The Book Drop Example:  

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 week.
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
audio CDs.

"My publisher was not happy about doing 6 CDs. Neither was I. So Patrick and I tried Shockwave
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's
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).

"Would I do it again?

"Maybe tomorrow."


The Book Drop


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