Marcin Wichary, author of Shift Happens, joins Brett and Christina to talk keyboards, the Playdate, and Mastodon.
- @mwichary on Mastodon
- Shift Happens
- Book goals (2017)
- About me and my book (2023)
- Seiko watch keyboard
- IBM Selectric
- In the land of Invented Languages
- Status Board
- Christina’s GH Lists: mastodon/playdate
Join the Conversation
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Check out more episodes at overtiredpod.com and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. Find Brett as @ttscoff, Christina as @film_girl, Jeff as @jsguntzel, and follow Overtired at @ovrtrd on Twitter.
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The Keyboard Episode
[00:00:00] Marcin: You can
[00:00:04] Brett: Hey, you’re listening to Overtired. Hi. Hi there. I’m Brett Terpstra. I am joined by Christina Warren This week Jeff is out, uh, but we have a special guest to take his place marching. Is it Witchery?
[00:00:18] Marcin: And there’s beginnings of
[00:00:19] Brett: Wickie Witchery.
[00:00:21] Marcin: of course the fonts you can swap. And it’s, you know, my, my kind of mental model was, it’s sort of like the last movie with special effects before CGI where, you know, it’s at dead
[00:00:31] Brett: Yeah. We have, I, I work, I work with a very international team, and some people have resorted to spelling their names phonetically for Amer for like American English speakers. And some people have just basically changed their name because that’s the way everybody says it. It,
[00:00:48] Marcin: incredibly complicated. So,
[00:00:49] Brett: uh, poor Stephan. Everyone calls him Stefan because it’s s t e f a N.
[00:00:55] Christina: I see. And which is how I would say it, but it’s stuff and yeah, that’s not so much.
[00:00:59] Brett: I do [00:01:00] my best. Like, first thing I ask people is like, how do you say your name? And then I do my best to remember, but a lot of times it throws me. So merchant is, he’s, he has a, a book coming out. It’s a Kickstarter right now, um, about keyboards and the history, like 150 years of the, the evolution and progression of the computer, keyboard and typewriter, keyboards and early input devices.
And it is, from what I’ve seen, it’s, it’s, it’s fascinating. I’ve only read excerpts that are up on the Kickstarter page around the shift Happens site, uh, if anyone wants to check it out, that’ll be on this show notes. But yeah, we’re excited to talk. We’re, we’re excited to nerd out about keyboards and, and all of the, uh, all of the work that went into that book today.
[00:01:47] Marcin: Great.
[00:01:48] Brett: how you guys, how, how are you guys, how are you?
[00:01:51] Christina: I’m, I’m good. I’m good. I’d love, love to hear from Merchant Martian because it’s been a busy couple of weeks, right? Because, uh, the, the Kickstarter went live what, uh, like, um, [00:02:00] last week or week before last.
[00:02:01] Marcin: Yeah, a a a week and a half ago. And, and, uh, it, it’s funny, it’s, it’s went really, it’s gone really well. I, I, I’m really grateful for people’s support because the book is, um, I like the book. I hope a lot of people like the book, but it’s a little bit of a strange book. It’s not like a usual book. It’s, it’s, it’s pretty nerdy.
It’s pretty deep, but it’s also very visual. And I think seeing people, um, you know, bucket and we met our goal in 102 hours. Um, it was incredibly validating, but it’s also a strength set of emotions for sure. It’s, it’s, uh, you know, the Kickstarter is kind of like, I mean, it’s going, but it’s, it’s met its goal, but that doesn’t.
The book is ready. The book is still half a year away, so it’s sort of like a strange moment of half celebration, which I think you, you don’t get with maybe traditional publishing, but, uh, you sort of inherited the strange sequence of steps. And, you know, it’s always interesting because [00:03:00] like, I think every big creative projects is tricky because even if it goes really well, it’s over in a way.
Like it is this sort of, it’s almost like a performance, you know, you bring something out there, people maybe like it, maybe don’t like it at probably a combination of both. And then, then there’s this strange like hollowness, right? There’s this sort of the end of the, the, this stage of performance. And so the Kickstarter was very exciting for a while, and then it started quieting down, which, you know, it would, everything would, and now it’s a little strange because I don’t know how to feel exactly.
[00:03:36] Brett: Yeah. Um, I think that’s true of anything that’s, that’s as, that’s as exciting as seeing 500 some thousand dollars come in. Um, there’s , there’s gonna be a, there’s gonna be a hollowness after that excitement is over. Um, Speaking of feeling hollow, you guys wanna do a quick, quick, uh, mental health check in, uh, a mental health corner.
[00:03:59] Mental Health Corner
[00:03:59] Brett: [00:04:00] Erin has told me she, she’s gonna work on our segue music, uh, but I have failed to get her, uh, my notes, so that’s on me at this point. But just imagine, if you will, some like martini music, uh, 1950s, maybe even zox voice saying Mental health corner. Just picture it. Just picture it. Uh, Christina, do you want to kick us off?
[00:04:28] Christina: Yes, mental health corner. Um, my mental health is, is, is pretty good this week. Uh, last week was kind of a mixed bag because I was getting back from vacation and there was the high vacation, which was awesome. And then I was immediately came back from vacation and, um, GitHub announced, um, layoffs and, and so, uh, which is, uh, unfortunately, you know, not, uh, unique for, for the tech industry right now.
Um, Microsoft had announced some, a few weeks. Uh, we’d hoped that we would [00:05:00] be immune. We were not. And, and so that’s, that’s hard. Uh, it brings up, as we’ve talked about on the podcast before, like a lot of past feelings about the industry I used to work in and the uncertainty of things. And it’s just, it’s, you know, and then obviously you, uh, you feel worse for all the people who are losing their jobs.
Um, in addition to the, the, the uncertainty about your own position and whatnot. And, and even though I, I, I feel, I think, I think we’re okay. Like there are no guarantees and, um, like my mediate concern isn’t like whether or not I’ll have a job because I, I think that I’ll be okay. Uh, even if I were to lose my job, I, I, uh, have, um, confidence that I would be able to find something.
Um, and, and at least I have savings, but it’s still hard. So it was sort of like this, uh, you know, like high of, of taking my first real vacation in several years and then, you know, immediately hit with like, The stress of, [00:06:00] um, layoffs and everything that comes along with that. Uh, but this week, um, you know, trying to kind of turn a page and I’ve, I’ve had some really good conversations with people and I’ve done some cool things.
Having, uh, marching on, on Rocket earlier this week was honestly a delight. And those sorts of things. Like when I do things that feed me creativity, like creatively, that helps my mental health a lot, even when there are other uncertain things happening. Like if I can do things that I feel fulfilled creatively, and I, I, I felt that this week, um, in a number of ways.
That’s really good. So I would say like I’m in a good place, but it’s, uh, it was definitely like if we had recorded last week, that would not have been great. Like, I would not have been in a good place to record last week.
[00:06:45] Brett: which is part of why we didn’t record last
[00:06:47] Christina: of what we didn’t. I was gonna say, I, I, I, not only do we not record this podcast, but I didn’t record the show that I do on YouTube.
And I do have some guilt about that because part of me is like, Suck it up. Your job is to [00:07:00] literally talk into the camera and to get excited and act, and I can do that. Um, even if I was in a really bad place, I could do that. The hard thing was I couldn’t write the script. I was, so, my, my A D H D got really outta control and I was like, I, if somebody else had a script for me, I could show up and suck it up and do it.
Right? Like I, I, I, I, I, I have that ability. I know not everybody does. I have that ability, even when things are like awful. Um, I, I’m, I can be bipo. It’s not bipolar. It’s, it’s, honestly, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t know if it’s a, I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but I can go from like screaming at someone to then immediately like, Hi, and welcome to, you know, like I could do that, that, that turn in two seconds.
Um, if I had to, but I couldn’t write the script. I couldn’t, I couldn’t do it and, and I couldn’t get it done in time for us to record, and I was just, I had to just tell, like my team, I was just like, I, I can’t do it. You know? Like if, if somebody had something pre-written for me, I could have done it, but I, I just can’t go through the [00:08:00] motions of like getting myself focused enough to actually write what I needed to write and research what I needed to research, you know, that I, I was not unable to do.
[00:08:10] Brett: I think knowing you as an ADHD person, if, if enough stress had been put on you. . Um, if enough pressure had been behind, like, you do this or you are fired, or you do this, or we kidnap your mom, like, you could, you could pull it off.
[00:08:28] Christina: Oh, totally,
[00:08:28] Brett: you could, but Yeah. Given, given the ability to take the out Yeah.
I can see for sure why you did that,
[00:08:35] Christina: And, and, and that’s what you’re exactly right. Um, I think back about when Mashable had layoffs, and that was like one of the worst experiences of my professional life and will probably remain that because it was just so hard. And the following week I had to fly to California to go to, um, a, a secur, an on background security briefing with Apple.
