Wednesday, April 27, 2016

We're all dooomed

Back in the day one of the breakthrough computer games of the early 90s was a game called "Doom". It wasn't the very first of it's kind but it helped to give birth to a whole genre of computer games called "FPS" or First Person Shooters, these are games where the player views and interacts with a computer generated world as if looking through their own eyes (i.e. in first person) Doom was a seriously cool game for it's time, it looks "blocky" and simplistic now but back then it was leading edge. To have a 3D environment that you could wander through and pan around perfectly smoothly was a triumph. The programming genius behind the development of the graphics engine that underpinned it was a chap called John Carmack who went on to form a company called Id Software and for a while in the mid-90s, they rocked the gaming world. Carmack even has an algorithm named after him (how cool is that!) the "Carmack reverse algorithm for shadow volumes" is a permanent computer science monument to his ingenuity.

Fast forward to today and computers have become very different tools; there are still gamers and there are still cool FPS games to play, but computers have gone from being things that geeks and software algorithm geniuses played games on in their bedrooms to the mainstream of our society. Back in 1991 when Doom was written the World Wide Web only had one page, the page that Tim Berners-Lee created to test his new idea; by 1992 it had 10 pages and today there are over 5000 new pages being added every second. 

Recently it was noted that the world of Doom and the World wide web had an interesting intersection, the average WEB page became as big (in terms of bytes of data) as the first version of Doom was. So today we have pages being served up that show a picture of a kitten that are as big as a fully functional, multi-player, 3D, FPS game (with all of the ingenuity required to make that work) Perhaps I'm being over nostalgic but I do sometimes think that our society has become overly obsessed with form over function. Back in 1992 Doom could easily occupy a teenage brain for days, weeks if not months, for the exact same payload of information how long can a picture of a kitten hold your attention and is this good bang for our buck? I do sometimes hanker for the days when ingenuity was king and the marketing parasites that now infest the WEB with their bloated stock images and tiresome popup spam were still running around selling each other knock-off Rolex's from a suitcase; then again, nostalgia isn't what it used to be..

No comments: