Saturday, 8 August 2015

Thinking about computers and keyboards

I am not really sure where I am going with this post. But I will just keep rambling on about things that goes through my mind.

I used to have an old Keytronics keyboard that I really loved. The buttons was perfect, the layout was  perfect, it was of quite good quality. And it was the same keyboards they used everywhere in schools and libraries where I lived. So I learned to type at those early in life until we got a PC at home, with a Keytronics keyboard ofcourse.

Then, after about 15 years or so the keyboard was in such a bad condition and was so dirty that I had to throw it out.
I don't remember when that was really. I do remember going to the store, I was a poor student then. I was looking around the store for keyboards with those large high keys and the same layout as my old.
But nope, the only ones available at the market by then was these flat laptop-style keyboards with compact size. I needed a keyboard ASAP, so I just bought something cheap. And I have hated it since then.

I have an old Happy Hacking keyboard that I really liked for other reasons, it is kind of cute. The problem for me is still the compact size because it takes time for me to find special buttons and writing swedish letterd å,ä & ö, but the compact size is kind of the point with the keyboard.  I liked it as a keyboard that I could bring with me. Used it with my ps3 and so on.

Now, I wrote about a facebook friend who bought a Corsair keyboard with RGB leds. I remember hearing about those, but they were too expensive for me. What made me think now is how this buzzword "mechanical keyboard" just suddenly is in the air. And they almost made it into rocket science with all those blue, red, black or brown buttons. And different models you have to choose from.

Also how people speak, if I for example say to someone "I want this really cool RGB keyboard" and then get an answer like, "Have you ever used a mechanical keyboard before?"... Really? Why do some people fall for the marketing tricks so easily. The technology is old, it is just "re-invented" for a gaming audience who missed the old Keytronics clunky buttons, right? So they saw there's a market for this old stuff. Lets make it sound like it is somethig new.

And then these pro-gamers speak in a way that makes it sound like you have to be some kind of professional to use this kind of special technology made especially for them. Seriously, yes, keybaords made especially for gamers. Where do I fit in?

What is a "mechanical keyboard" I think. Aren't all keyboards that exists physically "mechanical"? Compared to say a keyboard that is rendered on a touch display.

This Pro PC gamer market that exists now is so alien to me. I still would like to have one of those Corsair RGB keyboards anyway :) No matter if they are for gamers or not.

Hrm, anyway, it is like they see a computer from a different angle. I have this old view of the computer as a tool for number crunching. A tool to help you do things, in science or in engineering.
Then there are games, and that is fun. But for me a computer is not solely constructed for playing games. It doesn't keep me from wanting the latest and fastest Nvidia GPU, because I see that as a superfast numbercruncher aswell. And I do play a few games. But this PC Gamer market of computer components feels so unessecary. It is ONLY marketing tricks in my mind. Go back to tje post where I bought a new power supply for my computer. It came in a specially designed bag, with an extra bag for cables. Silly. They could have made it 200sek cheaper without thise things. What is important is what components is it built with, is it of good quality. I hope they don't use that unreliable TNY278 Off-Line switcher again. Because then this fancy bag won't help much.

I don't know what has happened to people. When I was a teenager there used to be so called "demoparties". You might have heard about Assembly in Finland or The Gathering in Norway or Dreamhack in Sweden. There were some hardcore demoscene parties in other places in Europe. But there was something that was really popular. Ah whatever.

Back then I felt people had the idea of a computer in a very different light, then what the common kid today has. Back then, the cool people did programming and music with their computers and showed others what they had done. And at the parties the best part was to see people showing their stuff and there might be a competition were everyone would vote. Or they made their own games or software. In my generation, with the C64 and Amiga you always got a programming in Basic manual with it. And the computer manual would describe all sorts of different hardware related stuff, almost like a datasheet or service guide.

So, from our point of view then, a computer was something pretty advanced at first sight. But if you wanted to dig into the manuals and the programming, you get a better understanding of how the computer works and you see it's quite simple and logical.

Now there is no BASIC manual shipped with the computer. There is no manual that comes with it that desribes the signals and the protocol from a USB port. Computers are way more advanced these days. But the OS needs to be oversimplified for people to use it. So people think, "Computers are simple, my computer is a MS Windows computer", or the other one "An Apple computer", because there doesn't exist anything else than those two. Really, without any deeper understanding of things whatsoever. So it is almost the opposite compared to how it was.

Writing a hardware manual for a modern PC would be thicker than a bible. Modern CPU's are so advanced and complex, shipping a manual or a datasheet of that.... :/

Well, I don't take for granted that every single person who buys a computer need to become a computer engineer. People use computers for different things, so both Microsoft and Apple is doing the right thing.

But my point is. For me, programming the computer was something that was introduced to me when I got the computer. That is gone now. You still get introduced to programming in other ways online, if you want to.

I wonder, if there would be a market for selling computers that comes with a pre-installed Linux distro and some good books on programming with it... but yeah, then comes the other part, they want to jump from A to Z and do advanced game programming. And Linux doesn't really have that authority, or is not famed as the best platform for games. And ofcourse, if you are a kid then you want to make games. I wanted to anyway :)

I did get a little bit of a nostalgic feeling when the Raspberry Pi was new. So hopefully the self-thaught programmer is not quite dead yet.

I wonder if people see computers from a different perspective now. Today it seems like people take for granted that a PC == Windows, and the other expensive one is Apple. There are no other types of computers. Even though they are practically the same hardware, with different software on them.

The demoscene is almost gone. When I have been at Dreamhack, people who want to show their programs or music they've made. The audience does not show much interest anymore. No cheering or applauding. They're too busy playing their games. That is the reason why they're at Dreamhack, to play games. I've got nothing against games. But I just feel that things are going in the wrong direction. What happened to "hack" in Dreamhack?

Back then, those really good programmers that where able to make those almost impossible effects with their computets might have gone and get a job and are now programmers maybe doing games.

But they were self thaught. Today I can't help but feel that youngsters expect school to teach them make games. You can't learn anything on your own.

I don't know which is best, now or then... Well ofcourse it is better now in a way. Computers are faster and better in many ways.

Kids can still get self thaught in programming. And that is also the way I recommend is the best way, because if you have the interest and the ambitions and the motivation, you can learn alot from online tutorials.

But I still can't help but feel how things have changed for the worse. Back then, good programmers was the cool people, people cheered and, yes, infact even cried when the demos was shown. I do remember people talking about getting a litte moist in the eyes the first time Farbrausch showed their 64Kb demo, The Product. But if you would show that to a Dreamhack audience today, not so many people would understand it. The graphics would ofcourse be ugly. Not many people would get it...

-"They made this in 64Kb, graphics, models, music, everything!"

-"OK? So what?"

Today skilled PC game players are the cool people at Dreamhack, and behind that is just ALOT of commersialism and money... Games are fun, but all the marketing brainwashing and PC Gamer industry, that is the boring part of today. Except RGB lit keyboards are really cool.

/Happy Hacking...

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