And I booked my flight to the wrong co [00:09:00] to to, to the wrong San Jose. And which I realized right before I boarded a flight to Costa Rica, thankfully I did not get on the plane. Um, and then had to
[00:09:08] Brett: I was, I was gonna say, where’s the wrong.
[00:09:12] Christina: Yeah. Yeah. Well, look, the airport codes are similar. Concur messed up. They’re, uh, I’ll take the, the L on some of it, but it’s also, it’s one of my favorite stories because. I did almost go to the wrong Costa R or go to the wrong San Jose, but you’re right. And then that moment where it did feel very much like everything was at stake, where I was like, if you don’t, this is a very important thing you go to, we’ve just laid off 10% of the staff and or more than that 20% of the staff.
And, um, the money is, is not great and you’re going on this trip because they’ve approved it and you cannot screw up. So when people were like, oh, you should have just gone to Costa Rica, and I was like, no, , you know, I, I, I I, I transferred like three other cities and had to go on a ridiculous process to finally get there.
But I did. But yeah, you’re right. If, if it had been like [00:10:00] enough stress, I could have done it. But, um, fortunately.
[00:10:03] Brett: you, sometimes you don’t fuck around and find out.
[00:10:06] Christina: Exactly, exactly. So that, that, that’s my update.
[00:10:10] Brett: All right. Well, speaking of feeling creatively fulfilled, I am not, and it is killing me. I, I am, I’m writing content for work and it’s not like I have found things I’m excited about. Did you know that you can create a virtual box image and with the click of a button, deploy it as a compute instance on Oracle Cloud?
To me, that’s interesting. Uh, you, you, like, you can build your own local Oracle Linux box. and deploy it as a cloud machine and it’ll generate all the same processors and, and memory set up and, um, all of the command line utilities that you’ve installed fastidiously with their, uh, with Oracle Lennox’s package manager and everything, and you can just push it [00:11:00] to the cloud.
And like that’s interesting to me that I can get excited about that. I have fun playing with right now. I’m writing a deep dive on like command line parameters for the, like flags for a command line tool because I just needed content to come out this week and I haven’t had the motivation to do any personal coding projects.
And I decided my project was going to be, to start watching, um, breaking bad alternating with Malcolm in the middle, uh, just to try to get the Brian Cranston juxtaposition. But it didn’t work out. I ended up going all in on Breaking Bad. So I, I’m on season three because I just don’t have the motivation to do anything else with my time right now.
Um, I, uh, it, it was, it was an interesting experiment, uh, seeing Brian Cranston as like the, uh, what would you call his Malcolm in the middle [00:12:00] character, befuddled, um, quirky, uh, , the, the comedic dad, uh, versus the, uh, breaking bad. Brian Cranston was quite a, it was a trip. But anyway, I, I need, I, I, I need mania.
Uh, I mean, we know what happens if I’m stable for too long and I have been stable and, um, like I’m, my brain is starting to think. . What if I accidentally took two of my A D H D meds today? Or what if I made myself stay up all night and just kind of push that line of like, uh, being okay versus being manic and just try to trigger a manic episode.
And that, like, I talk myself out of it every time because I know what that leads to as well. Um,
[00:12:51] Christina: right?
[00:12:51] Brett: which is to say, I, I know that that leads to being very tired and, and unproductive. Like my mania doesn’t get very dangerous. Like, I don’t, [00:13:00] I don’t gamble. I don’t have crazy sex. I don’t hurt anybody. Um, I, I write code, but it also means not sleeping and being very unhealthy.
And, anyway, anyway, that’s me. So we saved marching for last. Uh, you can choose, you can choose to partake in the mental health corner. Uh, if there’s anything you wanna share. Um, but you can also pass.
[00:13:26] Marcin: Um, I, I wanna share, I, I don’t know how much of this is, uh, the listeners don’t know me, so the context might be missing and, but I already started a little bit about, you know, how, um, sort of getting your, this big personal project that was like the, the book has become so big that it almost became like a partner.
Like, like, like, like something that was accompanying my life for many years. And it still is with its own moods and its own sort of, you know, um, uh, conventions and, [00:14:00] and, and, and, and so like, at, at, at no point, uh, I know whether the book is gonna be kind to me today or is it gonna be, you know, cruel and whatnot.
So, uh, so it’s definitely become like this strange big personal project. And in addition to the fact that I’ve in, in many numerous ways tried to do the book, the my my Way, you know, kind of like put something out there that’s really just like me in a book form. And it obviously has challenges whenever somebody then pokes at the book when it’s out there, or even the website or a Kickstarter and say, I don’t like it, or, or I don’t know about that.
Luckily enough people seem to be liking it, and actually it’s been incredibly. Wonderful and, and, and warm for me to see all of my friends from my prior lives and careers and just nooks and crannies of life saying like, oh, finally I was waiting. I was like, I, you know, we haven’t talked in 10 years, but I’m glad you’re here.
But there were also moments, [00:15:00] uh, honestly, uh, where I was, um, frustrated because I think maybe for the first time in my life, I’m a white guy, so my Twitter life is very easy in general. But I think this was the first time where I got angry at people mansplaining things to me about keyboards, where I was like, Hey, I j i, I just wrote a book about this. think I kind of know a lot , so you don’t have to tell me things. I, and, and, and it’s this, and I kind of started understanding how, how complicated that is, because some of their feedback was great. And I don’t wanna say like, don’t tell me anything about anything. I, I want feedback. I’m a designer in my real life and feedback is currency.
Like I want to be good. But there’s some moments which is like, I kind of wanna stop you right here because this is just annoying to me. So,
[00:15:46] Brett: Do you know who I am?
[00:15:48] Marcin: yeah, exactly. . So, uh, so, so that was really, I’m gonna say interesting, mostly all positive. [00:16:00] Um, there are people helping me out there, people checking in with me, which is really great.
But there definitely was heightened emotions. And Christina, you mentioned tech industry. I’m also part of tech industry in my real life, but I didn’t have as much time in the last weeks to think about it because the, the book. Um, took such a big part of my life and sort of like getting it out there and, and having a Kickstarter for your project is its own project
It’s sort of like the secondary sort of sidecar project a as I’m learning. Um, and the last thing I wanted to mention, I went to my first boxing class in my life and that was fun. And it turns out I like punching things, so I don’t know what it says about me.
[00:16:39] Christina: That’s great.
[00:16:40] Marcin: there was, there was a fun discovery.
[00:16:42] Brett: did you also get punched?
[00:16:45] Marcin: No, I was, I was put next to a punching bag as, as a, as a, as a rookie,
[00:16:49] Brett: I was just curious because that, that seems like the other half of boxing is getting punched,
[00:16:54] Marcin: No, I
[00:16:55] Brett: have to like both.
[00:16:57] Marcin: yeah, I think that’s gonna come next. Uh, we’ll see, [00:17:00] we’ll see how it goes. But the first one was,
[00:17:01] Brett: gonna go back. You’re gonna keep
[00:17:03] Marcin: I’m going back. Yeah.
[00:17:04] The Keyboard Corner
[00:17:04] Brett: All right. right. Um, so, uh, now onto the keyboard corner, shall we, um, we, we were talking before the show, before Christina got here, um, about how you are not actually like a mechanical keyboard nerd in the way that, uh, kind of the community exists, uh, today.
Uh, people that are very worried about walk and sizzle and, and soldering and, uh, and lubricating their switches and like, that’s not necessarily, uh, you, uh, so what, what is your general, what is your interest in keyboards?
[00:17:48] Marcin: Yeah, I, I, I, I think numerous by, by this point, uh, and I have a mechanical keyboard. Um, I, I think I just needs to be obsessed. About [00:18:00] keyboards in general, including their history and the sort of societal aspects and, and the software and all of that stuff. So, uh, so I, I, I think partly, you know, my role is to be an observer, but I think originally, so I’m, I’m, I’m a UX designer with, with a big, sort of serving of an engineer on the side.
And so I think originally the keyboards were just really interesting because they’re, you know, they’re the interface between people and computers, um, and. and I started being curious like who designed them. Um, and it turns out really nobody . My book is actually called Shift Happens. It’s kind of a joke, but it really is actually meaningful to me in the sense that keyboards just sort of happened.
It was like 150 years of them happening over and over again, and there was nobody in charge. And there’s this, this strange evolution of things and the fact that, [00:19:00] um, if you look at the keyboard from 150 years ago, the first query keyboard, and you look at the keyboard you have under your fingertips right now, they’re both almost the same.
Which is really strange. It’s still query. You could, you know, grab the person who invented it and put, sit them in front of your computer today. They, they would know what to do. But of course, they’re also incredibly different. They’re attached to very different devices. They’re serve different purposes. We, we spent much more time talking with our fingers now than writing, which is not something that happened even 20 years ago.
So there was a sort of desire to, or interest for me in that all of the design aspects, like who’s using them, what problems they’re solving, how they evolve as an object, how the technology that was attached to the keyboards changed the nature of keyboards, et cetera, et cetera. Right? Like, like, like, so, so all of this.
And I found, um, and there are some books that talk about typewriters. Um, and they’re definitely, you know, a lot of contemporary writing about mechanical keyboards because it’s a [00:20:00] big thing now. But there was nothing that connected all of this. Uh, and I just wanted, for a while, I wanted it to exist and then I decided that I will make that exist.
This sort of grand story of how it all happened over the last century and a half.
[00:20:17] Brett: So, so you’ve been researching this for like six years, right?
[00:20:21] Marcin: Yeah.
[00:20:22] Brett: And probably before that as well, but like actually working on the book for, for six years. What is, what is the strangest keyboard you ran into?
[00:20:33] Marcin: Oh, my , there are many strange keyboards. I, um, it’s really actually hard to say because on any given week I will give you a different answer. Uh, but. I have this, uh, the, the, the recent strange one. Um, I have this, uh, watch. It’s a, it’s a sec watch from the 1980s, and it has what I think is the smallest keyboard ever keyboard ever made.[00:21:00]
Each key is, um, like one millimeter. It’s not even a key. Like you’re not touching it. It’s, it’s more like a, you go left and right and then, and then you, you, you know, it’s an what, what would they call, what they would call an index typewriter? An index keyboard today. You know, like how you type in your Apple TV password or, or your Xbox thing.
So, so, but it’s so, it’s comical. It’s so tiny. It’s like the watch is not even that big because eighties watches were, and, and, uh, it’s neither a key, uh, really nor a board in a way, but it is kind of, kind of cute that they tried to do it and it’s really pain to use, but, uh, it’s kind of fun to have like the smallest keyboard.
I’ve never, I’ve never heard of a smaller one in my life. So that’s, that’s the most recent strange cure that I learned of. And of course it’s in a
[00:21:45] Christina: love that. And,
[00:21:47] Brett: a, I had a calculator watch. Sorry, go ahead, Christina.
[00:21:51] Christina: no, no, no. That, no, that, that’s, that would also be like a similar thing, a calculator watch. I was just gonna ask like, what, what’s your favorite keyboard personally [00:22:00] from any era? Teletype, typewriter, computer, whatever.
[00:22:05] Marcin: um, uh, yeah, I think the one that I was. Maybe, you know, if you count like my amazement, um, as a metric. Uh, so for longest time I’ve heard about electric as being like the ultimate keyboard, right? Like there’s, um, I think people of a certain age say Model M and then people a little bit older say electric and it’s just like over and over again.
And it’s really interesting because I’m always suspicious of people like saying like, oh, the, they picked with the electric and then it all went to hell because, you know, like they don’t make them like they used to. It’s generally like scary attitude often and, and maybe there’s some version of gatekeeping.
It’s just like the bad nostalgia. So I was just like, whatever, electric, fine. And then I rented one for a week from, from a, from a local typewriter store, which is a funny thing to say. and, uh, [00:23:00] it was actually really amazing. I was, so, first of all, it’s a beautiful object, this electric, like it was beautiful in the 1960s, but it’s still a beautiful object today.
And, and then as I typed on it, I actually realized it’s, it’s much, it’s much more like a computer keyboard, but there’s no electronics in it. It’s still electromechanical, but it made it feel so smooth and, and it has the features that you would expect from a computer. Like you can type. You can press two keys at the same time and mechanically through like a very clever system of ball bearings, it would allow you to press two and it would remember the second one.
Or if you press enter and the courage still goes to the beginning, you know, it takes a while, you can press another key and it will not lose it. And there’s beginnings of arrow keys there. And of course the fonts you can swap. And it’s, you know, my, my kind of mental model was, it’s sort of like the last movie with special effects before CGI [00:24:00] where, you know, it’s at dead end, but you really appreciate how much effort and, and it’s, it’s, it’s an incredibly complex object inside.
It’s really, it’s, I think, 5,000 parts. You could, in the sixties, seventies, eighties, you could have a career of fixing electrics because they were both incredibly popular but also incredibly complicated. So, so you also appreciate this like, really complex object in a way that Of course. Everything we do today in software is probably more complex, but you don’t see it, right?
You don’t, you don’t have a sense of how complex things are. And this one you could open up and see like, oh my God, okay, this is not a regular type priority. This is some next level stuff. And, and I think to me, it was just kinda amazing, right? It was maybe like the last impressive type priority you could relate to because, you know, the, the electronic typewriter, the iPhone keyboard, all of the machine learning today, it’s, it’s just there, right?
It’s just there in a cloud doing its own thing. Um, and any mechanical keyboard today is actually incredibly [00:25:00] simple, right? It’s, it’s just like the same switch over and over again. So there was something about this like built device and, and it really felt wonderful. And your fingerprints, I was like, okay, I see how people will remember this.
I see how people try for it. And the funny thing is that the last thing maybe I wanted to mention, um, and people kind of forget this, the. People love the electric so much by the way, you can blame electric for the caps lock key being in a place it is today, which every programmer hates. Um, programmer lost that battle in the early eighties.
There was a literal battle. Um, people who use electric were just like, no, this has to be like electric. So they moved it back. But, uh, people loved it so much that IBM like forever tried to recreate that feeling. So first there were beam springing keyboards. There were the, you know, seventies kind of term, really expensive terminal keyboards.
And then there was the model F, which was the cheaper version of a beams springing. And then there was the [00:26:00] Model M, which was a cheaper version of the Model F. So it’s funny because the Model M, which people today say it’s one of the most wonderful keyboards, right? It’s the king of click is the God’s own keyboard.
It’s like the fourth water down version of the electric. Uh, which, you know, just tells you how funny, how funny it is, how history works, right? Like,
[00:26:21] Brett: Yeah. So do you think it’s a, a feature or a bug that the complexity is hidden now? Um, well, the complexity by and large has moved into the realm of software, like you said, like a mechanical keyboard Today is just, it’s a bunch of switches on a board. Um, and, and most people using a computer have no idea how complex the software they’re using is.
But is that, is that good or is that bad?
[00:26:52] Marcin: I think it’s, well, you know, it depends if the software is good itself. I think like, you know, if I see a bad, bad web [00:27:00] app, I kind of wanna fix it , and it’s not, it’s not really possible with the exception of maybe, you know, overriding CSS and
[00:27:06] Brett: Uhhuh.
[00:27:06] Marcin: like that. Um, I, I, I, if it’s go, if it works well, it might be okay.
But I think there is something, I think what we lost. To some extent is you can just like pick under the hood of software as easily as maybe you used to. And also, I don’t think we ever figure out how to make software exciting for people who don’t care. Like in a way you can sort of, you know, again, open the hood of your car, well not today, but to 20, 30 years ago and, or, or, you know, or just like get, get a packet of Lego and kind of like appreciate the, the bits and pieces and the whole result.
I, uh, I think, you know, view source was the last maybe example of that. And there are, you know, modern version of view source. Of course there’s um, but, but software is, is like, can be so beautiful and not even like well-written software, like software bags can be beautiful and fascinating. [00:28:00] But I, I’m, I’m, I’m still waiting for like, maybe waiting for more like storytellers in that space because I, I think there’s so much more we could do to, to just get people.
Excited and understanding. You know, maybe, I just really remember one of the foundational works of art for me was the Soul of the New Machine, the book from I think early eighties. And it was, you know, because
[00:28:29] Christina: a great.
[00:28:30] Marcin: yeah, it was the book about ostensibly, it’s the same way, uh, like my favorite movie Sneakers is ostensibly about technology, but it’s just really about people and emotions and, and, and the soul of the New Machine.
The book was about like, how is it to create a computer and how it is to sort of negotiate with olive’s, feelings of having this sort of creative pursuit, but in this really strange space. And, and I think I’m, I’m, I’m just hoping we see more of those kind of [00:29:00] stories, uh, told, because I think we lost some of that sort of wonder of.
[00:29:05] Christina: Yeah. No, I think you’re right. I think you’re exactly right. I, it was funny right before the reason I was late to record this podcast, not that the audience cares, but I’ll, I’ll share anyway, is, I was recording, um, another podcast and I was talking about, um, it’s called The Last Detail. And I was talking about, um, Manita Claires, and was, was, was, cause it’s a podcast where you like focus on like hyper focus on like one particular object.
