of array programming, lightsabers and some thoughts on permacomputing
A bit of this and that, some kind of mishmosh.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading a lot about array programming systems like J, K, Q, APL, and BQN. I’ve been intending to add a page to the wiki about them, but haven’t gotten to that yet. Consider this a little promise that I’ll do that sometime soon. I’m interested in array programming less because I think it’s particularly useful for me (it’s not) and more because I am captivated by the poetics it invites.
If I had a personal theory of programming (I don’t) it would be something like
programming is writing poetry that acts on input and data to cause a known effect.
Array programming systems invite a different sort of metre and verse to that poetry. They force ya towards something like haiku whereas most other languages want you to stick to a yawn inducing iambic pentameter.
Beyond that reading, I re-watched the original Star Wars movies — IV, V, VI — this past week with my older kid. Their reaction to them was skepticism, and being convinced that the Ewoks ate the dead Imperials after the Battle of Endor…which could be true?
A blog post I wrote a few months back at work got published. It is my attempt at sneaking in some thoughts on permacomputing into a more “normal” setting. The timing of the post was oddly synchronous with a few things, one of which is my thinking a lot more about permacomputing:
A lot of the dialogue around permacomputing that I’ve seen seems intertwined with a certain aesthetic sensibility that is entangled with the demo scene and retro computing communities. While I think both these spaces are kinda rad, I think they’re specifically prone to a certain flavor of navel gazing…a flavor focused on specific tech stacks, and tooling, and apparent minimalism. It’s a flavor that leaves a gap in the conversation around what I’d call the “why” of permacomputing.
Most of the conversations I see are hyper focused on the “how” and “what” of permacomputing. “How” and “what” cover the skeleton, “we use X system running on Y reclaimed hardware.” The discussions that gesture at “why” that I see tend to be like “because it’s the more harmonious way to do computation given that we’re living amidst climate collapse.” And, while that is a great reason for choosing lower impact tools, I think the community generally misses what I see as the most important bit of permacomputing:
Let permacomputing be an invitation to question why and how much computation ought to be involved with a thing, and, if that computation is being used to increase or decrease the anomie between folks…and with what impact to the world?
My take on permacomputing is that it’s a way of approaching computation that’s further distanced from the goals of capitalism. It is an effort to re-imagine our tech landscape, and in so doing enchant it with values that support, for lack of a better word, “balance.”