I’ve been thinking a lot about various creative reactions to the absurdity that we all carry supercomputers in our pocket but have to keep upgrading even to retain functionality because software gets worse and surveillance gets more pervasive

Things like low-power computing (Rpi and friends, microcomputers, retro computing, etc), some of the solarpunk stuff, the “smolnet” (Gopher and Gemini and the like), and so on seem to be interesting ways of highlighting that things could be other than they are

Is there an umbrella term for this? Is someone collecting projects that relate to “computing designed to work well even with low-performance/low-power gear”?

@teh_dude I don't think that works as an umbrella, though there's certainly some overlap. The philosophy of "small, grassroots, accessible" doesn't seem to really quite fit the general perception of cyberpunk

@calcifer i mean, being a cyberpunk, and the ethos in general, not to mention the aesthetic, is about the incredible proliferation of technology.

i mean, our world right now is basically what gibson warned us about, and that would kinda necessitate that aesthetic to be essentially cyberpunk.

whether you actually want to call it cyberpunk is another thing, which i would totally understand.

@calcifer i mean, i say a i mean a lot, but really what i mean is that trying to speak as if by voice through text is a little strange.

@calcifer and also, i realize cyberpunk is a lot more than the proliferation of technology, that just happens to be the main point we were talking about

@teh_dude @calcifer cyberpunk usually implies distopia. Solarpunk perhaps?

@federico3 @teh_dude yeah, this is my concern. Cyberpunk describes a chunk of the problem, but doesn't really describe the kinds of solutions or project-based commentary I'm interested in, nor do cyberpunk protagonists share the kind of aims or philosophy that's interesting me here

Cyberpunk is cool, but I don't think it is this. Solarpunk definitely is a solid example of the kind of thing I'm interested in, but I don't think it's broad enough to encompass; it's a part, not the whole

Of things people have suggested, I think "smalltech" is probably the closest match, though it seems to want to be an engine of social change, which is a bit more… activist than I'd want to imply (I appreciate activism, but I wouldn't want to limit the topic to activist projects)

i don’t know what other people would call it, i would like to say “sustainable” or “low-tech” computing. i did find this incredibly short list at a glance:

i also always need to link to lowtechmagazine because they run their server on a solar panel and they are insanely thorough and well researched writers on alternate living in general

if you find any good hashtags or w/e to watch for this sort of thing lmk

@calcifer Although it doesn't fit perfectly, this is "lowtech". Compared to the past, it's very advanced, but in this context, it's relatively minimal and designed for durable, long-duration operation on minimal power compared to contemporary "hightech"

There's a publication following a lot of these concepts

@cypnk yeah, that's definitely in the neighborhood, but you're right it's not quite a perfect fit.

@neauoire hm. Is there more about this somewhere? It seems like maybe a fit, or at least another example to consider

@calcifer I usually think of ALTAP more on the side of adaption, I have collected a bunch of links on that sort of topics here:

@calcifer perhaps we could call it walkaway computing

Reject the upgrade treadmill.
Compute for the user.
Build it to last, and to be repairable when it breaks.
Cooperate. Collaborate. Share the plenty.

Resources want to be shared.

@calcifer I like minimal computing, even though it is not an umbrella term (it has potential though). It comes from this project:

I also really like @neauoire 's suggestion of As Little Technology As Possible.

@l03s @calcifer @neauoire Just the other day, I saw 'heirloom computing' mentioned as both a term and a way to approach the concept in practice.

Some terms that might fit
lean and mean
resource effective
no frills
lasting (non obsolescent)

PinePhone and the Librem 5 would be examples. On a related note, Purism points out, the device gets better/faster with updates, not worse 😉

@calcifer There needs to be a term for this, as it's only going to get more popular, I believe.

"Alt-computing" is maybe too obvious, but something positive, not a term that defines what it's against, is best.

@erosdiscordia agreed. It's a shame words like "sustainable" have so much bullshit baggage

From a design philosophy, it's almost just plain "respectful computing": hardware that respects users' needs for longevity and resilience, software that respects its users' resources and the other software it shares them with, and systems that respect users' intelligence, limitations (time and resources, but also ability [in the accessibility meaning of the term], and ownership [in the form of "right to control"])

But I'm not sure that term would lead to much more than debate over the exact definition of respect…

@calcifer It is at base, respectful computing. But I do think people would get lost in hairsplitting that terminology. It needs to be such a basic term that nobody is tempted to Discourse too much about the words themselves. Tall order these days, I know.

@calcifer I'm absolutely interested in this. When I joined Mastodon a couple years ago, I was only barely able to grasp the concept of the possibility of this, as a vague longing in the corners of my spirit. I loved tech, but hated what it had become, which confused me.

And I felt so unqualified to have an opinion, because I wasn't "in tech" -- as though you have to be, to question something that literally affects every aspect of your life!

That elitism and exclusion is exactly the mindset that this new computering movement has to thwart.

It needs to be easy to talk about, which means it can't be too Discourse-y or academic in language.

Think here you kinda touched on what so far feels most suitable to me -
resilient technology
Or maybe
resilientek (which on a quick search doesn't look like has really been used)

In 1998 I was working on a multi-million dollar SGI supercomputer doing graphics and VR work.

I was recently in a presentation where they talked about how hard it was to do VR on smartphones because of the high resolution and high framerates.

