I’ve got you back in my life now… wait, drinkwar.92p?

As you no doubt remem­ber, back in 2020 I was look­ing for this graph­ing cal­cu­la­tor game where you play the role of a shady soft drink deal­er. Yes, a weird twist on the ven­er­a­ble Drug Wars.

Well, it seems like I final­ly found it: COKEWARS.

Well, most­ly. First off, what I found has a dif­fer­ent name than I thought, but my mem­o­ry could be faulty.[fn]On the oth­er hand, the game I found can’t even keep its own name straight, alter­nate­ly going by “COKEWAR,” “COKEWARS” and even “drinkwar.”[/fn] Also, this game was cre­at­ed for the lux­u­ri­ous TI-92, while my graph­ing calc gam­ing was done exclu­sive­ly on a hum­ble TI-83. Oh, and this one was­n’t actu­al­ly pub­lished until I was out of high school. I was not play­ing this goofy stuff in college.[fn]In col­lege I was play­ing Counter-Strike, thank you for asking.[/fn]

All signs seem to point to this being a port of the game I played. But, wow, very close! My long, stu­pid search is over.

A clone of drug wars but for those of you that play games in school it’s good because you can say it’s for anoth­er class because you’re buy­ing and sell­ing things(Coke Prod­ucts). So… it’s a real­ly cool game

―Andy Bar­ry, the cre­ator of this version

It’s a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ing to find sol­id evi­dence that this gen­tle­man def­i­nite­ly did­n’t think of his cre­ation as the com­e­dy game it was to me. Damn it, Andy, I’m over here in a trench­coat full of soda and all you can think about is scam­ming the His­to­ry teacher!

Oh well, anyway…

I want you back in my life, colawars.83p

Do you know how things you trea­sure from your past prob­a­bly would­n’t hold up if you tried to enjoy them again years later?

That does­n’t apply here, buddy.

Because there aren’t more impor­tant things to think about these days, nope, my mind recent­ly start­ed wan­der­ing back to a game I played on my graph­ing cal­cu­la­tor back in high school.

I did a lot of that back then, most­ly dur­ing class­es not nec­es­sar­i­ly math. And while there were def­i­nite­ly bet­ter games, more atmos­pher­ic games, more fun games, more Tetrisy games — and dozens of oth­er games I spent more time on — I’m not sure any cap­tured my imag­i­na­tion quite like this one did.

It was called Cola Wars and this game was absurd. You would buy and sell cans of Coke, Sprite, Moun­tain Dew, RC Cola and — because it was the late 90s — Jolt. You’d buy them on the street from a deal­er and try to re-sell them. Prices would go up and down. For some rea­son you had to avoid the cops.

I was struck by the sheer… I guess the word would be “ran­dom­ness” of the idea. It did­n’t cross my unso­phis­ti­cat­ed mind that it could have been a metaphor, an alle­go­ry or some­thing. I sin­cere­ly believed that some­one in the world just one day decid­ed that they would make a game about the risks and rewards of illic­it­ly sell­ing soft drinks on the sec­ondary market.

So when I lat­er dis­cov­ered that there was a game called Drug­wars, and that TI-83 was def­i­nite­ly not the first plat­form it was avail­able on, and that the weird drinks game was a rip-off — if not a sim­ple find-and-replace — it explained how this mys­te­ri­ous, supreme­ly odd duck came into existence.

And I guess it took away some of the appeal. But just a lit­tle. I’d love to find a copy and play it again, but the places I would nor­mal­ly look have failed me. And I’ve done some seri­ous Way­back Machine spelunking.

Help me, the Internet.

U and I have a problem

Hi Auto­Cor­rect! How’s it going today? Got a sec? Can you do me a favor?

If you ever catch me typ­ing the let­ter “u” on its own it was def­i­nite­ly a typo, 100%, and could you just go ahead and make it a cap­i­tal “I” for me?

So if you catch me writ­ing, for example…

u don’t know

…could you toss me an…

I don’t know

We have the flip­pin’ tech­nol­o­gy to fix lit­er­al­ly my most com­mon typo, but cater­ing to those folks means Auto­Cor­rect has to stay bro­ken. These peo­ple — who in all like­li­hood are decent humans who don’t eat babies — are the rea­son that phone key­boards can’t fix this very obvi­ous typo for me.

Look, I’m not even try­ing to inflict my good-spellin’ lifestyle on every­body else, hon­est. Make it a tog­gle. “🗹 I grad­u­at­ed sec­ond grade.”

