So I guess the world didn't end. We all survived the Mayan rollover, giggled at those who believed in ancient superstition, and without a hint of irony went on to celebrate Christmas. This was always going to be a vintage year for apocalyptic nonsense but I'm now a little teary-eyed to see it go. Unless Harold Camping or Ronald Weinland know different I think the next big date of doom is Isaac Newton's prediction for 2060. Mark it in your calendar and smoke 'em if you got 'em.
Talking of apocalypse I was, for a long time, a specialist in Adobe Flash. By the end of last year though it was clearly time to broaden into other technologies so at the beginning of 2012 I made a plan to work through my existing commitments whilst looking at other technologies in my own time.
In February I flew out to FITC in Amsterdam to meet Jensa and Marc and get a feel for what the rest of the community was thinking. It was a relief to discover no-one was out of work and in fact everyone was really busy. Whilst there I took a training course with Lucas Meijer, who along with Ralph Hauwert had engineered the Flash platform export for Unity. We really only scratched the surface of what it can do but I was really impressed. Unity is an incredibly versatile and performant technology and it's potential is immediately evident. Whilst I was with Jens I also formally stepped down from FlashMagazine after 12 years. It felt a little melancholy (we have covered it's entire rise and fall) but I think we bowed out in style with a rather good bottle of 12 year old single malt.
Back at home in Worthing things were getting interesting. What had been an informal meetup (i.e ad-hoc drinking) by local digital bods officially became Worthing Digital, an organisation with monthly tech talks and a weekly co-working initiative. In fact the co-working has been so popular that we now have a permanent co-working space in town. I've been working there since December and I can thoroughly recommend it.
Creative technology never fails to inspire me and in the summer I watched live (bizarrely via my XBox 360) as approximately one ton of it touched down on the surface of Mars. An incredibly bold and innovative mission culminating in the unforgettable "7 minutes of terror". I've long had an interest in space exploration so at the beginning of the year I joined the British Interplanetary Society. They have a fascinating office and library in Vauxhall in London which I thoroughly recommend visiting if you are at all interested in the British contribution to space travel.
Much of the space news this year echoed all the way back to my childhood. When the Voyager probes were launched I was no doubt in the cinema watching Star Wars and would never have expected, 35 years later, to find them still going strong and passing the outer edges of the solar system. Mind blowing. This year also marked the 40th anniversary of Apollo 17, NASA's last manned mission to the moon, and with it the somewhat depressing statistic that no-one born after 1935 has ever walked on the moon.
And of course we can't talk about Apollo without mentioning the sad passing of Neil Armstrong; first man on the moon and a true ambassador for the human race. A few weeks ago we also lost the irrepressible astronomer, Sir Patrick Moore. His passing made all the more poignant by the somewhat surreal memories of my kids playing in his garden to a background chatter of rocket scientists and sandwiches. Happily though in September I managed to see another childhood hero, the very much alive, James Burke. The sheer volume of ideas and epiphanies he crammed into his final session at dConstruct will live long in the memory.
The Brighton Digital Festival, of which dConstruct is only a part, was another big highlight of the year. John Davey's Reasons to be Creative conference proved just as much fun as Flash On The Beach and with friends coming in from all over the world it made for a very welcome reunion. Another highlight was the Brighton Mini Maker Faire, a celebration of maker culture both digital and hand-made. I took my eldest daughter who had enormous fun driving robots, 3D printing and making mosaics and hot-air balloons. The geek dad in me couldn't resist helping her write her first "Hello World" program on the BBC Micro.
The Computus Engine is a personal project; an ongoing exploration of how time is measured and how new technology might let us interact with it. As with all such efforts it has gone through periods of intense activity and periods of dormancy. But ever since I've had a presence on the web there's one ritual I've managed to keep throughout. Every month since January 2000 I have produced a new desktop wallpaper. Here's a short visual history of that project.
The initial run of desktops were all graphic design experiments of vastly varying success!
October 2001 saw the first calendar of events incorporated into the design.
Photography was introduced in 2002.
Two themed sets in 2003 and some experimentation with more calendar information.
Two sets from various trips and a further experiment with layout.
In 2005 the design settled down to the now familiar top bar.
Since 2010 the calendars have lived here on computus.org.
And finally a sneak peek at next year's set. As usual they feature some of my favourite photos from the previous year and in fact most of these were shot locally on Worthing seafront. Have a great 2013!
Back when I lived in London my commute by train would take me past a small unassuming office building in Vauxhall. The only reason it caught my eye at all was for the sign across the entrance that read The British Interplanetary Society. I've been curious about what goes on in there ever since. So earlier this year I jumped in, joined up and found out.
The society was founded in the early 1930's with the aim of supporting and promoting astronautics and space exploration. United Kingdom explosives law curtailed early experiments into rocketry but as early as the end of the decade, the society had developed a project to land three men on the moon. By the time of the Apollo moon landings, members of the society were working on Project Daedalus - a proposal for an interstellar spacecraft.
Notable members of the society include the science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke who was an early member and served as it's chairman shortly after the war, and Sir Patrick Moore who was the first editor of the BIS magazine SpaceFlight. Which brings me neatly to Patrick's picnic...