Turns out the smartphone had almost the same graphics performance as that SGI back in the day, but FAR more CPU, RAM, storage, and bandwidth.

Also that old SGI was doing higher resolutions and higher framerates then the smartphone.

@calcifer I've seen the term "sustainable computing" a few times in gemini. It's not exactly what you looking for, but close to IMHO - it's about low-powered, low-cost, self-repaired mostly DIY stuff.

@calcifer Lately, #smalltech has become the term for this. @aral is a good account to follow that tracks and advocates small tech.

#lowtech is an older name (first I came across it was early 2000s) and a similar concept, but I understand as something slightly different: more about less reliance on technology than about making the technology we use more frugal and sustainable.

@calcifer low-tech can be very inaccurate, sustainable feels vague, "efficient" is too broad... "user centric"?

@federico3 unfortunately, half of the horrifying software design we see believes itself to be "user centric". If I were labelling my philosophical take, I might call it "respectful computing" (see elsewhere in threads); but I think that doesn't work as a unifying term due to the widely varying perceptions of "respect"

Naming things is hard.


I've sometimes referred to this as "yestertech" or "smalltech", though I'd love to know if there's more common term for this DIY-ish low-fi cyber-y stuff.

@calcifer This whole thread and this whole idea meshes well with a thread that @ajroach42 posted the other day, and I just like to imagine what computers would look like if they were made *exclusively* for the benefit of the person who'd end up using them, rather than being designed to make them easier to manufacture/transport/store/market/sell/replace.

@calcifer @ajroach42 Anyway I like "permatech" for machines that aren't designed to be thrown away.

@ifixcoinops @calcifer @ajroach42 'convivial technology', is the term used by Ivan Illych in his 1973 book 'Tools for Conviviality.' His intent is to center the needs of people rather than corporations. His work influenced early open source pioneers and should be more widely read by designers, builders, programmers and engineers today. Convivial here means happy or cheerful, but also includes the older sense of 'life together.'

@djsundog @ewankeep @ifixcoinops @calcifer @ajroach42 i've never quite known what to do with illich, but it's probably time i take another pass at it. my last go was _deschooling society_ amidst a bunch of democratic ed types in christchurch in ~2005 and i had entirely too much to think about all at once to process much of it very well.

@calcifer @ajroach42 Possibly permachines

As I'm thinking of mashing words together I'm looking at my projector screen and speakers - the screen is just fabric but it's a good screen, and if I upgrade the projector one day it'll still be there screwed to the ceiling. The speakers are old because speakers haven't really changed in the last 40-odd years, we're Done with speakers, if one day I upgrade the amp I'll keep these speakers. Easily swapping bits around should be a feature of permachines.

@ifixcoinops @calcifer @ajroach42 this is a big part of the idea for me (which my head has been classifying as "heirloom computing"). Something that, with the proper maintenance and care, can be handed down to an inheritor and have it be just as useful and functional for that next generational owner. Maybe the display gets upgraded, maybe the keyboard doesn't. But the chassis is solid, the wiring clean, and the space is copious.

@djsundog @calcifer @ajroach42 Yes, extra space inside the thing in case you want or need to change it, that's a big part of this thing we want to settle on a word for.

@djsundog @calcifer @ajroach42 I like "heirloom computing," I like "decade devices," I like "century computers," these are all great.

When I first encountered the word "Solarpunk" I was putting together a course for teaching pinball repair and I had this wonderful moment of all these related ideas coming together in a word-picture-package - instead of spending half an hour in the pub explaining all these tangentially-related things, I could just say a word and show a few pictures...

@djsundog @calcifer @ajroach42 ...and we'd have a concept in a package. Like an IC, we've got a bunch of complicated stuff encapsulated into a box with contacts sticking out for us to connect other things to, and we've gone from talking about how thing x could connect with List Or Subset Thereof Of Interconnected Things, to thinking about how thing x connects to Solarpunk. That's ENORMOUSLY powerful, so yeah, naming this elephant we're groping around is important.

@ifixcoinops @djsundog @calcifer

Human centered technology and small computing are the words I use most often, and will likely continue to use.

Let us know if you find something better.

@ajroach42 @djsundog @calcifer Those are good too. I've been calling fediverse instances "Human scaled social networks," because they can be small enough for one human to understand and take care of, which I think is a very empowering idea. I like having "human" in the name, it reminds us what all this is supposed to be for.

@djsundog @ifixcoinops @calcifer @ajroach42 farmers (as in family farms, not giant corporate agribusiness) do tech right. Use their tractors for decades, pass stuff down to the next generation, salvage and hack machines, share ideas. Computing needs to emulate this.

John Deere became enemy #1 when they put DRMed computers in their machines, well maybe #2 after Monsanto patented seeds and made farmers sign EULAs. Farmers knew this was outrageous.

@ifixcoinops @calcifer audio gear is a great example of the kind of sustainability and longevity we need in technology.

I used an amp from 62 with a turntable from 75, an 80s cassette deck, a bluetooth receiver, and various pairs of speakers from various decades for something like 8 years.

All interoperable, all reasonably repairable, all comprehensible.

Heck, the amp had a schematic inside the case.

@calcifer Not exactly what you seem to be looking for but on the «stop the bloatware» aspect of it, suckless shares pretty much the same philosophy.

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A bunch of technomancers in the fediverse. Keep it fairly clean please. This arcology is for all who wash up upon it's digital shore.