March 13, 2007

bpNichol’s First Screening Screens Again

by Nick Montfort · , 1:23 pm

A three-year project by Jim Andrews, Geof Huth, Lionel Kearns, Marko Niemi, and Dan Waber has come to fruition. The result is that an important set of early digital poems is available once more; the editors, also, have saved the original bits and made the running work available in several emulated, ported, and recorded ways, setting a powerful example for future preservation and porting of digital art, games, and poetry.

code fragment from First Screening

In 1984, bpNichol published a collection of Apple II poems on floppy, in an edition of 100. This First Screening is now available once more on the Web, in a multiplicty of formats: a disk image with the bit-for-bit contents of the floppy issued in 1984; a JavaScript version by Marko J. Niemi and Jim Andrews; a Quicktime movie of the disk image running in emulation; and an earlier Hypercard port published by Red Deer College Press.

While the disk image is labeled the “emulated version,” you don’t have to run the image in emulation. Using Apple Disk Transfer, ADTWin, or a similar program, you can write a real Apple II floppy with the bits on the image and then run it on authentic hardware. Such hardware may be scare, of course, but it’s far easiler to come by than one of bpNichol’s 100 first-edition floppies. I’m planning to suit First Screening up in an Apple II and let it run at some point … but I have this deadline to attend to before I work on that …

One Response to “bpNichol’s First Screening Screens Again”

  1. josh g. Says:

    Very cool. I love how the use of old-school functionality gives it a sense of purely textual playfulness despite making use of animation. There’s no messing around with funky typefaces, no clicky, just letters plain and simple.

    And it totally captures the guilty fascination that probably everyone had when programming in Basic: to force the computer to write thousands and thousands of lines for you, like some kind of after-school punishment, just because it can.
    20 GOTO 10

    Favorite moment: “THIS POEM SAT DOWN TO WRITE YOU”

    I wished there was a pause button while viewing the Javascript version. This isn’t a complaint so much as an observation – is this a desire I bring back anachronistically from what I now expect from digital media, or am I just looking for the ability to set the book down and come back to it later?

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