If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Category: Art & Design

Baldwin and Clark – Design Rules, vol. 1 (2000)

Fundamentally, augmenting is a “wild card” operator: it is difficult to place a value on things yet to be invented, or to predict when and where those inventions will occur.

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Baldwin and Clark – Design Rules, vol. 1 (2000)

If the downside of “bad draws” in the design effort can be controlled by rejecting bad outcomes, technical risk and complexity may be good things. The reason is that modules with more technical risk or complexity may have wider distributions of outcomes than other modules. If the downside risk can be controlled, that leaves only the “upside risk”–the possibility that the experiments will uncover very good designs (high peaks in the value landscape)

Baldwin and Clark – Design Rules, vol. 1 (2000)

One insidious aspect of first-time modularizations is that design rules flaws are revealed only very late in the process. Once the rules are in place, work on the individual modules proceeds independently and may appear, for a time, to be going very well. It is only when the pieces are brought together for final integration and testing that unforeseen interdependencies are brought to light.

Baldwin and Clark – Design Rules, vol. 1 (2000)

All the necessary design rules would be established in the first phase, which was projected to last about ninety days. (In fact it took ten months.)

IBM designing System/360

Baldwin and Clark – Design Rules, vol. 1 (2000)

However, as we said in chapter 3, to achieve true modularity in a design and corresponding task structure, the mental decomposition of the artifact is not enough. Designers must also have experience with many actual designs in order to understand precisely the nature of the underlying parameter interdependencies. Only when that knowledge is in place is it feasible to think about converting mental components into actual modules.32

32 Attempts to modularize without sufficient knowledge result in the discovery of interdependencies, which may render the system inoperable. The real design and its task structure will remain stubbornly interdependent and interconnected until the designers know all the points of interaction and can address them via sensible design rules.

Baldwin and Clark – Design Rules, vol. 1 (2000)

Despite its elegance and flexibility, the concept of microprogramming did not take the industry by storm. The greatest criticism leveled against the idea was that it was inefficient. Wilkes’s approach was more complicated and circuitous than the usual way of building machines. There was also a performance disadvantage implied by the double decoding of instructions. Finally, fast memory, which was critical to implementation of the concept, was expensive. Thus many designers believed that they could build faster machines at lower cost by hardwiring the “right” set of instructions in the first place.

These criticisms were fair but missed the essential point. When Wilkes asserted that microprogramming was the “best way” to design a computer, he did not mean it was the “highest speed” or “lowest cost” approach. What Wilkes sought above all was flexibility and ease of improvement. More than anyone else of his generation, Wilkes expected all the components of the computer to get better over time.

Douglas Adams – The Salmon of Doubt (2002)

I get very worried about this idea of art. Having been an English literary graduate, I’ve been trying to avoid the idea of doing art ever since. I think the idea of art kills creativity.

…if somebody wants to come along and say, “Oh, it’s art,” that’s as it may be. I don’t really mind that much. But I think that’s for other people to decide after the fact. It isn’t what you should be aiming to do.

Ansel Adams – The Camera (1980)

Ultimately, it is the eye and mind of the photographer that determines the quality of images produced.

Ansel Adams – The Camera (1980)

It is tempting with small cameras and roll films to make a great number of exposures to be “safe.” True, there will always be one that is better than the others, but that does not mean it is a good photograph! The best 35mm photographers I know are efficient and make relatively few exposures. They know what they want to do, and do not rely on the “scattered” approach.

Ansel Adams – The Camera (1980)

In discussing mechanical or optical issues we must not lose sight of the much greater importance of image content­­—emotional, aesthetic, or literal. I believe there is nothing more disturbing than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept!