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Alan Kay on “Ought to net browsers have caught to being doc viewers?” and a dialogue of Smalltalk, NeWS and HyperCard | by Don Hopkins | Jan, 2023

Alan Kay on “Ought to net browsers have caught to being doc viewers?” and a dialogue of Smalltalk, NeWS and HyperCard | by Don Hopkins | Jan, 2023

2023-01-08 17:39:23

Alan Kay
Alan Kay

Alan Kay answered: “Truly fairly the alternative, if “doc” means an imitation of previous static textual content media (and later together with photos, and audio and video recordings).”

Alan Kay Wrote:

Truly fairly the alternative, if “doc” means an imitation of previous static textual content media (and later together with photos, and audio and video recordings).

It was being keen to accept a very easy textual content format and formatting scheme — “for comfort” — that began the net media structure off in fully the mistaken path (together with the too easy reference scheme c.f. Doug Engelbart and Ted Nelson). Circa early 90s, it had the appear and feel of an atavistic hack. I anticipated that Netscape would repair this relatively than simply attempt to dominate what was there (I anticipated a greater structure each for “desirous about media within the age of computing” and likewise one thing not like “an app” however extra like an working system to cope with the precise methods necessities, calls for, and scalings of the world-wide Web-in-progress).

It’s each surprisingly and dismayingly tough to get individuals — particularly computerists — to criticize the net and the net browsers — much more so maybe at this time.

That is regardless of the obvious indisputable fact that the interactive media offered by the net and browsers has all the time been a hefty and qualitative subset of the media on the very private computer systems that run the net browsers.

On the time of the WWW’s inception — within the early 90s — I made a number of suggestions — particularly to Apple the place I and my analysis group had been for various years — and usually to the sphere. These have been partially based mostly on the scope and scalings that the Web was beginning to broaden into.

  1. Apple’s Hypercard was a terrific and extremely profitable end-user authoring system whose media was scripted, WYSIWYG, and “symmetric” (within the sense that the “reader” may flip round and “writer” in the identical high-level phrases and types). It must be the beginning of — and the information for — the “Consumer Expertise” of encountering and coping with net content material.
  2. The underlying system for a browser shouldn’t be that of an “app” however of an Working System whose job could be to protectively and safely run encapsulated methods (i.e. “actual objects”) gotten from the net. It must be the way in which that net content material might be open-ended, and never tied to useful subsets within the browser.

I identified that — as with the Macintosh itself — these two suggestions — which appear to be considerably at odds — need to be reconciled. The primary suggestion could be the following stage within the wonderful Macintosh “tips” about its person expertise (Chris Espinosa and others have by no means been praised extremely sufficient for this vital work). These tips laid out the conventions to be adopted for any app of any performance — they’re the components that have to be comparable.

The second suggestion was to strengthen the concept that the content material to be run throughout the system needed to be as free from the instruments of the OS as completely attainable (as a result of particular wants typically require particular designs and many others). An instance, was that the content material wanted to have the ability to generate its personal graphics if vital (even when the OS provided some graphics instruments). The extra the content material needed to go its personal means, the extra its presentation to the customers needed to be made to evolve to the requirements in (1). As with all respectable OS, it has to permit for brand new concepts whereas additionally offering the assets for security, effectivity, and to manifest person experiences.

If we squint at a number of the implications of each of those, we are able to discover various good rules from the previous. One in every of them — as an actual precept — I hint to the primary Unix methods at Bell Labs. The design was partly a response towards the extraordinarily complicated group of the Multics OS at MIT. One of many nice realizations of the early Unix was that the *kernel* of an OS — and basically the one half that must be in “supervisor mode” — would solely handle time (quanta for interleaved computations) and house (reminiscence allocation and ranges) and encapsulation (processes) — every little thing else must be expressible within the common vanilla processes of the system. Extra performance might be provided by the assets that got here together with the OS, however these ought to simply be replaceable by developer processes when desired.

The unique thought was to instigate as a lot progress as attainable with out incurring lock-in to an enormous OS, however to guard what wanted to be protected and guarantee a threshold of system integrity and reliability.

Sidebar: maybe the perfect early structuring and subsequent stage design of Unix was Locus by Gerry Popek and his researchers at UCLA within the early 80s. Locus allowed reside Unix processes emigrate not simply from one machine to a different on a community, however to a wide range of machine varieties. This was finished by combining the protection required for interrupts with a number of code hooks in every course of, so an “interrupt” may enable the method to be moved to a unique machine and resumed with totally different (equal) code. It was simple to see that combining this with an end-user language would offer a network-wide system that might run compatibly over all the Web. Quickly after arriving at Apple ca 1984, I attempted to get them to purchase Locus, however the “powers that be” on the time couldn’t see it.

Be aware that when such a system is made interactive — e.g. utilizing the sweeping concepts from the ARPA/Parc analysis neighborhood — the end-users must have a person interface framework that’s generically comparable as a lot as attainable over all functions — and that this may battle with the freedoms wanted for brand new concepts and infrequently new functionalities.

So this is a vital, massive, and tough design drawback.

My complaints concerning the net and the net browsers have been about how poorly they have been considered and carried out, and the way weak are each the functionalities of net content material and the means for going ahead and fixing as most of the most important errors as attainable.

A method to take a look at the place issues are at this time is that the circumstances of the Web compelled the net browsers to be increasingly like working methods, however with out the design and the look-aheads which are wanted.

  1. There’s now an enormous vary of conventions each internally and externally, and a few of them require and do use a dynamic language. Nonetheless, neither the structure of this nor the type of the language, or the types of how one will get to the language, and many others. are remotely organized for the end-users. The thresholds are ridiculous when in comparison with each the wants and the chances.
  2. There’s now one thing like a very designed OS that’s the organizer and supplier of “options” for the non-encapsulated net content material. This can be a catastrophe of lock-in, and with truly little or no bang for the buck.

This was all finished after — generally significantly after — a lot better conceptions of what the net expertise and powers must be like. It seems to be like “a hack that grew”, partly as a result of most customers and builders have been pleased with what it did do, and had no thought of what else it *ought to do* (and particularly the bigger destinies of pc media on world-wide networks).

To attempt to reply the query, let me use “Licklider’s Imaginative and prescient” from the early 60s: “the future of computing is to change into interactive mental amplifiers for all humanity pervasively networked worldwide”.

This doesn’t work in the event you solely attempt to imitate previous media, and particularly the tough to compose and edit properties of previous media. It’s a must to embody *all media* that computer systems may give rise to, and you must do it in a kind that enables each “studying” and “writing” and the “equal of literature” for all customers.

Examples of how you can do a few of this existed earlier than the net and the net browser, so what has occurred is {that a} critically weak subset has managed to dominate the imaginations of most individuals — together with pc individuals — to the purpose that what is feasible and what’s wanted has for all intents and functions disappeared.

Footnote about “Ever increasing necessities at Parc” (prompted by Phillip Remaker’s remark and query)

When Gary Starkweather invented and acquired the primary laser printer going in a short time, and at astounding speeds (a web page per second, 500 pixels per inch), there was a push to get considered one of these on the networked Altos (for which the Ethernet had been invented). The thought was to make use of an Alto as a server that would arrange and run a laser printer to quickly print top quality paperwork.

A number of of the perfect graphics individuals at Parc created a wonderful “printing normal” for a way a doc was to be despatched to the printer. This information construction was parsed on the printer aspect and adopted to arrange printing.

However only a few weeks after this, extra doc necessities surfaced and with them extra printing necessities.

This led to a “unhappy realization” that sending an information construction to a server is a horrible thought if the levels of freedom wanted on the sending aspect are massive.

And ultimately, this led to a “completely satisfied realization”, that sending a program to a server is an excellent thought if the levels of freedom wanted on the sending aspect are massive.

John Warnock and Martin Newell have been experimenting with a easy versatile language that would categorical arbitrary decision impartial photographs — known as “JAM” (for “John And Martin” — and it was realized that sending JAM applications — i.e. “actual objects” to the printer was a a lot better thought than sending an information construction.

It’s because a common interpreter can each be fairly small and likewise can have extra levels of freedom than any information construction (that isn’t a program). This system must be run in a protected deal with house within the printer pc, however it may be granted entry to a bit-buffer, and no matter it does to it may well then be printed out “blindly”.

This supplies a a lot better match up between a desktop publishing system (which is able to need to print on any of the printers out there, and shouldn’t need to find out about their resolutions and different properties), and a printer (which shouldn’t need to know something concerning the app that made the doc).

“JAM” ultimately grew to become Postscript (however that’s one other story).

Key Level: “sending a program, not an information construction” is a really large thought (and likewise scales very well if some thought is put into simply how this system is about up).

Phillip Remaker replied:

That is incredible. Did you will have an opinion on Solar’s Community Extensible Window System? It appeared like that was the successful thought, however licensing charges killed it. X was a lot worse, but it surely was free.

Economics appears to rule the day — issues which are low-cost/free get extra mindshare and traction than something you must purchase, even when the last word prices find yourself a lot greater.

Alan Kay Replied:

I favored NEWS so far as it went. I don’t know why it was so cobbled collectively — Solar may have finished much more. For instance, the scalable pixel-independent Postscript imaging mannequin, geometry and rendering was a very good factor to attempt to use (it had been used within the Andrew system by Gosling at CMU) and Solar had the assets to optimize each HW and SW for this.

However Postscript was not properly set as much as be a common programming language, particularly for making home windows oriented frameworks or OS extensions. And Solar was very intertwined with each “college Unix” and C — so not sufficient was finished to make the high-level a part of NEWS both high-level sufficient or complete sufficient.

A extremely good factor they need to have tried is to make a Smalltalk from the “Blue E-book” and use the Postscript imaging mannequin as a subsequent step for Bitblt.

Additionally, Hypercard was very a lot in proof for a goodly portion of the NEWS period — by some means Solar missed its significance.

And so forth.

Don Hopkins Replied:

Hello Alan! Outdoors of Solar, on the Turing Institute in Glasgow, Arthur van Hoff developed a NeWS based mostly reimagination of HyperCard in PostScript, first known as GoodNeWS, then HyperNeWS, and eventually HyperLook. It used PostScript for code, graphics, and information (the axis of eval).
Like HyperCard, when a person clicked on a button, the Click on message may delegate from the button, to the cardboard, to the background, then to the stack. Any of them may have a script that dealt with the Click on message, or it may bubble up the chain. However HyperLook prolonged that chain over the community by then delegating to the NeWS consumer, sending Postscript information over a socket, so you possibly can use HyperLook stacks as front-ends for networked functions and video games, like SimCity, a mobile automata machine simulator, a Lisp or Prolog interpreter, and many others.

Alan Kay Replied:

Hello Don

Thanks for this data (I wasn’t conscious of it). I want he had finished an actual end-user language for this: it will have been fairly one thing to behold I feel!

Don Hopkins Replied:

If you happen to choose C-syntax-like languages over PostScript, Arthur van Hoff additionally wrote “PdB”, an “object oriented” C to PostScript compiler. You possibly can subclass PostScript lessons from C and subclass C lessons from PostScript! Conceptually it was loads just like the Goal C and TypeScript supply=>supply compilers, and we used it to jot down a number of the HyperLook widgets, and different individuals like Leigh Klotz used it at Xerox too. Right here’s a paper Arthur wrote about it:

Syntactic Extensions to PdB to Support TNT Classing Mechanisms

Leigh Klotz has written extra PostScript than Jamie too, whereas working at Xerox!

Leigh Klotz’s touch upon the regex article:

>OK, I feel I’ve written extra PostScript by hand than Jamie, so I assume he thinks I’m not studying this. Again within the previous days, I designed a system that used unimaginable quantities of PostScript. One factor that made it simpler for us was a C-like syntax to PS compiler, finished by a fellow on the Turning Institute. We licensed it and used it closely, and I prolonged it a bit to have the ability to deal with uneven stack-armed IF, and added sorts of inheritance. The venture was known as PdB and ultimately it folded, and the writer left and went to First Individual Software program, the place he wrote a really comparable language syntax for one thing known as Oak, and it compiled to bytecodes as an alternative of PostScript. Oak acquired renamed Java.

Right here’s the PdB object oriented C to PostScript compiler and plenty of different NeWS stuff:

Open Look Base Window (.h file, .pdb file, and ensuing .ps file):

Owen Densmore at Solar was very a lot impressed by Smalltalk’s object oriented programming system, and wrote “” which was the premise for NeWS’s object oriented person interface toolkit. Right here’s his unique 1986 Usenix Monterey Graphics Convention paper about it, “Object Oriented Programming in NeWS”:

Object Oriented Programming in NeWS, by Owen Densmore

PostScript’s dynamic binding over the dictionary stack made it very simple to implement prototypical objects as PostScript dictionaries, together with a number of inheritance. You may dynamically promote strategies and variables to situations (occasion strategies and dynamic properties are important for implementing HyperCard-like and Smalltalk-like prototype based mostly methods).

Kragen is true that PostScript is much more like Lisp or Smalltalk than Forth, particularly once you use Owen Densmore’s object oriented PostScript programming system (which NeWS was based mostly on). PostScript is semantically very totally different and far greater degree that Forth, and syntactically much like Forth however makes use of completely totally different names (exch as an alternative of swap, pop as an alternative of drop, and many others).

Owen Densmore recounted John Warnock’s concept that PostScript was truly a “linguistic motherboard”. (This was a part of a dialogue with Owen about NeFS, which was a proposal for the following model of NFS to run a PostScript interpreter within the kernel. Extra about that right here:)

Window System? ..NeWS ain’ no stinkin’ Window System!
Swiss Military NeWS: A Programmable Community Facility


NeWS is obscure just because it’s *not* only a window system. It’s a “Swiss Military Knife” containing a number of elements, a few of which contribute to its use as a window system, others which offer the networking amenities for implementing the client-server mannequin, all embedded in a programmable substrate permitting extraordinarily versatile and inventive mixture of those components.

Throughout the preliminary implementation section of the Macintosh LaserWriter software program, I quickly transfered from Apple to Adobe working carefully with John Warnock and different Adobe engineers. At lunch in the future, I requested: “John, what do you propose to do after LaserWriter?” His reply was fascinating:

>PostScript is a linguistic “mom board”, which has “slots” for a number of “playing cards”. The primary card we (Adobe) constructed was a graphics card. We’re contemplating different playing cards. Specifically, we’ve considered different community providers, similar to a file server card.

He went on to say how a programmable community was actually his aim, and that the printing work was simply the primary element. His mentioning utilizing PostScript for a file server is especially fascinating: Solar’s subsequent model of NFS goes to make use of PostScript with file extentions because the client-server protocol!

This paper explores NeWS on this gentle: as a Programmable Community Facility, a serious a part of Solar’s future networking technique.

Alan Kay Replied:

Hello Don

This work is so good — for any time — and particularly for its time — that I don’t need to sully it with any criticisms in the identical reply that incorporates this reward.

