When everything looked both shit and awesome; a look back at pre-Windows screensavers

My first exposure to screensavers came hand-in-hand with my first home computer experience; Windows 3.1. And just like the neuro-plasticizing desktop wallpapers on offer, the star field simulation screensaver blew my 15-year-old mind.

An excellent Youtube video by Nostalgia Nerd focuses on pre-Windows DOS screen savers and celebrates the fact that “Screensavers [have been] saving our CRT screens from phosphor burns since the dark ages”.

Looking back at 1989’s  mesmerising “Bug Fry” to the virgin-identifying Matrix screen saver, I realise that I could probably have coded half of this shit in QBasic in under half-an-hour. Still, they were great for their time, and it’s an reminder of how far computer graphics have come.

(After Dark “flying toasters” screensaver featured image obtained from https://winworldpc.com/)

 

Long Live MS Paint

I love MS Paint. I love it so much that I have a virtual machine dedicated to it running on my Mac. I love it so much that I spit on paint.net. And thanks to the love of its dedicated fanbase, my favourite quick image editing (and sometimes creation) tool has narrowly missed being killed-off in a Windows 10 future update.

From CNBC:

“[Microsoft] recently released a list which labeled Paint “deprecated”, meaning it was considering removing the app when the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update gets released later this year … Fans on social media decried the potential death of Paint, which has been in existence for 32 years.

But [Megan Saunders of] Microsoft released a blog post shortly after to clarify that Paint would not be completely removed, but instead made available via the Windows Store for free: “Today, we’ve seen an incredible outpouring of support and nostalgia around MS Paint. If there’s anything we learned, it’s that after 32 years, MS Paint has a lot of fans. It’s been amazing to see so much love for our trusty old app”.

Even though you’ll now need a Windows ID to download it, it’s great to see that this 32-year old masterpiece is not yet ready for the Recycle Bin.

 

Weird Cold Spot in Space could point to first evidence of Parallel Universes

I’d like to be in the universe where my two-year-old son doesn’t currently have diarrhoea, but in this universe, The Guardian reports

“[The] latest piece of evidence that could favour a multiverse comes from the UK’s Royal Astronomical Society. They recently published a study on the so-called ‘cold spot’. This is a particularly cool patch of space seen in the radiation produced by the formation of the Universe more than 13 billion years ago… 

Perhaps the most exciting of these [explanations for the cold spot] is that the Cold Spot was caused by a collision between our universe and another bubble universe. If further, more detailed, analysis … proves this to be the case then the Cold Spot might be taken as the first evidence for the multiverse.”

Unfortunately, according to the Guardian‘s article, if multiple universes can be proven, we’ll probably never be able to work out the ultimate goal of astro physics, “to explain why our universe is the way it is.”

Seven Songs written by A.I that suck less than Techno

Over the last few years, Computer Scientists have been writing programs designed to create original music, based on a technique known as “machine learning“.

These “machine learning” algorithms vary in their respective methods; some analyse certain attributes like melodies and the lyrical content of a bunch of selected songs then mix them all together to create a new original track; whereas some rely on the mathematical nature of musical theory to create new musical scores.

Anyway, they’re all more intelligent and pleasing to the ear than club bangers.

  1. Daddy’s Car: “written” by “Flow Machine”, which sampled a bunch of Beatles songs to create an original new track.

2. “Christmas”. Probably my favourite of the lot. This was made by “Neural Story” that analysed tunes and lyrics of popular Xmas songs as well as imagery (yep photos) of Xmas. I can’t wait to set up a front-yard Xmas display featuring  decapitated reindeer with this blaring out of a megaphone. Creepy as all fuck.

 

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How the humble wrist-watch put humankind on the path to cyborg slavery

In the mid-1900s, at the dawn of the computer age, the excited commentators of the time described a future utopia where humankind would be freed from the need to work and would struggle to fill up the long days with enough time-eating hobbies.

This obviously has not happened….

Even though we, as a species, are quite comfortably the head-honchos of our planet, the majority of us humans still need to work pretty hard at it.

If you were to strip away humankind’s technological advances, human societies couldn’t compare with insect colonies’ amazing efficiency and coordination; thanks to insects’ inbuilt senses that detect tiny hormonal changes and pheromonal ejections, allowing them to perfectly synchronize their work. As a result, insect colonies can build amazing things with minimal resources.

Take away our gadgets, with our relatively blunted senses, humans can’t match the efficiency of our insect counterparts. But who needs antennae when we’ve got brains that can invent wrist watches and Gantt charts?

With the human invention of modern time measurement, we enabled our species to plan and build grander and more intricate projects through our vastly improved synchronisation and management of resources. The invention of mechanical clocks, due to their more convenient and reliable time-keeping, effectively enabled us to pack more into every day.

I am no troglodyte – I am hugely appreciative for the advantages that science and technology have provided. I have it to thank for the Enlightenment values that I live by, my longer and healthier life, and the sense of wonder that I feel when looking up at the stars,  knowing that I am staring into our Universe’s past.

But in all its wonder, science and technology has also helped things to turn a bit shit. Inventions and advancements when at inception looked certain to improve the quality of our lives have often become the tools of our captors.

The invention of the town clock tower in the 1500s, followed by the mass production of pocket watches in the early 1900s, were arguably the first steps in humankind’s transition into some kind of cybernetic state of permanent serfdom.

Continue reading “How the humble wrist-watch put humankind on the path to cyborg slavery”

The Rise of the Machines?

I’ve heard about the wonder that is Google’s AutoDraw.com – an artificial intelligence (AI) based program that can supposedly decipher basic drawings. From Google’s P.R department:AutoDraw is a new kind of drawing tool. It pairs machine learning with drawings from talented artists to help everyone create anything visual, fast.

Well fast it is, but accurate? Not so very. Armed with four cans of beer and a trackpad, I thought I’d give it a try. I was in some ways impressed, in some ways not. Please note that in the spirit of fairness, I have chosen to post the algorithm’s first semi-accurate guess next to my inebriated touchpad-drawn doodles.

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Thinking of Quitting Facebook? How the Powerful may be Using Big Data Against You

The Guardian has published an undoubtably terrifying investigation into Cambridge Analytica (CA), the ‘Big Data‘ analytics company who allegedly “hijacked” the democratic process to ensure that outcomes of the Brexit EU Referendum and the 2016 American Election. And they accomplished this by using data primarily sourced from the online interactions between users on social networks including Facebook.

According to the article, CA  – a company with links to the former Brexit leader Nigel Farage, American President Donald Trump, and Trump’s controversial senior adviser Steve Bannon –  offered to help the Brexit campaign with its use of “psychological warfare” (or “psyops” for short).

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