And I kind of. Really follow the script because we were talking less about the specific object, which was interesting and I loved, but, but more about like mini disks themselves. And a lot of that was kind of the personality and kind of the, the weirdness and the like, the care that went into that, which, which we don’t have today, right?
Like, like the consideration. And you know, cuz and I, I, I almost wonder if that’s part of the reason why there has been that such a resurgence in, in the keyboard community [00:30:00] is that we’ve all just kind of become bored with the status quo. And there is something about being able to really customize and really be particular about what you’re doing, even if it’s not to, to, to the level of, of like the, the soul of the new machine or like what, what, um, was happening with like the selecta and, and, and, uh, like typewriters.
But there is still this thing, which is like, okay, things have kind of become soulless and a way of injecting humanity and personality and, and whimsy into our, our computing is by obsessing over thought and, and key caps and switches and, and, and weight, you know, and, and, and all that stuff. And, and I, I wonder if that’s maybe part of it is that we’re all like seeking that bit of humanity, that that is, felt like it’s been lost a little bit, but which was a core part of why computing exploded to begin with.
Because if you hadn’t had that human, human aspect just like, you know, sneakers, [00:31:00] like, I don’t know if it would’ve taken off, right? Because there are so many technological things that don’t have that kind of through line. But you could see it in the early computers. I mean, especially with Apple machines, but even with the I B M PC that you could see the humanity, you could see, you could, it, it was, is kind of a.
it. It was like more than just an object, you know?
[00:31:24] Marcin: Yeah.
[00:31:24] Brett: I, I just gotta interject that like marching brought up, looking under the hood of a car, um, which will like my dad at, in high school, like he. Bought parts from a junkyard and built his own first car. Like you can’t do that now. Like we are separated. We have separate, like a car used to be a thing. Any, anyone with the motivation could take their car apart and see how it works.
And like, we’re separated from that now and I do think it removes a certain amount of humanity from the machine.
[00:31:57] Christina: I think you’re right.[00:32:00]
[00:32:01] Marcin: Yeah, my, my my, it’s funny that you mentioned your dad. Like, uh, my dad’s job, uh, when I was a kid, was perfect for me because he was, uh, an arcade game and pinball repairman.
[00:32:13] Brett: Nice.
[00:32:14] Marcin: he would be sent all of the
arcades and, and you know, I still remember, uh, for people who remember pinballs, like, um, or if you have a pinball nearby, uh, which I think a lot of people do still, you just maybe have to find it, but they’re all of this, they’re modern arcades.
Uh, ask them to open it up for you and you know, they can remove the glass and take the whole play field and move it up. And you can see under the play field at all of the solenoids and switches and stuff and light bulbs. And, and to me seeing that was like a revelation because it was, you know, it’s sort of like view sourced for a pinball, but you know, you can like stick your finger there.
You actually probably don’t wanna stick your finger there. You stick, stick a pen that. So noise can actually hurt you. But, uh, speaking from experience, but you [00:33:00] know, you can sort of like see how it’s made and you can see like some logic choices that they made or. Cost cutting choices or some, you know, algorithm choices.
And, uh, there’s some, the bugging modes in software for all these pinballs from the eighties and, and award and it, and it’s just this wonderful thing where you realize like, oh, even play has to be designed and even play has to be considered. And, and, and even play has to succumb to like boring logic. And how do you sort of creatively use that logic?
And so, uh, yeah. I, I think Christina, you are also right that it’s like, I, I think keyboards probably resonate along the same lines. Like you just, just solely, maybe you can open them and you can like grab a KickUp and remove it and grab a switch and remove it or open a switch. This is like multiple layers of discovery there.
If you’re interested, you can get us go even deeper and solder it. If you’re interested on a different level, you. Change the software to do some things right? You can, you can be the next vak, you probably also fail, but you’ll , [00:34:00] you’ll have, you’ll have your layout and you can use it and maybe convince a few people to use it as well, or, or do something completely random.
Like my, one of the people that, uh, that I interviewed for the book just, you know, made a keyboard with this unique layout made out of wood, uh, because there were no keyboards made out of wood before. Um, and, and, and, and it’s kind of interesting and, and, and you can start very simply as well, right? You can just grab one kick up or, or buy like one extra keyboard and see how it makes you feel, or, or, or, um, I don’t know, just like add one keyboard, ma you know, combination to keyboard mast and, and, and feel just kind of like a little bit more excited about it.
[00:34:39] Brett: Oh, are we gonna talk about keyboard maestro?
[00:34:41] Christina: We could, I was gonna say you, you spoke, uh, Brett’s language. Because, because that, that’s like.
[00:34:47] Brett: Um, speaking of bizarre keyboard layouts though, uh, someone, someone in our discord, and I’ve forgotten who, and I’ve forgotten what it’s called, but there was a keyboard layout that started with t h e, [00:35:00] um, and the keyboard layout was based on like the most common letter combinations when writing in English.
And it was like, I took a look at the keyboard. I, I knew that my brain was never going to rock like this entirely different. And I’ve tried Dvorak, like I, I, I, I was, I grew up, I grew up in the eighties. Like I, I typed on Cordy keyboards and it’s home. My brain, I think is ever going to be able to take in as far as touch typing goes without having to like look at the keyboard all the time.
Uh, it, the idea of like smarter keyboard layouts, uh, it, it’s kind of fascinating. It’s, it’s like you said, Cordy. Been around for like 150 years and even though it’s not the smartest layout, everyone can agree it’s not the, the most intelligent organization of the Keys. It still has, it is one diamond again.
[00:35:55] Marcin: I see. I’m gonna like, I’m always [00:36:00] fascinated by people kind of, um, hating on query because, um, yes, they pro like I would say they could be smarter layouts. Um, but I also wonder, like using VA as an example, right? So August VAK came up with this thing in, I think the thirties, 1930s, 1940s. Which is funny because it seems likeon ago, but it, this was like, 60, 70 years after the keyboard, um, was invented.
Right? So, so, so, uh, you know, time, uh, history compresses events, but, you know, so qu has been around for a while and he, he didn’t mean war, right? He, he called qu the primitive torture board. He wrote the whole book was called Typewriting Behavior, saying basically the premise of the book was squarely sucks, , what are you doing here?
Right? And he had this whole math and really an amazing set of considerations, uh, for how fingers travel on the keyboard and where the letters should be and how people [00:37:00] make mistakes. And even just like the psychology of typing, like this whole chapter about like laziness of all things. And, and so really strange, an amazing book, and I would recommend reading it for people who are interested.
and then he had this layout and kind of nothing happened because I think VAK kind of forgot that like, well, you, you, the quote unquote smartest layout, it only takes you so far. Like you still have to, you still have to, on one hand you have to market it, you have to build it, you have to convince people, you know, you working against motor memory of generations at this point.
But then like, I think what he also ignored is that like, What, what if the, what if the premise is wrong? And what if court is actually good or at least good enough? Like what if the fact that it’s been used for 60 years is like not an accident? Like people like to believe that it’s just like this one time where market chose poorly, right?
It’s like it’s, we chose VHS against beta [00:38:00] max, right? And which actually also has been debunked. VHS is supposedly actually really good. But, um, but the funny thing is that like even in the seven years that he’s seen keyboards, keyboards change, like we progressively see fewer and fewer people, professional typing.
The keyboards become, quote unquote more and more ergonomic every five years. Even if you don’t buy a ergonomic keyboard, a keyboard is just softer on our fingers and better. And, and query was okay. It was actually intentional from, from what we can tell, it wasn’t like an accident. It wasn’t there to slow people down.
It was actually very thoughtful. Um, and it’s. And it’s only gotten better because the way we use keyboards and the keyboards themselves gotten better. So in a way, you know, maybe for some people, yes, some people have problems with their shoulders, with their arms, with their, uh, wrists. Um, there’s a lot of people who would benefit from an improvement over like a $10 Dell [00:39:00] quality keyboard.
But for vast majority of people, I, I’m gonna say it’s probably good . You don’t have to worry. And particularly even touch typing. I think we’ve seen studies that say like, touch typing maybe kind of overrated too. Like you don’t have to touch type perfectly to be okay. Um, and so that’s kind of interesting.
Like I’m actually, I’ve become a fan of quirky through writing this
[00:39:22] Brett: Was
[00:39:23] Marcin: which I didn’t expect.
[00:39:24] Brett: Was there an industry that cemented Cordy as like the keyboard, like in the, in the VHS Beta Wars. It was really the porn industry that, that made VHS win. At the time that Quy kind of became popular. Was there an industry that that made it the forefront?
[00:39:45] Marcin: So, so what’s really interesting about, uh, query is that it was the first one, I mean, obviously there were typewriters before the query typewriter, um, but most of them were not mass [00:40:00] produced. Uh, most of them didn’t really go very far. They, you know, they, you couldn’t actually use them well, or they didn’t print well and Kuti just happened to be the first or, or the first big commercial layout.
And, and so it, it always faced competition from day one and it always somehow managed to, um, to, to win. And I think the first use cases for query were. Qu actually invented bureaucracy qu and elevators, right? They, they, they invented offices in bureaucracy. So that’s kinda like a funny thing to think about.
Uh, but also, uh, you know, I think it was, so it was like early, early typing for offices, but it was also transcribing Morse communication. And we know that, like the person who invented the, the early typewriter, um, the query typewriter, he cared about that. So he was pretty smart about like, knowing what the use cases are and knowing what’s the minimum speed, which was maybe 30 to 40, uh, watts per minute, [00:41:00] um, should be achievable.
And like, you know, like many good inventors, they mostly focus, or he and and his team mostly focus on picking the right bottles, right? So the first typewriter didn’t have uppercase, sorry, lowercase, because, eh, maybe not as important. That only came like, you know, within the next decade. But, you know, the print looked.
And you could get a certain speed and it wasn’t jamming, right. So, so the whole query was designed not to slow people down. It was the opposites to, to make it both, um, faster type and to make it easier to, for the machine to actually work. Right. So this interesting concept of like human considerations, but also machine considerations.
[00:41:43] Brett: Huh. Oh, so like, uh, like it’s be, is it designed around the idea of like the hammers and the typewriter, like not coming from the same two points at the same time? I never realized that.
[00:41:57] Marcin: yeah. And it’s funny because, and it [00:42:00] was very specific to the, to the way the first typewriters were made, which actually became obsolete 10 years. So within 10 years, QUT was solving a problem that didn’t need solving anymore. Yeah. Uh, that’s why, that’s why it’s really hard to even compare qu in vak because they didn’t exist in the same time span.
They were there to solve very different problems.
[00:42:20] Christina: That, which is very interesting. And, and so, but, but yet, Cordy is endured, which, which I also think is interesting. Right. And, and, and I wonder if it’s because. Sometimes I do wonder if it’s because like Dvorak maybe was trying to solve the wrong problem. Like, like it’s claiming that it’s going to be easier, more efficient and and whatnot.
But, but if it, but if that’s maybe not what, maybe, maybe not really a problem. You know what I mean? Like, like if that’s okay, you, you, you can make more efficient layouts, but, but that cordy works well enough, even though the reason for its genesis doesn’t exist anymore.
[00:42:54] Marcin: there, there’s, uh, there’s this wonderful book by Ericka Aran called In the Land [00:43:00] of Invented Languages that talks about people who, you know, created Esperan or Log Land, is it called, or even Klingon. Klingon had more commercial roots, I suppose, and, and, and there’s this interesting notion. Uh, it’s actually like a surprisingly warm and sort of sad book because it speaks about most of these people just wanted to fix the world.
Like they said, I don’t like the messiness of languages today. I don’t, I, I, I would like them to work a certain way or I would like them to reflect the universe a certain way. Um, but it all came with this sort of naivete of like, oh, if I only solve this thing, people will understand it. And that’s not like the language is being messy.
It’s actually the beauty of languages. And every language gets messy. Like even espresso has shortcuts right now and all of these things because that’s how people use languages. So I think Vorax, like there was a certain naivete that if I only prove you mathematically that my keyboard is better, um, you will use it.
Um, [00:44:00] um, and that there’s also this other thing, of course, uh, the dark side of QU is that Remington, which was the first, you know, big typewriter company. They also had a good legal team and a good sales team, and a good promotion team, and, and a lot of, a lot of the success of query. And unfortunately we cannot decouple them, right?
We, we cannot say like, this was 40% engineering and 30% whatever, but they had a really good ideas of how to sell the typewriters. And that probably didn’t hurt. And maybe if they sucked at it, maybe they would’ve, maybe another layout from 1870s or 1880s would’ve actually observed qu uh, and they were also really good at, um, sending their keyboards abroad.
Uh, which, uh, which explains why QU Z is so close to QU or Aer is so close to qu because it was all done by the same guy who actually didn’t even speak any of those languages. But, but, you know, they were, they just moved the keys enough, just again, so their keyboards wouldn’t clash, you know, in the same way they had to solve it for query [00:45:00] for English.
[00:45:01] Brett: I, uh, Christina, just, just fyi, your video has frozen for me, but in like a, a perfect pose, like you look, you look curious and intrigued, um, and like it’s a nice, like semi profile. You look great.
[00:45:19] Christina: Okay. You, you, you should take a, you, you should take a screenshot of that, um, uh, because I’m gonna turn it, I’m gonna turn it off and turn it on again and see if that fixes it. But take a screenshot first, cuz I wanna see how ridiculous I look.
[00:45:30] Brett: Done. You don’t look ridiculous. You look fan fucking fantastic.
[00:45:34] Christina: Yeah, I don’t believe you. Am I back to you now?
[00:45:37] Brett: no, no. It, it went off and you came back looking exactly as good.
[00:45:43] Marcin: Oh wow.
[00:45:45] Christina: That is
[00:45:45] Marcin: For the record, I see Christina moving, so I’m no contact here. It’s just you.
[00:45:51] Let’s have a Playdate
[00:45:51] Brett: Um, so speaking of arcade games, oh, there, Christine, I can see you moving now. Um, uh, you guys, you guys [00:46:00] both have the play date, which has come up on our show before.
Um, I, I am outside of this, uh, I, I observed the release of the play date and have not heard much about it since. So I’m curious to hear you guys talk a little bit about your play dates.
[00:46:19] Christina: Yeah. Uh, Martian, would you like to start?
[00:46:23] Marcin: Uh, yeah. Yeah. I, I, um, I, you know, I’m, I’m a. Where do I start? I think, you know, I’m a big fan of panic, uh, and have been just, uh, even outside of like specific things that they do, just the way they do things, um, uh, you know, sort of like creators before creations. Um, but yeah, . But what’s really interesting for me, and, and I think that actually came up with the book as well and, and, and a lot of other sort of, I’ve always been into computing history, um, and there’s this idea of like, how do you approach nostalgia?
Um, because there are good ways and bad [00:47:00] ways, right? Like nostalgia is supposed to kind of help you. And, and it it, it’s there to, to soften our lives in general. But, you know, you can sort of weaponize it, um, as, as we’ve seen in some presidential elections. And you can, you can also sort of succumb to nostalgia and be like, well, you know, the only arcade games were in the eighties and nothing after that matters.
And if you like them, you you’re stupid. Um, or something like this. And I think what I really like about Play Date conceptually is how they try to negotiate with nostalgia. Cuz it’s not just like, we’re just gonna rewind the clock 25 years and build this device. It’s actually, we’re, we’re just gonna look at the past and see maybe, maybe some of the simplicity that used to. Coming from the limited technology and then, you know, as the technology progressed, went away, maybe that simplicity was still worth it outside of, you know, but maybe they were just coupled together. And maybe, maybe there’s something nice about, like a simple controlled scheme or a black and white thing.
There’s something that could [00:48:00] help with creativity that maybe something that would help people relate to the sort of beauty and quirkiness or maybe something that would attract strange creators, which I think played at it really well, which is just like a, a lot of those games. Sometimes hard, even call them games, they’re just strange and quirky and weird.
And they would just be like, how do we build a device that sort of optimizes for weirdness? And I think so. So I, I think I’m in awe of the process of play date coming together, maybe more so than the play date itself, which is a beautiful object holding in my head right now. But it’s just like the, the way, the way they talked about what it means to them and, and, and some of the design decisions and some of the, some of the choices they made is just a vision of a device that doesn’t belong in any particular era.
It just sort of picks from different moments in time. And I think that’s something wonderful that as, as computers get older, we should all be doing very carefully of sort of picking like, like I have a keyboard with [00:49:00] modern keyboard, but the kick ups are from the seventies. Because I think that’s my responsibility to do stuff like that.
[00:49:06] Christina: Yeah, no, I totally agree with you. Um, I, um, like you, I love panic and, and I’ve been a fan of their aesthetic for so such a long time. Like I still have, they sold, God, this was so many years ago, but they sold, um, like Atari style, um, game boxes for their software products that you could just like buy. And so it was like, like Transmit and candy bar and um, I
[00:49:30] Marcin: I remember that.
[00:49:30] Christina: for like audio.
So, and I have them somewhere, and they were just so fun and, and, and, and I was not alive during any of the Atari’s run. Like I’m, I’m a Nintendo generation kid, but I love the aesthetic anyway. And so, um, I’ve always loved their whimsy, you know, when they had their, uh, what was the app that they had, um, in the app store, uh, kind of based on their dashboard that the iOS really unfortunately wasn’t, wasn’t prepared to do what it
[00:49:56] Brett: it called dashboard?