The society holds a summer picnic at Sir Patrick Moore's house in Sussex. It's a relaxed affair, with a few speakers, a quiz and some games, all held within the leafy grounds of his home. It was a fun day out and a great reminder that following your curiosity can take you to the most surprising places.
"In my own time. On my own time." is a project by Royal College of Art graduate Charlotte Christofferson.
The project examines how gender and age affect our perception of time. Charlotte's research and interviews revealed how we all perceive and structure time differently. She distilled her findings down to five archetypes: a child, teenager, mother, father and a grandmother in the early stages of dementia.
My involvement in the project began about a month ago. We met in London to discuss how the rules for each archetype could be codified into an interactive application. I soon after set to work building all this into an iPad app that could be part of the public display for the RCA Show 2012.
Although the timescale was tight, less than two weeks from concept to delivery, that wasn't really the biggest challenge. The tough part was suppressing my own time conventions in order to program each archetype. The father was simple; as an adult male we both structure events in a linear manner. The teenager is also linear although a little less structured. The mother observes a daily cyclical structure, and the events of the child and grandmother are pretty much random.
Churches and alehouses are ubiquitous in Britain. The names change from time to time but many of the sites have been occupied for centuries. Back before the advent of GPS and smartphone mapping it was fairly common to provide directions as a list of common landmarks. I can still remember my Geography teacher instructing his class (of ten years olds) how to navigate across town by every pub and alehouse en-route. It was much more fun than oxbow lakes.
After ten years living and working in London I got to know the alehouses rather well, and with the festive season well and truly upon us I thought it might be fun to have a virtual temporal pub crawl. This list is by no means exhaustive but here are a few London pubs with a temporal connection.
The Ship and Shovell, Charing Cross
This was a regular haunt of mine when I used to commute in from Greewich. This wonderful pub is unusual in that it is split across two locations, either side of an alleyway. On most days visitors spill out of both buildings and into the alley in-between. The pub is named after the wonderfully monickered Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Cloudesley Shovell. He lost his life in 1707, along with 2000 other sailors, when his fleet hit rocks off the isles of Scilly. The cause of the disaster was due to a mis-calculation of the fleet's location. In order to prevent this from happening again the British government formed the Board of Longitude which in turn inspired clockmaker John Harrison to create his award winning marine chronometer, H4.
The Crown, Seven Dials
This pub is located on the Seven Dials roundabout in Covent Garden. It was the closest pub to my old agency so we would often end up there after work. Next to the doorway, on the wall of the pub, is a plaque with a waveform and inscription showing the Equation of Time. You'll find an identical plaque next to Nero's coffee shop on the other side of the roundabout. In the middle of the roundabout is a tall monument capped with six sundials... go figure.
The Jerusalem Tavern, Clerkenwell
Now this is a cracking alehouse. In the 18th century Clerkenwell was home to watchmaking in London. At that time, the site of what is now The Jerusalem Tavern was a clockmakers shop. When I was working at Pogo we'd often end up here at the end of the night. It's a little tricky to find but if you do manage to visit then take a few minutes to pop round the corner to St John's square where you can visit the marvellous Museum of the Order of the Knights of St John.
The Daylight Inn, Petts Wood
This is the only pub on my list that I haven't managed to get to but I can't really miss it out. The pub is named in honour of local resident William Willett, a London builder and the principal UK proponent of Daylight Saving Time.
Trafalgar Tavern, Greenwich
There are lots of great pubs in Greenwich (tip: you'll find the best ones are along Royal Hill) but the Trafalgar is probably the most famous. Built in 1837 on the site of the Old George Inn, it sits on the river alongside the Old Royal Naval College. The writers William Thackeray and Charles Dickens were frequent visitors. It can get very busy but is worth visiting to soak up some maritime history.
The White Hart, Drury Lane
The White Hart bills itself as the 'oldest licensed premises in London'. This may or may not be true (the oldest pub in London is a hotly debated topic) but inside it looks like any modern pub. It's present incarnation is far less exciting than it's colourful history - highwayman, Dick Turpin, is said to have been a regular. It's claim is apparently derived form from the (nearby) Old Bailey archives which show it was first licensed back in 1216.
BONUS PUB: The Dog and Bell, Deptford
This was my local when I lived in Deptford. I don't know if it has a temporal connection (most of Deptford does) but I'm listing it because it's the best pub in south east London. Don't just take my word for it, no less an authority than CAMRA have honoured it with the accolade several times. Built next to the Royal Dockyards, it serviced the drinking requirements of local workers. The pub makes an appearance in ''Homeward bound', a sea shanty from 1870's.
And now we haul to the Dog and Bell
Where there's good liquor for to sell.
ln comes old Archer with a smile,
Saying: "Drink, my lads, it's worth your while."
For I see you are homeward bound,
I see you are homeward bound.
It's not easy to find, but while you're getting lost I'd recommend visiting the nearby St. Nicholas churchyard. Extra points if you can find the grave marker for the playwright Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593).keep looking »