret it.

Down the rabbit hole

It’s as if Brett Terpstra was looking over my shoulder, narrating my life:

Some of us always follow the rabbit. It’s not because we want to. It’s just that the rabbit…

10 a.m., somewhere in Minnesota

Sit down to write a blog post. It’s basically written already in my head, just need 20 minutes to get it down.

Double check some code I’m including, and realize it doesn’t work right in an edge case that just crossed my mind.

Drop back to Sublime Text for some testing. This edge case is revealing a more substantial failure. Get a little frustrated and head to StackOverflow.

Find a StackOverflow answer that wasn’t exactly what I needed but follow a link to GitHub and start examining some code, out of context, that I think might have the answer. […]

Other than the fact that at 10am I’m usually at work1 and not thinking about drafting a blog post: Brett Terpstra, c’est moi.