This is about the shadow of
technology--the things that happen with a computer that you can't fix, no matter how hard
you try, and so you live with them. It is also about the difficulty of finishing a
work with these ghosts materializing everywhere.
A narrative from Rob
Swigart about the process of creating DownTime.
A story only a hypertext
writer could love.
"The original idea was to see how
good a work one or a couple of people could do with off-the-shelf tools for very little
money. The short answer is, not much. Among the tools were of course word processing
(Word); Photoshop; Bryce (1 thorugh 4); Soundedit 16; Scenery Animator; Hypercard; Oracle
Media Objects; Adobe Premiere; Media Cleaner Pro; Debabelizer; QDesign; Director. Those
are just the ones that come off the top of my head.
"I wrote the text over several years from the mid
80s to the early 90s. Two of the stories were published in paper quarterlies.
"I worked closely with both the composer and the
programmer(s) for Down Time, though they had no influence on the text, which was done
before they were involved.
"Allen is a terrific collaborator. Initially I had
asked him if he'd do the music for the intro movie (one minute). Took him about that long
to come up with the music in his garage (well, maybe a little more than a minute). That
was probably in 1995 or so. Then I got the idea of narrating the whole thing so I recorded
all the stories on Minidisks. At that time a friend was designing it in Hypercard. The
semantic threads happened around this time, and I think actually worked pretty well in HC.
But by then
the idea was to make it work in color, that being the Big Thing. And even cross-platform. Which led to Oracle Media Objects, a HC
like cross-platform tool.
Which led to Dan Shafer, the HC guru, taking over the programming and making it almost work in Oracle Media Objects on the Mac.
"Alas Oracle abandoned the tool
and it never really worked for Windows at all. So, onward to Director. Dan did a first
pass and got it to nearly work in Director, but he was a busy guy and finally he
abandoned it. That left it in Patrick's lap. He recoded all the Lingo
scripts in about two weeks and made it work.
"Meanwhile I had this idea. Why not do music for
the narration? So I asked Allen if he'd like to have a go at it. Yup. So weekends in his
garage we'd record
music to go with the narration for each Nit of the stories. Two or three or four stories a
And then what did we have? Music. And narration. Pretty good quality, but now the problem was how to get 5 hours of sound onto a CDROM.
The answer of course was 8bit
sound, except it was awful. So why not do audio CDs, 5 of them, to go with the CDROM?
OK, into the recording studio went Allen and I, and mixed and cleaned (minidisks compress
and add an awful noise, I discovered) the sound. And voila, 5
"My publisher was not happy about doing 6 CDs. Neither was I. So Patrick and I tried
audio compression. Worked fine except the pause command in Director did not work at
all well with Shockwave audio. There was a big buffer which slowly drained, sounding
like an old victrola winding down. So then MP3 was coming along and that seemed like
an idea, except Macromedia didn't support it. And then QDesign'scodec
came along, and
it worked, so that's what we ended with.
"As for the software trail, HC-Oracle-Director
(starting I think with
Director 4 and going through Director 6.5).