This is fun and games

by Alexander Mangaard (student at RUC: studying Computer Science and Psychology)

Drunk in Århus. The usual suspect is at it again with his unusual shenanigans — this time it’s an Irish bar and Guinness certainly is a fine substitute for dinner. You’re hanging out with an IT admin… always nice to meet a likeminded individual. It sometimes feels like we have to scour the entire surface of the planet just to find these people. If we don’t connect with them, the dormancy of unhad conversations will likely pile up into insanity. To avoid this inconvenience, you engage in a long conversation about the nonsensicality of end-users and having bonded immensely over this topic, things get up and close. Turns out your newfound friend is moving to Copenhagen, bummer. You ask how the packing is going and he has everything just about ready, except for this huge old school arcade cabinet that’s been sitting around for a couple years, collecting copious amounts of dust. Whenever he passes by, it gives him a menacing look, constantly reminding him of his failed efforts. We discuss the golden age of arcade games… that time during the eighties were none of us were actually involved with it, since it went down in America and perhaps even more notably, since I wasn’t born yet. A couple more Guinness make way past your throat and you’ve suddenly arranged to protect this treasure and almost ritualistically acknowledged your fate as torch bearer. If you build it, they will…. whatever. Sure I’ll take it.

Photo by Alexander Mangaard

Photo by Alexander Mangaard

Years go by. You’re kinda the “starting type” aren’t you? I mean, you’ve been looking for components… what a lovely excuse. Yes, admittedly getting the cabinet up your third floor apartment was exhausting, but this is just silly, where’s the momentum? You currently have some 8 computers lying around, 6 of which you somehow managed to squeeze underneath your bed. H​ow you get laid is miracle. Did you purchase any of these machines? No, you explored the hobby of dumpster diving and did a couple of odd jobs for some companies, getting paid in old hardware. Of course, at this point you revisit and update some of that hardware wisdom from when you were 12 and take out anything of value. Some of your friends get free RAM upgrades. You’re an inquisitive fucker, so you pick up skills on data recovery and investigate the contents of old hard drives. You could have blackmailed these people on grounds of publishing their secrets, but since you’re a good guy, you learn about data wiping and securely erase what they were legally obligated to (See the Danish Act on Processing of Personal Data). Such a nice guy.

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Photo by Alexander Mangaard

You spend your days working in an IT union, drinking coffee and studying Spanish. Nights are spent either bartending or staring into a computer screen. What is sleep? You have a nervous break down and abruptly move to Roskilde, why? Because fuck it.

Years go by. Having given yourself a clean install, the creative urges suddenly start to reappear. Luckily, there’s a makerspace (FabLab RUC) with a lot of random gizmos and gadgets and thingamajigs and they serve free coffee, the latter of which has you dropping by at least once a day. You look through old pages of scribbled madness, looking for some idea of what to make. What about that old arcade project?

You look at designs other people have made and there’s a sudden and striking realization. The Princess is in another castle and you live in a 1 room apartment. What you really want is not another arcade machine in a humongous cabinet, but to redesign the entire experience of arcade gaming. This is personal. Can you walk the fine line between retro and nouveau? What about a handheld arcade? What’s this thingy? A Raspberry Pi? You have no idea what to make of it ….and off you go.

 

You’re testing out several linux distributions and trying to interface the GPIO pins of the so-called single-board computer with the buttons and joysticks you purchased, since actually spending money on the project seemed a nice way of manipulating yourself into productivity. You get it up and running with 1200+ games, still not perfect, but it’s a start. What about the casing? There’s a laser cutter upstairs, why don’t you go and try to befriend it? Well, that failed miserably. Let’s try the CNC… it’s time you learn about g-code, you’re running out of wood and why is your coffee always turning cold? Wait, what’s the time? You have to do that workshop about the Raspberry Pi in a couple of minutes and you have actual pies in the oven. Drink some more coffee, will ya? Going in all sorts of weird directions.

Photo by Alexander Mangaard

Photo by Alexander Mangaard

So perhaps you weren’t meant to be a carpenter. What else? Oooh look a 3d printer! You’re taking the road not taken for the sake of a joyous hike. Apparently, 3d printers require constant maintenance, but even with great care these relationships can fall apart. You learn to repair them … fix the whining. Next logical step is to upgrade them, so you learn to do this as well. Any nerd would patch his girlfriend.

I’m still working on the arcade. It’s no longer in a cabinet and closer to the playstation I grew up with. The Raspberry Pi is capable of whatever you are capable of making it capable of… now get going! Covert WiFi cracking, bitcoin mining or maybe arcade machine emulation? This fun and games. Sometimes life feels like a game… Life isn’t exactly easy mode all the time. Still looking for cheat codes.

Photo by Alexander Mangaard

Photo by Alexander Mangaard

You can’t know everything, but you can know enough various bits and pieces to create a colorful mosaic. If you’re really good or just a tenacious bastard, perhaps it’ll be something no one has seen before. The arrangement of information is the structuring of an idea; a “purposeful” layering of several ideas we call knowledge; the coordination and unification of forces allow us to carry out actions in the real world. I essentially see the field of engineering as the orchestration of ideas into a performance. I’m not studying engineering, only in my spare time. I’m actually a crossbreed between a computer scientist and a social psychologist. I am Jack’s all trading master of nothing in particular. I had no idea what to call myself, when someone pointed out that I was a nerd. How fitting. Before I got into this mess, I’d hadn’t the slightest clue that I should acquire knowledge about plastics. Now what?

If you wanna make something, I recommend you go for “good enough” and no further. Also, any worthwhile endeavour should simultaneously redefine you as a person. Life is an ongoing project. What are you working on right now?

 

Photo by Alexander Mangaard

Photo by Alexander Mangaard

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