A modern totem pt. 1 - Interactivity

Computer are the new altars. We're praying to our glowing rectangles and apples™️ for the majority of the day. In a half prayer position: underarms flat on the table, with hands folded over the keyboard, our head slightly tilted downwards we bid like modern monks for the computer to give us information. For hours at end we peek into the pixel void and come back the next day, hoping for more. More of what though?

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Yet these artefacts aren't modern totems. They are mundane objects meant to be as general purpose as possible. A standerdized and limited set of inputs (keyboard, mouse, screen) meant to suit a broad range of uses. Why doesn't it have levers, pedals, fidget spinners or radars as an interface? Why doesn't the tactile experience guide me more in my search for information? Why isn't there a small cactus growing on my laptop?

Fun is only a side effect of the software, not the hardware. Yet that software is ever changing and not always fun. You can switch the functionality of your computer from fun (games!) to boring (spreadsheets.) just by swapping all the pixels on the screen. General purpose computing shifts your mood as soon as you switch apps. Why can't I have a machine(s?) with a predictable outcome like my Kindle. It screams: this device is meant for reading and there's nothing else I can do with it.

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Lately I've been wondering if I should get into building my own computer. For the sake of art, not to productise or solve world problems. It should be for a specific domain, my first thought being music creation. My next thought is: "but can I use it for other things as well?" and we're back at the start again.

Or should I build a computer specifically for programming? What would I program though? Isn't every programmable environment by definition multi-purpose? Should the form follow function? Or would it be refreshing to have function follow form for a change?

I want to build a dada computer.

(Inspired by To Make a Modern Totem)

A modern totem pt. 1 - Interactivity
Jelle Ack
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