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

@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)

@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 😉

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.

@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.

@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.'

@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.

@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.

@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. This arcology is for all who wash up upon it's digital shore.