Category Archives

Technology

SimCity turns 25

One of the most influential things I did as a child was spending time on my aunt’s Mac when I’d visit in the summers.  That little LC series machine in the early 90s was my window to a lot of things that would later become a huge part of my adult life (including my current career).  But one thing that stands out as particularly memorable was a packet of 3.5″ disks that contained a game that would shape my entire worldview.  Yes, I’m talking about SimCity, the little black & white game that infected my brain starting around the age of seven – and hasn’t stopped.

SimCity 5

one of my most recent cities – because, yes, I’m still playing

Doug Bierend sat down with SimCity’s creator, the venerable Will Wright, over at the re:form collection on Medium to discuss his games and their enduring legacy on the 25th anniversary of the Sim game that started everything.  I’ve pulled a few quotes that do a really good job summing up my love for the Sim games, but the entire piece “SimCity That I Used to Know” is well worth the read.

Wright’s games—if you can call them that—were uniquely influential for a generation of kids with access to computers in the 90s. [...] An imaginative player could weave their own stories [...]

These toys were especially effective for kids who were at an age when the real and the imaginary seem less distinct. Watching as the little cities exhibited behavior in reaction to the player’s actions created a link between us [and] the game.

“I think that play, in a more general sense, is fundamentally one of the ways that we understand the world, the real world,” says Wright, “as is storytelling. I think the two are both kind of educational technologies, and that’s the part that interests me [...]”

“Players right off the bat were forced to sit down and in fact pick their goals,” Wright says. [...] “At that point, they’re also having to clarify their internal model of the way a city operates…all of a sudden your assumptions become clear to you.”

I certainly emerged from my hunched sessions with my pet cities carrying a new appreciation for the world around me.

Touring the Energy Innovation Center

View from the Penn State Center

view from the soon-to-be Penn State Center offices

I had the pleasure and good fortune to be invited along today on a tour of the Energy Innovation Center led by the incredibly informative Thomas Bartnik. My invite was proffered by Deno De Ciantis, director of the Penn State Center, a partner in the project that has been transforming the former Connelly School into a new hub for all things sustainable, forward thinking and transformative in the region. The Penn State Center will be moving offices to a wholly renovated, 11,000 square foot space in what had been teaching work shops for trade students – giving them ample room for their growing menu of programming and community outreach. As you can see above, the views are pretty great, too.

Penn State Center offices

long view of the Penn State Center offices

I was joined on my tour by two instructors from Greater Allegheny’s campus and a dozen STEM program summer students as well as representatives from another local organization interested in sustainable practices. Hard hats were required, as were reflective vests and protective eyewear, so we definitely looked the part as we made our way through a very active construction site. The entire project got started just 18 months ago and, considering the Connelly School covers 180,000 square feet, is moving at a staggering clip. So fast, in fact, that the Penn State Center expects to take control of its space in just a few more weeks.

My own interest in the Penn State Center is two-fold. Many Media Commons projects across the Commonwealth see students taking on service learning-type projects with local community groups. Having a strong ally in the Center would allow for Media Commons to connect faculty assigning these projects with non-profits and other organizations in and around Pittsburgh to create great educational opportunities. Additionally, the Center itself would be a spectacular spot to bring together the campus and wider communities for training, research and traditional teaching – while, at the same time, putting our media production resources in front of a much larger audience.

And this is just from my sphere. Other spaces and amenities coming online will include a 750+ seat auditorium, shared 100+ person conference center, workshare spaces in the PGH Green Innovators offices, sustainable systems teaching opportunities (with exposed, color coded infrastructure) and flexible events spaces throughout. The potential impact of the Penn State Center in Pittsburgh on all areas of Penn State’s mission of bringing education to the Commonwealth is absolutely thrilling.

Check out the rest of the tour photos here and stay tuned for more developments:

Funded: a frame from the future

With just under a month still to go in its campaign, I’m happy to say that I’ve become one of the backers that have pushed the EO1 from Electric Objects well (read: 811% as of this morning) past its funding target.  It’s going to be a long wait until May 2015 when I can get my very own infinite-art-collection-in-a-frame.

Watch: Warhol’s lost experiments

I had the very good fortune of attending the debut of this latest episode of the Hillman Photography Initiative’s video series, The Invisible Photograph, over the weekend at the Carnegie Library/Museum of Art. The film is just 20 minutes or so long and covers the nerdtastic work of artists and retro computer boffins who extracted Andy Warhol’s mid-80s Amiga experimentations.

The event itself was both a screening of the above video and a panel discussion with Cory Arcangel, Golan Levin, Keith Bare, Michael Dille and John Ippolito – the latter being my favorite part as it was both deeply philosophical and extreme humorous. What’s more, some of the original Commodore engineers who were tasked with working alongside Warhol in preparation for the Lincoln Center Amiga reveal turned up in the crowd and shared amazing anecdotes.

Definitely check out the Hillman Photography Initiative via NowSeeThis.org.

Also turning 30 this month

I’m happy to say that I’ve only spent 20 days in a world without the Mac.  It’s really come to define my day to day life as a platform and a phenomenon and I’m not sure where I’d be professionally or creatively without it.  And that’s not just fanatic gushing – the Mac was how I taught myself to be who I am in my career today.

Check out Apple’s entire Thirty Years of Mac feature for more on what others think of the little computer that could do so much.

Watch: “Do Digital Natives Exist?”

I can’t tell you the number of times that faculty (or my mother) have told me that they just don’t understand computers in the way that I do because they didn’t have them around for their entire lives.  I certainly understand the sentiment, but it really falls apart on closer inspection.  The first computer that I used (an Apple IIe) bears very little resemblance to the iPad mini I use to browse the web for videos like this one.  Those that are considered “digital natives” are forced to adapt just as much as those born before computers existed.  And they also need training and support on tools that they are unfamiliar with, just like anyone else.  So you can imagine my moment of “right on-ness” with this latest Idea Channel transmission.  What do you think?

Let’s fast-track this one, shall we?

I was prepared to roll my eyes at another airline “innovation” but I can actually get behind Morph from seymourpowell.  Imagine being able to upgrade your seat without the stupid divisions between front and back of the plane.  Or just to have reclining functions without encroaching on or being encroached upon by – other passengers.  I’d imagine the use of no foam also cuts down on the environmental impact of manufacturing all of those seats and prevents them from wearing out as quickly, to boot.  If only the seats could also roll forward and backward…

Fully charged

Honestly, I don’t think io9 was excited enough about the supercapacitor – found by accident – profiled in this video.  Holy crud, this could change so much so quickly if it all pans out!