I’ll confess to not figuring out about most of this work till your feedback right here — and this lack of expertise was a minus in various methods wrt a number of the work that we did at Viewpoints since ca 2000.

(Separate reply) My solely actual remorse about this terrific work is that your group missed the importance for private computing of the design of Hypertalk in Hypercard.

It’s not even that Hypertalk is the perfect attainable option to resolve the issues and objectives it took on — arduous to say a method or one other — however I assume it’s the finest instance ever truly finished and given to tens of millions of finish customers. And by fairly a distance.

Dan Winkler and Invoice Atkinson violated loads of vital rules of “good programming language design”, however they achieved the primary general system during which end-users “may see their very own faces”, and will do many tasks, and be taught as they went.

For a lot of causes, a second go on the end-user programming drawback — that takes benefit of what was realized from Hypercard and Hypertalk — has by no means been finished (AFAIK). The Etoys system in Squeak Smalltalk within the early 2000s was very profitable, however the design was purposely restricted to eight–11 yr olds (partly due to constraints from working at Disney).

It’s fascinating to ponder that the observe on system won’t have a detailed resemblance to Hypertalk — maybe solely a obscure one ….

Don Hopkins Replied:

I got here into PostScript from a FORTH background, so it was pure for me, however way more like Lisp and Smalltalk in its greater degree semantics. Programming NeWS in PostScript was form of like programming in bytecode (as loads of bytecode VMs are stack machines). However the PostScript dictionary stack gave you Self-like complete management over the dynamic binding atmosphere that enabled you to “roll your personal” object methods (which Owen Densmore did), and even do bizarre issues like stacking up nested sub-objects (that was how the PSIBER House deck fairly printing format labored, so views may inherit graphical properties like measurement, scale issue, and many others, from their mother and father). I feel what you’re suggesting is that Solar may have used the decrease degree PostScript language as a low degree “bytecode” to implement the next degree person pleasant scripting language, which is an excellent thought!

I feel Dave Winer’s work is a fruitful strategy, which began with the MORE outliner on the Mac, that he developed into the Userland Frontier’s “UserTalk” scripting language, whose syntax and information construction format is an precise outliner (notably fairly properly designed and simple to make use of — getting that proper counts for A LOT).

He truly launched Frontier earlier than Apple launched AppleScript, and it totally supported their open scripting structure. Wikipedia: “On the time of its unique launch, Frontier was the one system-level scripting atmosphere for the Macintosh, however Apple was working by itself scripting language, AppleScript” I’ve written extra about its fascinating historical past on Hacker Information, and linked to a few of his demos:

I wrote some stuff in earlier HN discussions about outliners and spreadsheets, and likewise some stuff about Dave Winer’s Frontier, which I’ll quote and hyperlink to right here:

Userland Software program and Frontier:

Alan Kay Replied:

Hello Don

The Frontier website (pointed at within the Wikipedia article appears to have been taken over by Indonesians. Another hyperlinks to recommend?

The most important drawback with AppleScript — possibly additionally with Frontier — is that the uncooked APIs and “messaged values” of the apps have been poorly organized and advert hoc. There wanted to be mappings into a greater designed semantics to make most of those useable by an end-user (and even most pro-users).

Don Hopkins Replied:

Tom Stambaugh described how Smalltalk impressed Owen Densmore’s PostScript object oriented system in NeWS, extra about “one other story” you point out about JAM/Interpress/PostScript, and I linked to an amazing story by Brian Reid about PostScript historical past on Hacker Information right here:

I’ll manually transclude the hn posting right here:

Tom Stambaugh described how Smalltalk impressed Owen Densmore’s PostScript object oriented system in NeWS.

Some extent he didn’t point out is that PostScript is instantly descendent from Interpress, which was developed at Xerox PARC and reincarnated as PostScript at Adobe by Chuck Geschke and John Warnock:

Brian Reid’s deep detailed historic dive “PostScript and Interpress: a comparability”:

I additionally assume PostScript owes loads to Lisp (it’s dynamic, homoiconic, polymorphic, symbolic), much more so than Forth.

C2 Wiki: Forth PostScript Relationship

ForthLanguage and PostScript seem superficially comparable, since each languages use a largely postfix-based syntax (see PostfixNotation). Since Forth predates PostScript by fairly a couple of years, PostScript is usually assumed to be descended from Forth.

Tom Stambaugh wrote:

It appears to me that Forth is to stacks what LispLanguage is to lists. Forth demonstrated some great benefits of a stack-centric paradigm during which every pushed or popped merchandise might be evaluated as an expression or a primitive. Postscript displays the applying of that paradigm to the world of typography, 2-d graphics, and web page format. My very own recollection is that Postscript’s major contribution was the usage of splines to explain character glyphs, permitting them to be successfully rendered at nearly any decision desired. If something, Postscript owes extra to TexLanguage and DonaldKnuth than to Forth. I view the stack-based language paradigm as a handy afterthought relatively than a central organizing precept.