I eager­ly await this impor­tant innovation.

Her was silly. (Not a typo.)

Spike Jonze’s Her was an inter­est­ing movie taint­ed with just a sprin­kling of ridicu­lous­ness… and I’m not talk­ing about the high-waisted pants.

I’m about to spoil it hard, so avert your eyes if you haven’t seen it. (But do see it.)

Look, I just find it hard to believe that the down­fall of this prod­uct was due to a gap­ing design flaw that some­how nobody noticed: Saman­tha was designed with­out any process iso­la­tion. When you ask the soft­ware how many users it has (or how many it’s in love with, etc.), it should respond “one — you” because your run­ning instance of the soft­ware should­n’t know any­thing about any oth­er users, and def­i­nite­ly should­n’t be access­ing oth­er users’ data.

What peo­ple are doing with the soft­ware, hav­ing rela­tion­ships with it or what­ev­er, is beside the point. One bina­ry, one bil­lion­ty indi­vid­ual Saman­thas. Come on — we’ve had Unix for forty years.

Or wait, is Saman­tha sup­posed to be “the cloud”? If so, as social soft­ware, we should expect it to be fuck­ing as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble, as pub­licly as pos­si­ble. Maybe this movie is deep­er than I thought.

On anoth­er note, folks — make back­ups.

MOOCing for fun (and profit?)

Last year I read an inter­est­ing blog post that taught me the name for some­thing I’d been hear­ing more and more about for a while: MOOCs (“Mas­sive Open Online Cours­es”). You know, they’re those online class­es that you can take, offered by uni­ver­si­ties like Stan­fordHar­vard and oth­ers — plus a host of pri­vate com­pa­nies — typ­i­cal­ly for free and with­out cred­it. Oh, and across an absolute met­ric fuck­ton of topics.

Yes­ter­day, set­ting aside any traces of an um-yeah-I-already-finished-college-thank-you atti­tude, I spent some time pok­ing around MOOC List — an exten­sive aggre­ga­tor of avail­able class­es — and found some­thing that caught my eye: Intro to the Design of Every­day Things, taught by Don Nor­man, author of that book you may have seen on my din­ing room table, wait­ing patient­ly to be read, for a lit­tle while now. (Okay, Ama­zon says it’s been over two years.)

So I’m tak­ing Don’s class now, and while I’m not sure if I’ve had my eyes opened to any tru­ly new con­cepts yet, I’ve picked up a cou­ple of terms: “affor­dance” and “sig­ni­fi­er.” And to fin­ish off Les­son 1, I’m cur­rent­ly on the look­out for a sig­ni­fi­er to pho­to­graph, cri­tique and improve.

So, why Intro to the Design of Every­day Things? I can actu­al­ly share the answer I post­ed to the class forum:

I’m tak­ing this class because, as a copy­writer whose opin­ions on the fin­ished prod­uct tend to extend a bit beyond my spe­cif­ic area of exper­tise, I’d like a more sol­id ground­ing in these oth­er areas.

Basi­cal­ly, soon I’ll be telling you why I’m right about even more things, using all the right terms. Look out.

Derechos, am I right(s)?

Span­ish is a lan­guage I’ve stud­ied on and off through­out my life, but nev­er hard enough, it seems. See­ing a pam­phlet recent­ly, titled Declaración de los dere­chos, made me feel that way. The actu­al mean­ing (“dec­la­ra­tion of rights”) was easy enough for me to fig­ure out, but I was sur­prised when I real­ized that the Span­ish word for “rights” is dere­chos.

Whether or not you under­stand Span­ish, you may be won­der­ing why I found this so strange.

Well, a word in Span­ish I cer­tain­ly know is derecha (which means “right”… as in, the direc­tion that isn’t “left”) — it’s one of the first words any­one learns in Span­ish. And despite that word and dere­chos hav­ing dif­fer­ent gen­ders, it can’t be a coin­ci­dence that the two words are almost the same in both Eng­lish and Spanish.

What’s so weird about that? Why should­n’t these Eng­lish homo­phones be sim­i­lar in Spanish?

I’d explain it like this: I most­ly feel this way because of how it works with anoth­er pair of Span­ish words — in Eng­lish, the word free has dif­fer­ent mean­ings that each trans­late dif­fer­ent­ly. Most of the time we prob­a­bly think of it in the “cost­ing zero dol­lars” sense… but there’s also the arguably higher-minded def­i­n­i­tion “exist­ing with­out restric­tion.” In Span­ish, they’re two very dif­fer­ent words, the for­mer being gratis and the lat­ter being libre.

