Random Nice Thoughts About Computers

Like any other technology, computers are both good and bad. There are lots of nice things about them, and there are also some negative aspects. For a person who likes computers, however, the good things tend to come to mind first. I tend to fall into this category, so I decided to make a disjointed happy list about entirely unrelated random things about computers that remind me of why I like computers. Some of these observations are serious and cerebral, while others are reflexive and impulsive. People who get excited by computers will probably see some of themselves reflected here, while others will just note lots of relentless dorkiness.

I like the default blue of the MS-DOS Editor. It reminds me of the default blue of the Commodore 64 BASIC shell. It is a wonderful blue. I will get all of my skin tattooed so it is this same color.

I like pixels. They are pretty. There is a whole subgenre of visual art called "pixel art". It is better than invisible art.

The sound made by the guard who whistles in Elfland is AWESOME!!! I want to make this whistling sound with a magnet and some speaker wire. WHISTLE ALL NIGHT! WHISTLE ALL RIGHT!

The Easter egg in Excel 3.0 is arguably the best Easter egg Microsoft has ever done. It ROOOOOOOCKS!

You can fly a spaceship on a computer! This is something you cannot do without a computer. (Unless you actually have a spaceship.)

"Hackers" was a movie about hackers!!!!! This automatically makes it better than "Non-Hackers", which was of inferior quality indeed!

Most computers display a zero (0) with a line through it, but some show a dot in the middle of the zero instead. In any case, you can customize this simply by changing the BIOS. How wonderful that computers provide this level of flexibility! What other device allows you to change the appearance of a zero through a BIOS change?

I can place a different power switch on my PC! It is nice!

The music from the "Slug Village" level of Commander Keen 4 is super! IT ROCKS ME TO TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO!

The program simply called "Your Tour of the Apple IIgs" is one of the most wonderful pieces of computer software ever written for an Apple computer. It is an introduction to the Apple IIgs, a machine created at a time when computers were still good. It is exactly as computer software should be: Intuitive, straightforward, fun, and full of the pure, innocent joy of computing. It is truly a product of an age when good things came from Apple. Ah, Apple, where did you go wrong?

There is nothing more scintillating than to be able to push a button and watch it have some effect. A computer keyboard has about 100 buttons! And you can make them have any effect you want! This causes me to prance like a llama!

The sound of my computer's fans spinning is quieter than many loud sounds! I am glad this is true!

Peltier coolers are awesome! They are quieter than fans. Hooray for quiet cooling!

With a computer, I can store data in many places! On a floppy disk, on a hard disk, on a compact disc, on a DVD, or on a USB drive. I will store MP3s in my toes!

Lotus III is pure computing magic. It perfectly captures the feel of racing a fast car down a highway while catchy techno-pop plays on the stereo. It would have been worth waiting the thousands of years it took for humans to invent the computer even if this program were the only application ever developed for the machine. It's so good that the fact that there are no sound effects seems irrelevant.

If you throw an object into the air in a computer game, it might fall back down later. Just like real life!

The sound of two telephone modems handshaking is sweet music! I play it on my stereo to relax.

The logo used by Silicon Beach Software on their early Macintosh products is simply radiant. It portrays the text of the company's name atop a stretch of pixelated sand. The pixels look almost like grains of sand, to the extent that if one is cold, one needs only to run a Silicon Beach Software product and be warmed by looking at the pixelated monochrome sand.

With my computer, I can draw a circle on the screen and make it fall down. Then I can use relatively simple mathematical calculations to make the ball bounce realistically. Computers allow people to simulate real-world physics in ways that nothing else can.

The patterns made by computer LEDs are beautiful. The most prevalent example today are the link and activity LEDs common on networking equipment such as NICs, hubs, switches, etc., but another great example is the patterns made by LEDs hooked up to a computer's address bus as the computer counts up through its memory. If you lay out a single-board computer on a breadboard and hook up some LEDs to the address bus, it is a most representative example of "accidental art".

Indeed, the field of "accidental art" in general is common on computers. Often, strange and wondrous works of unintentional art spring up in places few would expect. For example, the patterns formed by the ASCII character equivalents of values in binary computer files often form recognizable patterns; if you view a binary file in an ASCII file viewer, you can sometimes see shapes emerge. Similarly, playing data files as raw audio files can sometimes yield completely unintentional music. What other field creates such spontaneous, variegated art from random bits of information?

Links (the golf game, not the web browser) uses the extension .SHT for saved golf shots. That's neat.

The hint book for King's Quest V states that before you enter the dark forest in the game, you need "Something from the fortune teller. Something from the bees. And something from the temple in the desert." This is an awesome and lucid mnemonic for remembering exactly what you need. Even today, more than a decade after the game was first released, when I play King's Quest V, I still use this easy sequence to remember everything I need before going into the dark forest. Someone should make a song out of this line; it's so catchy and singable, it would work great as a chorus. Or maybe a verse. Or maybe both! It would be a number-one hit!

The "Yippee!" sound which plays in Lemmings 2 when a lemming reaches the exit perfectly expresses the joy of the moment. I have practiced making this sound with my mouth to the point where I can walk behind random people on the street and say "Yippee!", causing them to believe that a lemming has just been rescued. Typically people will turn around and look puzzled because they see no lemming exit behind them; no doubt they are wondering where the lemming went. Oh, and the rest of the game is really neat too.

When I was young, there was a popular screen saver for Windows 3.0 called, simply, Fish! (The exclamation point is part of the name.) The screen saver was made by a company called Tom And Edís Bogus Software. That in itself is pretty awesome, but what was truly nifty about Fish! was how customizable it was. The program was, in essence, a "virtual aquarium" similar to the "Aquatic Realm" module of After Dark (probably the most famous screen saver suite ever), but unlike Aquatic Realm, Fish! allowed you to customize your fish, or even create new ones. It contained a picture editor similar to the Windows icon-editing programs that were common at the time, and you could edit each of the considerable variety of fish that came with the program, or create your own from scratch. This allowed for a creative experience that's still largely unrivaled by any commercial product widely sold today. As a child, I created a "fish" called "Bullet", which was simply a dark blue rectangle--intended to look like a bullet--that simply moved horizontally across the screen. Even today, when I hear the word "bullet", I think of my fish bullet and how I was able to create it on a computer. My screen saver's fish bullet is better than an exotic sports car, unless, perhaps, the exotic sports car has fish-bullet cup holders.

The forest of King's Quest 3 has birds in it. These birds are randomly generated. Imagine this: Random birds! Sometimes the birds are a beautiful blue color, and sometimes they are black and yellow. What besides a computer could randomly generate such beautiful colors of birds in real-time? For good measure, sometimes the trees contain squirrels instead of birds. This is almost too much excitement for one day.

I am completely enthralled by the movements and sounds of Cliffy working on the Eureka throughout most of Space Quest 5. His sprite is on an infinite loop that apparently randomly alternates between Cliffy hammering, turning with a wrench, or kicking something. The sound effects this generates are so nifty, and the movement of Cliffy's sprite so convincing, that I simply cannot help but feel like I am gazing into the soul of computer gaming every time I witness it. IT IS LIKE A CARNIVAL OF FICTIONAL MECHANICAL ACTIONS! I could sit and watch Cliffy hammer and kick all day!