I additionally assume we should always word the contribution that OwenDensmore, at Solar, made in demonstrating how you can use Postscript dictionaries to create a dynamically-bound object-oriented runtime atmosphere. This was the basic premise of the Solar window server that finally grew to become the NetworkExtensibleWindowSystem. Owen and I mentioned his “loopy” thought at a poolside desk on the now-demolished Hyatt Palo Alto, on El Camino. I instructed him that it made sense to me, we scribbled furiously on napkins, and I helped him see how he would possibly undertake some learnings from Smalltalk. It was a type of afternoons that would solely have occurred at the moment in that place in that tradition. — TomStambaugh

I’ve extracted Owen Densmore’s paper from the information.tape.tar (marked PD), “Object Oriented programming in NeWS”, and uploaded it:

Object Oriented Programming in NeWS, by Owen Densmore

It will require some modification to run in different postscript environments, however not a lot, I feel. It was developed after the first Version Postscript guide however earlier than the second, so it’s thought of a Stage 1.5 Postscript atmosphere. It makes use of dictionaries freely, however the << /Stage-2 (syntax) >> had not but been invented. So it makes use of various nonstandard operators for dictionary assemble. These would have to be simulated or the routines rewritten to make use of Stage 2 syntax. — luserdroog

comp.lang.forth dialogue on “Why is Postscript not Forth?”:

Why is Postscript not Forth? by Don Hopkins

Forth/PostScript dialogue with Mitch Bradley:

Forth/PostScript between Don Hopkins and Mitch Bradley

Right here’s extra about James Gosling’s NeWS window system:

FWIW, right here’s a visible PostScript programming and debugging interface I made for NeWS, known as “PSIBER”, which was impressed by loads of nice concepts from Smalltalk and ThingLab, amongst others, and is form of like Self’s Morphic visible object modifying interface:

The Form of PSIBER House: PostScript Interactive Bug Eradication Routines — October 1989

Pseudo Scientific Visualization of the NeWS root menu object.

Summary: The PSIBER House Deck is an interactive visible person interface to a graphical programming atmosphere, the NeWS window system. It permits you to show, manipulate, and navigate the information constructions, applications, and processes residing within the digital reminiscence house of NeWS. It’s helpful as a debugging software, and as a fingers on option to study programming in PostScript and NeWS.

The PSIBER House Deck is a programming software that permits you to graphically show, manipulate, and navigate the numerous PostScript information constructions, applications, and processes residing within the digital reminiscence house of NeWS.

The Community extensible Window System (NeWS) is a multitasking object oriented PostScript programming atmosphere. NeWS applications and information constructions make up the window system kernel, the person interface toolkit, and even total functions.

The PSIBER House Deck is one such utility, written fully in PostScript, the results of an experiment in utilizing a graphical programming atmosphere to assemble an interactive visible person interface to itself.

It shows views of structured information objects in overlapping home windows that may be moved round on the display screen, and manipulated with the mouse: you’ll be able to copy and paste information constructions from place to put, execute them, edit them, open up compound objects to see their inside construction, regulate the size to shrink or amplify components of the show, and pop up menus of different helpful instructions. Deep or complicated information constructions will be extra simply grasped by making use of numerous views to them. […]

Information and Objects on the NeWS PostScript Stack
NeWS PostScript Object and Class Browsers
Pseudo Scientific Visualization of a Map of Journey
Pseudo Scientific Visualization of a Map of the ARPANET

Mark Miller Replied:

Your article mentions that metropolis staff have been being partly skilled utilizing SimCity. It makes me curious sufficient to ask, “In what means?” In my thoughts, SC modeled the behaviors in a metropolis in solely a shallow facet. So, I may see it will give individuals some primary concepts in methods pondering, in order that they may start to consider the particulars of the town they have been collaborating in governing (which might be totally different from the sport). How did cities discover this sport helpful? Did you perceive particular advantages they have been getting out of it?

I keep in mind as soon as watching a TV present the place, simply as a lark, they’d a toddler (possibly 12 years previous) compete towards an actual life mayor, taking part in SimCity. The present “got here again later” to see how every was doing (for the reason that sport took some time to play, earlier than seeing significant outcomes). The kid was doing loads higher than the mayor! 🙂 He had a sustaining metropolis that had well-ordered format, good financials, and a very good financial system, whereas the mayor’s metropolis regarded like a large number all the way in which round, and was not doing properly. It made me marvel if maybe the mayor was not conversant in the sport, and so didn’t perceive how you can implement his ideas properly in it, or if maybe the sport was much less like an actual metropolis than I might need imagined, and so its dynamics labored very otherwise from his expertise, or possibly he simply didn’t perceive municipal governance properly in any respect (which is feasible).

Don Hopkins Replied:

I completely agree with you. Maybe it was not clear by the formatting, however the quote “The sport is at present being utilized by many authorities places of work to coach their metropolis planners.” was from an electronic mail from a Solar advertising and marketing consultant (the spouse of the proprietor of the small Unix sport firm who licensed the rights for SimCity on Unix, truly), that was circulated internally at Solar to gauge curiosity in SimCity. Chaim Gingold’s excerpted that electronic mail that I offered to him in his dissertation on “Play Design”, during which he wrote about open sourcing SimCity (which I excerpted right here, together with a hyperlink to his dissertation, which is fascinating studying):

Open Sourcing SimCity, by Chaim Gingold

Chaim wrote that:

The potential for a critical utility, similar to GIS, is overblown — it’s arduous to think about SimCity enabling Solar to supply a “true ‘desktop’ GIS answer.” The e-mail, nevertheless, speaks to the enchantment of SimCity as a compelling illustration of a metropolis. Not solely was it critical sufficient for GIS, but it surely was enjoyable, qualities which enabled it to change into absorbed into the present of Solar’s advertising and marketing agenda.

I agree that the thought of utilizing SimCity to coach individuals about metropolis planning is a foolish thought, and that the thought of a sport like SimCity getting used as a “GIS answer” is overblown. However I do imagine that SimCity can be utilized educationally to show many different vital issues apart from metropolis planning itself.

Alan Kay has properly criticized SimCity for hiding the interior simulation away in a “black field” that participant’s can’t see and alter. I share that burning want to see inside, perceive the way it works, and alter it: ever since taking part in it the primary time, I all the time needed to see the supply code, perceive the way it ticked, and implement pie menus for its person interface. That was what motivated me to answer the overhyped electronic mail in search of builders at Solar who have been serious about porting SimCity to Solar workstations.

The primary time I noticed SimCity, I instantly began “Reverse Over-Engineering” it in my thoughts, taking part in round with it, testing its boundaries and limitations, making an attempt to determine the way it labored, and what its fashions have been, and the way they interacted.

Chaim Gingold’s “SimCity Reverse Diagrams” superbly illustrate all that stuff about how SimCity truly works, however these didn’t exist but. Though they’re fascinating to take a look at now, seeing these diagrams earlier than truly taking part in the sport would have spoiled the “Simulator Impact”.

Chaim Gingold’s SimCity Reverse Diagrams

Will Wright outlined the “Simulator Impact” as how sport gamers think about a simulation is vastly extra detailed, deep, wealthy, and sophisticated than it truly is: a magical misunderstanding that you simply (as a sport designer) shouldn’t speak them out of.

He describes the Simulator Impact and different ideas in his grasp class on sport design:

Will designs video games to run on two computer systems directly: the digital one on the participant’s desk, operating his shallow tame simulation, and the organic one within the participant’s head, operating their deep wild creativeness.

“Reverse Over-Engineering” is a fascinating end result of the Simulator Impact: what sport gamers (and sport builders making an attempt to clone the sport) do after they use their creativeness to extrapolate how a sport works, and completely overestimate how a lot work and modeling the simulator is definitely doing, as a result of they stuffed within the gaps with their creativeness and preconceptions and assumptions, as an alternative of realizing what number of simplifications and shortcuts and illusions it truly used.

There’s a reputation for what Wright calls “the simulator impact”: Apophenia.

See Also

Apophenia (/æpoʊˈfiːniə/) is the tendency to mistakenly understand connections and that means between unrelated issues. The time period (German: Apophänie) was coined by psychiatrist Klaus Conrad in his 1958 publication on the start levels of schizophrenia. He outlined it as “unmotivated seeing of connections [accompanied by] a selected feeling of irregular meaningfulness”. He described the early levels of delusional thought as self-referential, over-interpretations of precise sensory perceptions, versus hallucinations.

Extra on the “Simulator Impact”:

Will Wright outlined the “Simulator Impact” as how sport gamers think about a simulation is vastly extra detailed, deep, wealthy, and sophisticated than it truly is: a magical misunderstanding that you simply shouldn’t speak them out of. He designs video games to run on two computer systems directly: the digital one on the participant’s desk, operating his shallow tame simulation, and the organic one within the participant’s head, operating their deep wild creativeness.

“Reverse Over-Engineering” is a fascinating end result of the Simulator Impact: what sport gamers (and sport builders making an attempt to clone the sport) do after they use their creativeness to extrapolate how a sport works, and completely overestimate how a lot work and modeling the simulator is definitely doing, as a result of they stuffed within the gaps with their creativeness and preconceptions and assumptions, as an alternative of realizing what number of simplifications and shortcuts and illusions it truly used.

A greater strategy to utilizing SimCity educationally is thru “Constructionist Training” or “Constructionism”, as outlined by Seymour Papert, and a passionate curiosity of Alan Kay and others on the OLPC venture:

We have been in a position to speak EA/Maxis into relicensing the unique supply code of SimCity totally free underneath GPL-3, for academic use by the OLPC venture and anybody else. I’ve cleaned up the code and redeveloped it underneath SimCity’s unique title, “Micropolis”. Here’s a speak I gave at HAR 2009 about “Micropolis: Constructionist Academic Open Supply SimCity”.

The OLPC is About Constructionist Training

Seymour Papert with a Emblem Turtle

>This OLPC venture is predicated on Seymour Papert’s concepts about teaching children to program, even after they’re very younger, and Alan Kay’s concepts concerning the Dynabook and object oriented programming, and how kids learn.

