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Sunday Reboot — January 28, 2024

Happy Sunday, friends.

It's been a fucking week, so this issue has taken me a lot longer to knock out that it normally does. I think I've spent at least 4 hours, time-on-screen, working through it (as opposed to my normal 45 minutes).

There's not much say about why that is. Those who know me probably know why, and those who don't are more than welcome to shoot me an email and ask. I welcome and enjoy hearing from anyone who reads these posts.

The big theme for this past week has turned out to be "Retrocomputing" (that's right, I made it one word, fight me). I've been feeling more nostalgic than usual, probably in no small part due to increased stress and anxiety—there's something about looking back to a time when things were personally simpler to both calm your nerves and make you frustrated with the present state of things.

I don't have much else to add today, so I'll jump into the reboot, and hope that next week's is a bit more fruitful.

Pondering...

"If our lives are oceans, then our days are waves; some big, some small." — Ryder Carroll

I pulled out Ryder Carroll's book, The Bullet Journal Method, just to pick through it again recently and this highlighted quote jumped out at me because, lately, life has felt like a fucking tsunami, with wave after wave pounding the rocks that are my soul.

The quote is a good reminder that every day won't bring a tidal wave of dread and anxiety, but at the moment I'm exhausted.

I think, though, that the key isn't to just learn to put up with the waves and hope things get better before the rocks get pounded into sand; it's to relocate to a calmer beach. I'm sure those of you who read my reboots have noticed this recurring theme, but at the moment my beach feels like its on an island and I missed the last boat to the mainland.

My wife came home from a brunch with some friends earlier today, and said that it feels like we're living life on "hard mode," and damn if that isn't the truth; so my mission at the moment is to figure out where the damn settings menu is so I can turn down the difficulty from "Nightmare!" down to a more manageable "Hey, not too rough."1

Learning...

I just completed Class 3 of the Halt and Catch Fire Syllabus and am so happy that I've started doing this. While I had already bought into the cult following of this show long before discovering the syllabus, the added layers of emulators, historical RFCs, and selected readings alongside the episodes is like turning a good steak into a five star, four-course meal.

It's interesting to consider how "personalization" was such a revolutionary concept in the early 1980s. It wasn't their utility that turned computers from an appliance into a necessity, but the underlying fun that can be had with them.

I remember when I got my first computer—back in a time when families had "computer rooms" and you had to wait your turn to use it. I was obsessed from day one, and still remember the feeling that real magic was happening underneath all of the plastic and wires. Personally, I feel like I've lost a lot of that wonder, but rewatching this show so intentionally is helping revive some of that feeling again.

Looking ahead to Class 4, we will be wrapping up Season 1 and pondering the cultural, societal, and environmental impact of the personal computing revolution on the world in the early 90s through today.

Hobby...ing...

A little over a week ago, I revived the MUD Coders Guild blog with a post about wrapping the 30-year-old Envy MUD source code in a Docker container. While it's the first post we've shared in four years (things kind of fizzled out when COVID hit), I've been having fun tinkering around with the Envy MUD source code again.

To be clear, Envy isn't my favorite DikuMUD variant (the grandpappy of most 90s and early-aughts codebases), but it is the core codebase that my favorite variant was based on—Eye of the Storm (EoS).

Envy is my tinkerable of choice right now because it is a very paired down version of EoS; in other words, it has the core components of what I love about EoS, but has a lot more room for experimentation.

While my life is overwhelming enough right now to keep this project moving slowly, I do intend to drip out more legacy MUD content over the coming months because (if I'm being perfectly honest), it's one of the few things brining me joy at the moment.

Reading...

Continuing down my forays into retro computing, I've been reading a lot of blog posts and essays lately. A few have been plucked from the Halt and Catch Fire Syllabus, but others have found their way to me more organically:

  • The Dumbing-Down of Programming (Parts One and Two) — Ellen Ullman shares her experience of buying and installing the Linux operating system instead of Windows in 1998, reflecting on the profession of programming and how technical expertise has changed. The author contemplates the layers of complexity that have been added to the (then) modern programming tools and the temptation to rely on wizards and shortcuts rather than truly understanding the underlying code.
  • Where Have All the Websites Gone? — "It's a technical marvel, that internet. Something so mindblowingly impressive that if you showed it to someone even thirty years ago, their face would melt the fuck off. So why does it feel like something's missing? Why are we all so collectively unhappy with the state of the web?"
  • Memories from Old Lan Parties — Some top-notch reminiscing about late 90s, early 2000s LAN parties. While the article does a good job aggregating and posting a large list of anachronisms, one thing that I personally miss from LAN parties is the IRL of it all. Multiplayer gaming used to be a social affair true to the word "party," (except for nerds). It wasn't just about gaming, but fellowship and togetherness.
  • I Used Netscape Composer in 2024 — A absurdly delightful post about recreating a web page (the author's personal website) using Netscape Composer. TBH, I loved this so much I will likely be doing something similar (although, for the sake of variety, I might use the copy of Macromedia Dreamweaver I still have installed on my old Windows tablet PC).
  • 10 Weird HTML Hacks That Shaped The Internet — Tedium is an excellent blog in its own right, but this particular article hits home for me. As a matter of fact, I utilize a handful of these hacks on this very blog in order to better maintain its backwards compatibility.

Not everything is "vintage computing" related, but they do all hold similar themes around the concept of low-and-slow-tech (as it would be defined today, not 30 years ago), and are doing everything they can to reinforce my desires to slow the fuck down and live a more reasoned life where the technology I use is something that I either enjoy or get real value out of, rather than simply deal with accept.


Footnotes

  1. https://doom.fandom.com/wiki/Skill_level#Doom,_Doom_II_and_Final_Doom_skill_levels

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This is post 029 of #100DaysToOffload