I was starting to write a really big thing about permacomputing--I'd already made an outline and was drafting--but then I read this article and feel like I see things very differently now: https://applied-langua.ge/posts/terminal-boredom.html

the Alan Kay "metamedium" idea that runs through this article is powerful; reframing the discussion around the concept of "what do I do with it" rather than "how old of a computer can I do my work on." more like the @stevelord "heirloom computer," less like an old DOS laptop that is still useful.

I'm sure there are critiques of Gemini in the article that are unfair; I don't really care one way or another about Gemini. But the bigger point--that a lot of what passes for "minimalism" is very misguided--still rings true. All these ARM SBCs are still more powerful than the laptop I got for college.

Instead, what would a "permacomputer" be if it were a way of working supported by hardware that lasted a very long time?

Plan 9, Emacs/Lisp machines, Smalltalk, hell even something like AS/400s--these kinds of "paradigm" environments seem like the thing we should be figuring out how to make "perma" instead of Linux on ARM or the Commodore 64.

The reality is that the "retro" part overtakes the "perma" and the two become intertwined. The reality is that you can buy a Pentium M laptop for $25.

@kl I'm curious what makes you think that permacomputing is NOT what you just described? Like, your 3 examples(plan9, st, etc..) are all things that are incessantly spoken about in this circle.

You seem to think that retrocomputing is permacomputing, where did you get this idea from? The wiki? the wiki has entries for lisp, st and plan9 and their relevance in that sphere.

@neauoire I think these things could be permacomputing! But things like CollapseOS, or like the CP/M stuff mentioned by @stevelord in the past, fall into that grey area between the two for me. But “retrocomputing” isn’t negative to me (I’m the guy who drafted a novel on System 7 last year, after all), just kind of a different end than what I take to be the core of “permacomputing.” This thread is also just me talking out loud to figure out what I think, so my thesis here really needs refinement.

@neauoire I think it boils down to:

I think there's a minimalism inherent in the idea, but something like what is embodied in your (on XXIIVV I mean) notion of "collapse computing" seems to be mostly a security blanket, the same as a doomsday prepper buying buckets of "food product" instead of learning to grow things. I think that's a dead end.

That's segment where the "retro" and "perma" most overlap. But again, I need to go back and actually try to write this to nail down my thoughts here.


@kl collapse collapse computing is not permacomputing tho, I've tried to split the timeline into frugal/salvage/collapse, as 3 different eras when one can practice computing degrowth. Maybe my documentation is not really clear enough too 🤔

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@neauoire That chart looks more like it's categories under the "permacomputing" header rather than a timeline, fwiw. But in my mind, "making the best use of the devices that exist" is already sort of gesturing at retrocomputing in a way, in its orientation towards harvesting existing semiconductors (even if they're not necessarily "retro" yet). I'm not sure you can separate that concept from permacomputing as currently construed, and its that aspect of it that causes friction for me.

@neauoire That said, it's that friction that I still can't really explain, and don't have a better idea yet. Something about being tied to already-extant devices feels like it necessarily makes the whole endeavor less "permanent" than some new device purpose-built to last as long as, for instance, an Olivetti typewriter.

@kl yeah, I can try to rephrase this, it's a bit tricky, I think people quickly go to "what new device is permacomputing", "how can I buy permacomputing", and leave perfectly functioning devices behind.

It's that sort of way of thinking that I'm trying to protect against. The most sustainable device is the one that already exists.

We see this a lot about sailboats, people building "new green techy plastic sailboats", which is a lot less sustainable then making use of what exists.

@neauoire see, that way of putting it resonates with me… it’s the same reason I keep a 1985 Chevy pickup truck running as a hobby. Carbureted engine, no computerized anything, easy to fix, can still haul a whole lot more than what it’s rated for… no need to buy a new truck when I don’t need one often and I bought this one for $1500. It’s a tool.

@neauoire I guess for me the difference is that in computing you could make a new “truck” that has all of the same capabilities *and* limitations, but if you did that with an actual truck, it would be extremely wasteful. It gets terrible fuel mileage, has almost no safety features, a weak engine for how large it is, etc. I think permacomputing as a theory needs to be careful not to fetishize the lack of seat belts and the steel dashboard. Those aren’t the things that give the machine longevity.

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