[00:49:57] Christina: Something like that. . [00:50:00] Um, but, but, but that was based on, you know, the, the custom, um, like, uh, dashboard that they’d created at at their office that would show, you know, like what, what, what commute times were and, and, and what people’s progress was and certain things. It was, it was great. Um, I love all their experiments.
I love their design philosophy. I love the status quo. There you go. Status sport. I, I, I love their whimsy. I love their design decisions. I love their blogs. I love, you know, uh, cables like obsession with, you know, like, uh, weird snack foods. You know, I’m just, I’m just fan of panic and, and, and I, and I, and I’ve met, you know, um, the, the team a number of times and, and, uh, over the years, like, uh, you know, I’ve been at their offices.
Like, I, you know, I can, I feel like, can call them internet friends of mine. Um, I think the first time I ever met cable, uh, and Steven, like I, it was like meeting superstars to me. Like I think I was more excited by that than. Actual celebrities that I’ve met and interviewed, if I’m being totally honest. So like you, like the, the process of the device is almost, has it definitely mattered.
Way more like [00:51:00] I haven’t played my play date much since I got it. I got all the games and I’ve used it and I have played with the S D K, which is really cool. But when I first used a play date at XO XO 20, 19, I guess it was, I think it was the last exo. Um, there’s a photo that someone took of me using it and, and I, I, um, you know, tweeted, I was like, this is what pure joy looks like.
And, and you just see this huge smile on my face as I’m interacting with, with the crank. And, and I love teenage engineering who obviously had a huge, you know, a, a amount, uh, to, to do with it. And so, yeah, I think that kind of going back to a thread we’ve had here, sort of the humanity and, and the personality and the thoughtfulness that went into the whole thing.
And also I really appreciated and I still appreciate that it is not a device for everyone and they’re not trying to make
[00:51:51] Marcin: Yeah, yeah,
[00:51:52] Christina: I love that. Like I love that because there were so many people who were telling me online and, and because I would talk about a podcast or [00:52:00] saying to person like, why would you ever buy that?
This is, this is so dumb, it’s gonna be sitting a door somewhere. I was like, yeah, probably. But this is the perfect device for someone like, like us, you know, which are like older millennials or Gen Xers who have disposable income and have like a love of like weird nostalgia kind of driven devices. But also frankly, the crank is a really, really good, um, interface.
It’s a really, really good interface for, for controlling the games. Like it’s actually really interesting and, and, and I, and I think about that a lot. Like you’re a designer. I’m not a designer, but I’m a designer. Appreciator Brett is, is, is, um, is is a designer, but I’m, I’m somebody who loves, like I wish I could, I wish I had the artistic abilities cuz I, I love design and art so much.
And, and I think about like the, the thought process that goes into that and like thinking about, okay, how can we make this crank more than just a gimmick? And actually now how are you going to build a game that is going to use that as, um, you know, a, a, [00:53:00] a UX mechanism, but also as like a mechanical, you know, control of, of, of getting through, you know, the game.
Like, I think that’s so.
[00:53:08] Marcin: Yeah. I mean, I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s, I’m glad you used the word joyful. Like it, it definitely like awakened a lot of like joy in me and, and, but also just sort of this. It reminds, it reminded me of like, oh, like there’s a lot of places that still deserve creativity. Like, we’re not done with any of these things.
Right? Like, like this, this, this, this is a unique thing in a space that’s filled with things like this already. Right? And, and, and, and it pos that like maybe in every space that’s already filled with things, there’s still room for other things that are unique. And, and, and I also like that. Yeah. The crank is like, I’ve always believed like there’s nothing wrong with a good gimmick.
You just have to like cook. You know? Like you just have to run with it and use it well, and I think people love gimmicks. It’s like, there’s nothing wrong with like using the word gimmick because they [00:54:00] actually like elevated it. Right. And, and it’s funny. Oh my God. You, when you started talking about panning, I was just immediately like, remember the thing where they, they, they had this app, you can control their, their sign on their building,
[00:54:11] Christina: Yes,
[00:54:11] Marcin: of the sign, or, uh, Buggy Stro, the musical that, that from 20 years ago or 50 years ago, like cable just like, made this musical about the bugs in the game Stro.
And so I, I just, you know, in, in part of like loving play date is just like, I just wanna support creators that do things like this and that, that, that, that bring this joy to other people and, and who remind us that like, yeah, we can, we can, like, there’s so much more room for gravity everywhere. Uh, and even in, as you said, like places where some people might scoff and say like, well, this is not gonna be the next Ds, you know, or the next switch or whatever.
[00:54:54] Christina: like, it doesn’t wanna be, you know, like they weren’t trying to do that. They were wanting to build something cool for them. I think they were a little [00:55:00] bit taken aback. Um, I mean, they’ve written as much, but I think even talking to them, um, when, when I was playing with the prototype and talking to some of the team members, Who worked on it.
Like, I think that they were taken aback by the initial interest and, and obviously, you know, like, uh, how many people wanted to order and how they had to, you know, which created a bunch of logistical problems, which 2020 didn’t help with. But
[00:55:20] Marcin: Oh, I remember that. Yeah.
[00:55:22] Christina: but even without that, I think that they would’ve suffered a, a little bit just because, like, this was supposed to be kinda like a small batch thing that did have wider
[00:55:29] Marcin: Yeah.
[00:55:30] Christina: And, and, but, but that’s an interesting thing too, I think kind of relates to keyboards a little bit, which is you have this thing that is maybe specific specified at a niche, right? And then it becomes more broadly adopted and then the expectations change. And, but, but what you were doing, like your initial intent doesn’t,
[00:55:51] Marcin: Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s both keyboards or even, um, we were talking earlier about my [00:56:00] Kickstarter and you know, once, once, and I imagine it’s pretty universal. Like I, I imagine that once your Kickstarter gets like to a certain level, you start seeing all of this spam, Hey, we can give you like 10,000 more people.
Probably not 10,000, but like, you know, a thousand more people or 500 more people looking at this. And I’m like, I don’t know if I want to, you know, like I, I, at some point I don’t, I don’t want, like, I don’t wanna lose this sort of strangeness of this thing I’m creating, uh, or this, uh, you know, this, this, this.
I don’t wanna soften the quirkiness necessarily. Right. Or I don’t wanna, like, I don’t wanna, I, I don’t want mass appeal because I think that’s covered. Like there I industries that do that really well. I, I, I, I, I want to rather find somebody, like, I wanna find everybody who love this thing that created rather than more people who might like never care for it, you know?
[00:56:53] Christina: Yeah. Yeah. I was kind of curious about that, like to talk maybe a little bit more about it, and I know we’re getting close on time, but I just wanted to kind of know more about like your [00:57:00] experience. with the Kickstarter, cuz I, I have to imagine it’s similar with the play date. Like you were hoping it would be successful.
Now is, is it still the third most, um, um, uh, back book? Or is it the second most at this point?
[00:57:13] Marcin: It’s gonna, it’s close to being like the second most funded non-fiction book in kickstart’s history, which as I say those words, I don’t even know what they mean to me.
[00:57:25] Christina: right? No, but, but, but that, that has to feel incredible. But that also has to feel like, again, I, I wonder like you’ve put all this time into this, you built it with a certain thing. At the beginning you were even talking about how like you get people who were, you know, kind of mans trying to mansplain keyboards to you, which is what’s gonna happen when something gets out of the bubble that you created in and goes more broad.
Um, but, but, but I wonder like, I guess, I guess just like how, how you’re kind of like dealing with that, because I appreciate that you’re still trying to keep it what it is. I’ve covered over the years, especially when I was a journalist, so many failed [00:58:00] Kickstarter campaigns where people couldn’t fulfill what happened because it blew up and it was way more successful than they expected.
And then they add on these goals and they’re like, oh, well now we’re gonna do this and this and this and this and, and it, and it, and it takes away from, you know, because people in the process get excited about what the possibility of this thing could be rather than what the inventor’s intent was. And, and I, and I wonder, I guess about like, how, how, how do you balance that, like, you know, staying, I guess, kind of true to what your book is?
Because at this point, in addition to having spammers coming at you and like, we can get you this much more, I would also imagine like, ha, have you had, uh, more traditional publishers. come at you, because I would think that, that you would, right? Like, I would think that they would be like, Hey, maybe you won’t be printed the same way that you’re doing it, but this clearly has an audience.
Do you want, you know, partner and, and I’m just curious like how, how you balance keeping what it is while at the same time you’ve got this runaway success.
