Thought For The Day

Thought For The Day

Info Deco. Maybe it's a better term than Analog Baroque.

Information technology, in its early days, showed a peculiar and fascinating affinity with the decorative techniques of traditional crafts the world over. The products of early digital music samplers like the Akai range had something in common with the needlework samplers of the 17th century. In both cases, the continuously variable sweep of an analog signal had to be represented as a series of plateaux, digital approximations of the complex shapes of the organic world. And so it was that Info met Deco.

Early electronic and ethnic decorative shapes resemble each other partly because of the inherent mathematics of form (for instance, the fact that there are only 17 patterns in the world, measured by their capacity to rotate in various ways around an axis), but also because these representations share the quality of being low res: a kind of arte povera.

The 'jaggies' of early 1980s computer graphics were there because the sampling or display rate of the computer was so low that you could actually see the simplifications it made in its interpretation of a complex line. The lines and corners weren't inherent in the thing itself, but in the computer's inadequate rendering. For this reason, a creative new element was present in early computer representations of things which was later lost as they became more sophisticated and naturalistic: the computer texture itself.

This new texture (celebrated when computers were still a wondrous gimmick but soon lost when they became workhorses or were set to the unglamourous task of emulating spreadsheets and TV) was, for a brief but glorious moment -- the age of Analog Baroque -- a time when artists really had some new sounds, new colours, and new textures to play with.

When limitations, in the way that only limitation can, set us free.

That's why, even now that we have computers capable of creating any form in the world, some of us prefer 8-bit to 64-bit, Moogs to today's digital synths, and Tron to Toy Story.

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