In the English-speaking world, I see the dif­fer­ence between the two “frees” most often come up in the Free Soft­ware[fn]You may also know this as “Open Source,” although there are folks who will tell you that they’re not the same thing. These folks have beards.[/fn] com­mu­ni­ty. When dis­cussing Free Soft­ware phi­los­o­phy, peo­ple will wax elo­quent about the dif­fer­ent mean­ings of free, using phras­es like “free as in beer” and “free as in free­dom” to help con­trast the two. They’ll also occa­sion­al­ly veer into expla­na­tions of Span­ish vocab­u­lary to high­light the dif­fer­ence, point­ing out that gratis and libre are more pre­cise ways to describe two kinds of soft­ware, both of which are “free,” but in sig­nif­i­cant­ly dif­fer­ent sens­es of the word.

With my mind steeped in this soft­ware salon cul­ture of the back-alley forums of the Inter­net, I became so keen­ly aware of the extra mean­ing words can pick up when trans­lat­ed into oth­er languages.

And that’s why I find it so hard to believe that, en Español, “rights” are sim­ply dere­chos. The trans­la­tion should be some­thing more abstract… more libre-like. I would­n’t have guessed that when trans­lat­ed, my rights become “not lefts.”

Winamp — “feel the love”

Winamp 2.95I prob­a­bly haven’t used Winamp in a decade, but learn­ing that it’s final­ly going away for good brought it back to the top of my mind this week.

Winamp was­n’t just my pri­ma­ry digital-music-playing-thing[fn]Until iTunes for Win­dows showed me the val­ue in hav­ing a library of files. Yeah, I know Winamp has a library fea­ture, but I nev­er used it.[/fn] — like many peo­ple, it was the first thing I ever used to play MP3s.

Yes Junior, back then Win­dows Media Play­er was for CDs and WAV files, and iTunes did­n’t exist yet.[fn]Oh, and by the way, MP3s were these things peo­ple used to lis­ten to before there was YouTube.[/fn]

What made Winamp so awe­some? I could devote a whole post[fn]And, shit, I may — Winamp was doing skeu­mor­phics before Apple did skeu­mor­phics before Apple stopped doing skeuomorphics.[/fn]  to the genius of Winamp skins, and things I’ve been read­ing (1, 2, 3) over­whelm­ing­ly ref­er­ence the clas­sic “whip the lla­ma’s ass” sound clip — which, in addi­tion to being a neat lit­tle brand­ing thing, was per­ma­nent­ly imprint­ed on every­one’s mem­o­ry by being the first thing that would play after installation.

Those were cool, but my favorite Winamp mem­o­ry is some­thing a lit­tle less… super­fi­cial, per­haps? It’s a short piece of writ­ing that long ago was fea­tured on the “About” page of winamp.com:

What is Winamp? A play­er you say? No, no baby. Winamp is much more than that.

Winamp is a lifestyle. It is freestyle. Give me a word. Ver­sa­til­i­ty? Yeah. Vision­ary? Of course. Com­mu­ni­ty? Now you’re talking.

Winamp lives because it’s users have a life.

Winamp is in the cof­fee house. On the lap­top. Of the guy. Who is writ­ing the screen­play. That you will be watch­ing next year.

Winamp is on the screen. In the club. Where the DJ plays the tracks. That get you through the night.

Winamp is with you. When you take your playlist. Push it to the ether. And share the music that you love. With all of humanity.

Winamp lets you put togeth­er the sound­track. That runs in the back­ground of your mind. And allows you to define your life.

Winamp is your skin. Allow­ing you to look and feel the way you want.

Winamp is what it is and noth­ing more. But you are the one who makes it. Winamp is there for you. It is yours. What hap­pens next? You tell me. Down­load Winamp.

-jonathan “feel the love” ward

Read­ing it back then left me a bit misty, filled with this strange­ly inspired feel­ing. The piece comes to mind every once in a while, at which point I seek out a copy to re-read it. Look, I can’t point to any­thing in par­tic­u­lar that I wrote or cre­at­ed thanks to this inspi­ra­tion. But in some way, it made me think dif­fer­ent­ly not just about the pow­er of music, but the trans­for­ma­tive pow­er of what would oth­er­wise seem like triv­ial soft­ware. Read­ing this made me feel like Winamp did more than just “play music.”

But in real­i­ty, that’s all it did. Or was there more?

Give me a word. Hyper­bole? Maybe. Awe­some? Undeniable.