[00:58:53] Marcin: Yeah. So I, I think what was important for me and what I spend a lot of time is thinking about, like, what do I want this book to be [00:59:00] to a point that I actually have it written down. Like many years ago I was like, here are my goals for the book. And at no point, you know, there’s, there was a certain, like, number of people that I wanted to have this book, which the campaign now succeeded.
And, and that was the numeric goal. Um, and of course, like I didn’t wanna lose money on the book because that opens like a whole universe of travel. Um, but other than that I just had like, you know, I wanna be proud of how the book feels. Like I want to do justice to the people who I’m interviewing. I want not to lose the quirkiness.
And so, um, there, there were a bunch of those kind of things that I kept looking at over and over again and talking to people. And even the whole process of, I originally wanted this book to be traditionally publish. because that’s kinda how I grew up and, and, and, and what felt like quote unquote, the right way to do it.
And, and it took me like a year to via conversations with many, many people to realize I actually don’t want this self publish. Uh, [01:00:00] sorry, I don’t want to, I wanna self-publish this and it’s not gonna be me being a loser if I do that. , like, so publishing is like a much more interesting space right now. And, and, and, and, and so I, I think I just had a lot of time to think about what I want this and the sort of quote unquote success criteria and whatnot.
And that was really helpful in hopefully not losing the debt right now. Not sort of chasing the ball of like, oh, what if I was the number one Kickstarter book of all time? Which, that’s actually not possible. The second credit, it, the number is just wild, but it’s like 46 million, right? It’s just like, it’s like out, it’s, it’s, it’s really
[01:00:41] Christina: It’s not gonna happen, right?
[01:00:42] Marcin: Yeah, but, but you know, the sort of, yeah, exactly. Like chasing this sort of like a, a, a certain deal with a publisher says like, oh, what if, what if this is a, you know, a, a a a, an airport bookstore kind of a book? I was like, no, no, no. It’s not. Like, maybe there is, maybe, maybe, maybe I won’t get tired with keyboards and I [01:01:00] will actually write another one.
It’s a very different audience and a very different process, which could be interesting. But, but it, so I think for me was just, just trying to think and be honest with myself and write down the goals for this project for me. Um, and then not lose track of, of, and, and I’m, I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by people who are helping me with this project, like my editor, um, who also get it, who also understand what I’m after and who, who are helping me sort of, you know, navigate those spaces.
Um, and, and I think, and, and giving me candid feedback. Sometimes, you know, Hey, you, you may be getting distracted here, or, uh, or vice versa, saying like, you know what, like, For the next marketing thing, just do kind of put what you wanna do. Like do do something that and you, you enjoy rather than, you know, something that you have to do.
So, so navigating that, uh, that’s, that’s been like very important to me.
[01:01:59] Brett: All right.
[01:01:59] Christina: think [01:02:00] that’s,
[01:02:01] Brett: Should we, uh, should we do a rapid fire gratitude before we close out?
[01:02:06] Christina: Yeah, I would love that.
[01:02:08] Brett: Do you have one ready, Christina? Or do you wanna wait while we go? Okay, Christina, you get to, you get to kick it off just like the mental health corner.
[01:02:16] Christina: Okay, so my pick is an app called Sloth, and this is one that I actually, it’s been around for a while, but I just discovered it on Hacker News yesterday. And it is, um, basically a Mac app that shows you a gooey to show you all the open ports and data things that are happening. On your system. So it’s really interesting.
Um, and this is something that I don’t think that I would probably use very often, but I’m playing with it and it’s interesting just to see like, I guess if you’re trying to, to figure out, like, cuz it shows you like all the open files, directories, sockets, the pipes that are, that are in use and, and then the, the, the running processes.
So it’s basically just a gooey for, um, uh, is off. Um, or, or I, I, or maybe it’s [01:03:00] Ellis off. I don’t know. I, I don’t know the Unix command cuz I’ve never used this command Ellis off. Yeah. I’ve never used this command. And so, um, but, but it’s, it’s in like a usable way. And I saw this on Hacker News yesterday that a new version was released.
It’s available for both, um, apple, silicon and um, uh, Intel. And I was like, oh, this is actually a really interesting way to like look at all the different things that are happening on my Mac at one time. And I could see this as actually being really useful for figuring out like, If something is broken or, or what it’s doing.
And also, you know, maybe like what apps are spying on you. Um, although, um, little, uh, little snitch would be, uh, uh, would, would be way better than that. But, um, I don’t know. It, it doesn’t have the best design or anything. Uh, it’s, it’s a pure utility app, but I saw this and I, I only play with it a little bit and I really like it and I’m, I’m like not mad at it.
It also goes all the way back to Mac Os 10.8, so like
[01:03:55] Brett: I, I, I did see this come up on Hacker News. Um, [01:04:00] the, it’s from, uh, I don’t know how to Sine Bjorn, um, Bjorn Spine. Uh, the same guy who made platypus the, the, the Mac app that can turn a shell script into a, an application bundle. Um, simple idea, very handy tool. Uh, back like I started, yeah, I’ve used platypus.
Oh, Jesus. 20 years, 15 years. Um, yeah, that’s old school. So it’s, I, I, I went to his software page. He has a whole bunch of apps I’ve never used, but Sloth is, sloth is the second one on his software page. So, yeah, that looks cool. Uh, he, he describes it as basically a friendly, exploratory, gooey for L S O F, which all the developers will know what that means, and everyone else will be like, what,
[01:04:53] Christina: Well, and I, and I’m, I’m a developer and I’ve never used it, like, you know, but I’m not like a hardcore or anything, but like, I’ve literally, I don’t think I’ve ever used that.
[01:04:59] Brett: I [01:05:00] have used L S O F in when I’ve had questions about . I don’t even remember what the last time it came up was. I’ve never voluntarily used L S O F, but I have been instructed to, in the process of solving other problem, Run L S O F to determine what port something was using or what was using, what was accessing a port or a file or a socket.
And yeah, like it’s not, it’s not a regular part of my repertoire. I could definitely use a gooey, so That’s awesome. Um, do you, do you want to go next?
[01:05:41] Marcin: Sure. Um, my choice is, um, ivory. Uh, I like, like many people, I think I, I found Masteron to be a great alternative to, to, you know, the, the artist formerly known as Twitter. And, uh, and I very is I think the [01:06:00] first app for Maan that I actually really enjoy using. I, I struggle with some of the other ones. Um, my designer, maybe I just need something that’s a little bit more polished, that’s a little bit more aesthetically pleasing or, um, and, and, and Iry is, is the first step that I was just like, oh, this is, uh, you know, this is like a great alternative to, uh, to all the other ones.
But also I, I really like, because it’s sort of similar to, to what we talked about, uh, with Play Date, which is, it’s kind of quirky. It’s a little weird. It has personality, uh, uh, it’s, it’s made some choices that I as a designer wouldn’t maybe make, but. and maybe some I actually disagree with, but also they’re like really interesting choices and it’s really fun.
It, you know, it’s, it, it, it, it again sort of made me feel like, oh, we are not done with those things. You know, there’s some, some creative choices we could make here, or some, some weird stuff. Not just like in, in a space of like a social media, you know, [01:07:00] consumption up, but just apps in general. Like, like for example, I forgot how long it’s been since the app allowed me to choose like an accent color, which I immediately orange.
It’s gonna be orange. Oh, I can change the icon to be orange too. It’s so simple. But I think like, you know, iOS and macro is sort of locked a lot of this down because, you know, design and I’m speaking as a designer, I, I do that too. Um, but, you know, just, just the little moments of customization just made me so excited to, you know, it’s like the, it’s the only, let me see.
It’s the only yellow icon I have on my home screen, which it’s like a funny thing to say, but my home screen is very, very grateful for that. So, I don’t know. Ivory And it’s done by tap bots, right?
[01:07:46] Brett: Yeah, same people who made one of our favorite apps, tweet bot, um, and we talked about it on a recent show. They, they have a, a rest in peace page for tweet bot with, uh, with an [01:08:00] elephant looking at it, uh, which is a reference to ivory, which is now out for, uh, it’s in beta. Uh, I did, I did I I have it through test flight.
I haven’t actually, I’m loading it up right now just to see what’s up. But, um, yeah, I’m a huge fan of tweetbot. I have a, I have a lot of faith that I’m gonna love ivory.
[01:08:23] Christina: Yeah. Yeah,
[01:08:24] Marcin: I’ve never used Sweet Bot, so I
[01:08:26] Christina: oh, that’s so funny.
[01:08:28] Marcin: out. Maybe I’ve been missing out for like 15 years. . But you know, maybe better late than.