>One of many vital issues about constructionism is youngsters serving to one another, speaking, and studying from one another.

A cartoon from Alan Kay’s unique analysis paper on the DynaBook

>I tailored the previous X11/Unix model of SimCity to the OLPC XO-I Children’s Laptop. The unique X11 model supported multi participant mode, however I disabled that characteristic to simplify the sport, as a result of it didn’t scale properly, was complicated to configure, and never properly designed. OLPC video games for youths have to be very simple to make use of.

>An indication of OLPC SimCity operating on the One Laptop computer Per Little one XO-1 laptop computer.

Right here’s a abstract of Will Wright’s 1996 speak about “Designing Consumer Interfaces to Simulation Video games”, which he gave to Terry Winnograd’s person interface class at Stanford:

Some educators have requested Maxis to make SimCity expose extra concerning the precise simulation itself, as an alternative of hiding its internal workings from the person. They need to see the way it works and what it relies on, so it’s much less of a sport, and extra academic. However what’s actually occurring inside just isn’t as lifelike as they’d need to imagine: due to its nature as a sport, and the constraint that it should run on low finish house computer systems, it tries to idiot individuals into pondering it’s doing greater than it truly is, by making the most of the data and expectations individuals have already got about how a metropolis is meant to work. Implication is extra environment friendly than simulation.

>Individuals naturally attribute trigger and impact relationships to occasions in SimCity that Will because the programmer is aware of will not be truly associated. Maybe it’s extra academic for SimCity gamers to combine what they already know to fill within the gaps, than letting them in on the key of how easy and discrete it truly is. As an academic sport, SimCity stimulates college students to be taught extra about the actual world, with out revealing the internals of its synthetic simulation. The implementation particulars of SimCity are fairly fascinating for a programmer or sport designer to review, however not your common highschool social research class.

>Educators who need to expose the internals of SimCity to college students might not notice how brittle and shallow it truly is. I don’t imply that as criticism of Will, SimCity, or the educators who’re in search of open, lifelike, common function simulators to be used in educating. SimCity does what it was designed to and way more, but it surely’s not that. Their objectives are noble, however the software program’s not there but. As soon as youngsters grasp SimCity, they may be taught Emblem, or some excessive degree visible programming language like KidSim, and write their very own simulations and video games!

>Different individuals needed to make use of SimCity for the much less noble aim of educating individuals what to assume, as an alternative of simply educating them to assume.

>Everybody notices the apparent built-in political bias, no matter that’s. However everybody sees it from a unique perspective, so no person agrees what its actual political agenda truly is. I don’t assume it’s all that vital, since SimCity’s political agenda pales compared to the political agenda within the eye of the beholder.

>Some muckety-muck structure journal was interviewing Will Wright about SimCity, they usually requested him a query one thing like “which ontological city paradigm most affected your design of the simulator, the Exo-Hamiltonian Sample Language Motion, or the Intra-City Deconstructionist Sub-Tradition Speculation?” He replied, “I simply form of optimized for sport play.”

Then there was the oil firm who needed “Sim Refinery”, so you possibly can use it to put out oil tanker ports and petroleum storage and piping methods, as a result of they thought that it will give their staff helpful expertise in poisonous waste catastrophe administration, in the identical means SimCity offers youngsters helpful expertise in being the mayor of a metropolis.

They didn’t notice that the actual classes of SimCity are way more delicate than educating individuals how you can be good mayors. However the oil firm hoped they may use it to show another classes on their agenda simply by plugging in a brand new set of graphics, a couple of guidelines, and a bunch of disasters.

[…more at the links…]

Mark Miller Replied:

Thanks to your concerned response. 🙂

The purpose concerning the Simulation Impact acquired me pondering of what Nicholas Mayer mentioned about filmmaking, that the filmmaker, relatively than filling in all of the element, ought to use the viewers’s intelligence to fill it in.

I positively get the sense from what Wright mentioned that he was saying, “Look, I used to be simply writing a sport, and making an attempt to make it enjoyable,” nothing greater than that. Don’t make it into something greater than that.

From watching individuals play it, it appeared like there was at the very least the impact of suggestions throughout the sport, that relying on the way you set your parameters, you’ll see some results that “fed” on them. The response was not purely random. I noticed that in your video, “Jack up taxes, and watch everybody depart. Decrease taxes, and see the financial system growth.” 🙂

I keep in mind studying a part of a column written in Compute! Journal once I was a teen that I feel was on “the way forward for gaming.” it talked about relatively than the sport organising the playfield, and the participant having to be taught the foundations inside that playfield, and how you can win inside it, they’d play an energetic half in setting up the playfield. The instance the writer used was a sport idea with a railroad. The sport would comprise totally different observe shapes, and a part of the sport could be the participant laying these shapes down, in order to create a observe {that a} locomotive may run on. The practice would run on regardless of the participant arrange.

I’d seen one thing form of like this with Invoice Budge’s Pinball Development Set, however the idea the writer was speaking about didn’t make sense to me till I noticed individuals taking part in SimCity.

