When Bevelled Edges Were Cool

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Okay, it’s been a while since we’ve updated this story, and it’s pretty obvious to us now that this web site is a perpetual work in progress. We may even have to change our tag line:

Smackerel — we’re making a great story.
Smackerel — we will make a coherent story.
Smackerel — we’re trying to make a story but it’s hard.
Smackeral — for people who can’t spell Smackerel.

So, with apologies to the 6 people who read the intro and chapter 1, and have waited patiently for more, we humbly offer chapter 2, wherein Dave, Kevin, and friends, struggle to create an interactive experience using the tools available circa 1991 - 1993.

The early nineties saw an explosion of possibilities. For the first time, colour graphics, sound, motion, and interactivity could be brought together on a personal computer. Of course, just because we could do it, didn’t mean we could distribute it. There was no web, and 9600 baud modem was wickedly fast . Fewer than 1 million people worldwide owned a CD ROM. In fact, let's face it, most people didn't even have a computer yet.

In those days, there were two practical ways to deliver an interactive experience: cram it onto a floppy disc and mail it, or make an interactive kiosk. Computers were very slow, and very fragile; satisfying experience had to be coaxed, screen by screen.

This chapter is about the technical limitations we encountered and what we learned from them. Frankly, limitations made us think, and in the long run, they improved our work. Most readers will find this pretty retro, but some good knowledge was lost along the way, so the story is still worth telling. Besides, in 2005 we're coming up against some new limitations that feel
quite familiar.

Broadly speaking, here’s what we were up against:

Poor screen resolution (640 by 480 pixels, 256 colours. This section has lots of pictures.)
Really slow processors (16 - 22 MHz.)
Size (for floppy based projects, we were limited to 800 KB, and later 1.5MB. This section has downloadable examples that run on really old machines. Yippee!)
Practically no interface conventions (for kiosks, we had to assume that users had never used a computer.)


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