[01:08:33] Christina: Totally. Totally. Yeah. No, I’ve been, I’ve been using it since, um, uh, I missed out on the beta for iOS. But, um, uh, Paul was nice enough to invite me into the, the mac beta early, and, um, and they just recently changed, um, uh, that test flight. Um, they separated the two. And so, um, I’m, I’m back in that one as well, and it’s really good.
It’s really, really good. Um, I, uh, it’s for me and I, I’ve talked about this I think before. [01:09:00] What’s totally changed, my Macon experience has been getting good apps and, and Ivory is definitely one of them. One of the fun things is also for the iOS app, and, uh, this I think is really, really cute, is that you can customize the icon and one of the icons is basically the r i p tweet bot icon.
So if you wanted the app icon to look, you know, like a, like, like, still, still have kind of the, the, the tweet bot with the halo on it. Like that’s, that’s one of their options, which I think is really cute. But, but, but, but it is, to me, I don’t know, it’s just amazing how much of a difference good tools make for this, for this platform.
I still have some issues with Macedon, but it, it, for me, like, it’s just a completely different experience. Um, having things like elk.zone and ice cubes and um, uh, ivory being, I think the most polished, just like, has fundamentally changed my experience with the service, whereas the, the apps that existed before, um, that, and, and the main website, [01:10:00] like, I’m not trying to criticize people who are putting labor love into things, but just it’s not there , you know, it’s just, it’s not the sort of thing that I can come back to, especially for people like us who really respect the, the thoughtful design of things.
[01:10:15] Marcin: Yeah. It, it reminds me a little bit, and this is at the risk of maybe angering a lot of people, but there was this recent debate I think Gruber wrote about, um, um, Android and iOS, sort of the quality of design. And there’s something about it that I think the, the conversation there were more people adding to that conversation.
I think they captured something. It’s like, yeah, there’s, there’s intangible things that matter and, and it’s hard sometimes to understand for people who don’t understand design or never maybe talk to a designer, but those it up and, and like, this is exactly right, Christina, for me, I’ve already like crossed the threshold, which is just like, oh.
This is enjoyable. This, this wasn’t optional. The, the, the, there needs to be a center level of care and attention polish and, and [01:11:00] quality to apps. And maybe we all calibrated differently, but for me, I already crossed the trash car and I started just feeling like, oh, the muston experience is really fun. I, I thought, I thought it couldn’t be, but it was really the app and
[01:11:14] Brett: I have, I have finally hit like a, a critical mass with my Macedon follower versus following and, and am getting, uh, an amount of feedback to a toot that makes it feel inter. Active instead of just shouting into a void. Um, and it feels like there’s a community there. And my following on Macedon is way smaller than my one on Twitter.
Uh, but they are as interactive and I have enjoyed it. I use Tut on iOS. It’s just toot with an exclamation point. Um, it’s been pretty good. I would love to get on the ivory iOS beta, but I did [01:12:00] not catch that one.
[01:12:02] Christina: Um, uh, TM DM Paul and um, and c cuz I’m sure that they have people who go in and off of the, of the things. It’s also available to buy now, so you can just like, you
[01:12:11] Brett: Oh, is it? I’ll buy it. I’ll
[01:12:13] Christina: yeah. It’s, yeah, it’s, yeah, it’s in the app store. It’s, it’s in the app store. The, the Mac version is not in the app store yet.
It’s in Alpha, but um,
[01:12:20] Brett: the Mac version. I’m
[01:12:21] Christina: oh yeah, no, yeah, yeah. You can just buy it. What is what? Okay. I thought I was following you on mask on. I don’t know if I am. What is your mast on user?
[01:12:28] Brett: Oh man, my Macedon username is tt scoff as firstname.lastname@example.org.
[01:12:38] Christina: Okay, then I am on, I am following you there. Okay.
And so I jumped on that one and just kind of stuck with it. , libertarians. Um, anyway, so you guys both went. You guys both went gooey with your picks. I, uh, I’m going terminal. Um, I found this new thing called Mick Fly, um, and it is a replacement. So like in, in your terminal, you hit control R and you can reverse search your command history.
Right? Um, I have for a long time used F zf and, uh, I’ve, I’ve set it up so I hit Control R and it pipes my entire history file through F Z F and I can fuzzy search for a previous command. [01:14:00] Mc fly basically offers. A similar fuzzy search, not as fuzzy. You still, like, if you don’t include a space, it won’t recognize the search.
Uh, but it does add, um, directory awareness. So it will prioritize commands that you have run in the current directory when you do the command history search. Uh, which is even if, even if you just hit control art and just use your arrow key to get to a command, you’ve run in that directory, but probably not in the current session.
Um, it works great. It works with Phish, it works with Z Shell, it works with Bash. Um, it, it is, it is an excellent little Control r history replacement,
[01:14:47] Christina: I love this. And I went to add it to my stars and it was already there. So I’ve clearly seen this before. Um, uh, Martian, uh, for some background, my GitHub stars is the greatest. Like, like I always tell people, [01:15:00] don’t follow me for my code cuz my code is worth worthless. My stars are freaking great. I find the best stuff.
So I search through my stars all the time, but I find little gyms and then I forget about it. But I had McFly there and, um, I, I, so clearly I looked at it at one point. I might have used it once, but I don’t have it installed. I’m installing it now. Um, but I, I love this.
[01:15:21] Brett: For anyone who doesn’t already know, if you go to Overtired pod.com, I wrote a WordPress plugin just to display Christina’s starred repositories on the website. So you scroll down to the bottom, and in the footer of any page you can find Christina’s starred repositories, which is, as she said, a fantastic collection of the latest and greatest in in open source.
[01:15:48] Christina: Yeah, and I also, I also have, sorry, go. No, go on.
[01:15:52] Marcin: Is McFly a reference to Back to the
[01:15:56] Brett: Back to the future, I have to assume.
[01:15:58] Christina: I have to assume
[01:15:59] Brett: it’s a hi. [01:16:00] History. History. Search back to the future. Yeah, it makes sense.
[01:16:05] Christina: The only thing I was gonna say is that in my Stars collection, so in addition to having all the stars, we also have a feature called Lists that you can create in, in GitHub. And I have one called MAs Dawn Goodness, which I’ve been keeping relatively up to date, which is like front-end clients, guides, tools, and other stuff related to Mastodon.
And then I have one called Play Date stuff, which is cool things for the play date. So that is, um, both of those are, uh, are available, um, a as well as, as the other things that I find. So just wanted to point that out there. Um, I’m, I’m trying to curate, um, my massive list of, of stars into better organized lists for certain purposes.
And, uh, I happen to do that
[01:16:44] Brett: know you could have lists. That’s awesome.
[01:16:47] Christina: I know we don’t talk about it enough because I don’t think, I think that I’m probably one of the biggest power users of Stars working at GitHub, and I don’t even work on the Stars Project
[01:16:59] Brett: I also, [01:17:00] I also just started using GitHub co-pilot. Uh, finally, finally got around to testing it out. And it turns out because of my open source contributions, like I’m at, I, I have free access to it, so I gotta, I gotta, I gotta get, I gotta get more used to, they have a feature called brushes, brush co-pilot, like you can, like give it a function and, and tell it to just fix any bugs in it, and it just figures out what bug is
Interesting. All right. Well, Marchin, thank you so much for joining us today. It was a pleasure.
[01:17:37] Marcin: Thank you so much for having me.
[01:17:39] Christina: It was so great. I’m so glad you could come on and, and you’re like, I think this book is perfect for, uh, our audience of people who are into this sort of thing. Um, I, I pre-ordered it, uh, the book immediately and what was so funny, what was so funny was that you and I, we met in a completely unrelated way and I saw some tweets about the book when it [01:18:00] was kind of coming out and I was like, wait a minute.
I know him. Like, it was so funny because, because, uh, last year, uh, Marchin and I spent. More than an hour talking about hacker, uh, sneakers and, and, uh, just, just in dms. And we just had a fantastic conversation. It was like one of like the highlights of like my afternoon, uh, like, just like a random Sunday afternoon last year.
And, and, and I, it was so lovely. It was like one of those like classic, like good internet experiences where you just connect with a stranger over something. And then I, I saw the book and I was like, oh my God. And Glen edited it and, and it looks like this is completely like my shit. I was like, I’m so excited.
I immediately told Brett and Jeff, and I’m so sad Jeff couldn’t be here. I was like, no, we have to have him on because this is completely like in the pocket of everything that our audience cares about.
[01:18:47] Brett: Yep. Yep. All right. So everyone check out, shift happens.site. Uh, you can even see 3D renderings of the book and get an idea what you are, um, uh, [01:19:00] kickstarting and it looks amazing. I also am, uh, I’m on for a pre-order. Very much looking forward to it. Um, and in the meantime, get some sleep.
[01:19:12] Christina: Get some sleep.