Don Hopkins Replied by way of Electronic mail to Alan Kay, David Rosenthal, and James Gosling (the authors of NeWS):

Hello, Alan, and David and James!

David and James: right here’s an amazing thread on Quora about browsers with Alan Kay’s reply and a dialogue we had about NeWS (you must log in to see the dialogue).

Alan: right here’s an previous posting to slashdot during which David defined a number of the historical past of NeWS, together with the way it was influenced by Smalltalk and different methods, and he talked about the e-book Methodology of Window Programs, considered one of my favourite books that I HIGHLY suggest.

After I was studying about window methods and researching pie menus, I ran throughout it within the UMD engineering library and couldn’t imagine that there was such a deep and specialised e-book about simply what I used to be researching about, together with an article about SunDew! I checked it out, then misplaced it for months, and needed to pay the nice to interchange it (it was a type of outrageously costly silver Springer Verlag books), so I saved it and nonetheless have and cherish it! However now it’s all on-line totally free! So many extraordinarily fascinating articles, particularly Warren Teitelman’s historical past, and the traditional Sundew article by Gosling and Rosenthal that was concerning the earliest model of NeWS.

Methodology of Window Administration

4. Ten Years of Window Systems — A Retrospective View
Warren Teitelman

5. SunDew — A Distributed and Extensible Window System
James Gosling

Alan Kay Replied:

Hello Don and all

Home windows didn’t begin with Smalltalk. The primary *actual* windowing system I do know of was ca 1962, in Ivan Sutherland’s Sketchpad (as with so many different firsts). The logical “paper” was about 1/3 mile on a aspect and the system clipped, zoomed, and panned in actual time. Virtually the identical yr — and utilizing a lot of the identical code — “Sketchpad III” had 4 home windows displaying entrance, aspect, high, and 3D view of the item being made. These two methods arrange the mind-set about home windows within the ARPA analysis neighborhood. One of many large objectives from the beginning was to incorporate the power to do a number of views of the identical objects, and to edit them from any view, and many others.

When Ivan went ca 1967 to Harvard to begin on the primary VR system, he and Bob Sproull wrote a paper concerning the common makes use of of home windows for many issues, together with 3D. This paper included Danny Cohen’s “mid-point algorithm” for quick clipping of vectors. The scheme within the paper had a lot of what later was known as “Fashions-Views-and-Controllers” in my group at Parc. A view within the Sutherland-Sproull scheme had two ends (like a telescope). One finish regarded on the digital world, and the opposite finish was mapped to the display screen. It’s enjoyable to notice that the rectangle on the display screen was known as a “viewport” and the opposite finish within the digital world was known as “the window”. (This acquired modified at Parc, by way of some confusions demoing to Xerox execs).

In 1967, Ed Cheadle and I have been doing “The Flex Machine”, a desktop private pc that additionally had a number of home windows (and Cheadle independently developed the mid-point algorithm for this) — our viewing scheme was a bit easier.

The primary few paragraphs of Teitelman’s “historical past” are fairly mistaken (nevertheless, he was a very good man, and by no means acquired the popularity he deserved for the PILOT system he did at MIT with many of those concepts winding up in Interlisp).

Cheers and finest needs


David Rosenthal Replied:

Alan, thanks for these vital particulars. I’d like to jot down a weblog submit correcting my view of this historical past — might I quote your e-mail?

Is that this paper, “A Clipping Divider”:

The one you confer with?


Alan Kay Replied:

Hello David

Thanks very a lot! Your weblog is an actual addition to the historical past and context wanted to essentially perceive and criticize and enhance at this time.

I want to encourage you to broaden it a bit extra (regardless that you do give fairly a couple of references).

I had very excessive hopes for Solar. After Parc, I needed one thing higher than Smalltalk, and thought Solar had a very good likelihood to do the “subsequent great point” in all of those instructions. And I feel various actual advances have been made regardless of the “low-pass filters” and exigencies of enterprise.

So please do write some extra.

Cheers and finest needs to all


Don Hopkins Replied:

Yeah, it was very unhappy that Solar ended up in Larry Ellison’s grubby fingers. And I certain favored the Solar brand designed by Vaughan Pratt and tilted 45 levels by John Gage (virtually as nice as Scott Kim’s design of the SGI brand), which he simply despatched out to the rubbish dump. (Not less than Fb saved the Solar brand on the again of their signal as a warning to their builders.)

I really imagine that in another alternate dimension, there’s a Flying Emblem Heaven the place the souls of useless flying logos go, the place they dramatically promenade and swoop and spin round one another in pomp and pageantry to bombastic theme music, reliving their glory days on the commerce present flooring and promotional movies.

It will make an amazing display screen saver, at the very least!

David Rosenthal Posted on his Weblog:

Historical past of Window Programs

Alan Kay’s Ought to net browsers have caught to being doc viewers? makes vital factors concerning the structure of the infrastructure for person interfaces, but additionally sparked feedback and an electronic mail change that clarified the early historical past of window methods. That is one thing I’ve wrtten about beforehand, so beneath the fold I’m going into appreciable element.

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