Great Impractical Ideas in Computer Science
February 13, 2020 1:46 AM   Subscribe

Want to make simple games? Create basic animations? Program a Turing machine? Generate fractals? Why not use the sophisticated new development environment called *checks notes* Microsoft Powerpoint??
posted by EndsOfInvention (19 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
All you have to do is somehow connect this with McKinsey and the Astros to make this most evil thing ever discovered.
posted by geoff. at 2:59 AM on February 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

As someone who loves seeing what clever people can do within really tight boundaries, I thought this was great. Thanks.
posted by Rykey at 3:52 AM on February 13, 2020 [11 favorites]

geoff, I can assure you that McKinsey and PowerPoint are in a deeply committed relationship.

Aren't all games created in HyperCard and HyperStudio basically PowerPoint programming? Good luck convincing me Spelunx and Jungle Quest aren't the two best Mac games of the early '90s.
posted by ecreeves at 4:22 AM on February 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

Good luck convincing me Spelunx and Jungle Quest aren't the two best Mac games of the early '90s.

The mummy in Scarab of Ra would like to have a word with you.
posted by NoMich at 4:57 AM on February 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

posted by wachhundfisch at 5:10 AM on February 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also previously!

And it took a lot not to quote the whole thread and embed it in my comment.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:10 AM on February 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

You can build a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure in Word, so why not PowerPoint? All you need is the ability to link between pages.
posted by drivingmenuts at 6:34 AM on February 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

I wish there were a way to play Scarab of Ra on my iPad. It’s one of the 1980s adventure games I always meant to play, but never did.

I understand there are emulators, but not aware of a way to get this working on iOS.
posted by darkstar at 7:26 AM on February 13, 2020

(So, technically, there’s this emulator, but it requires coding, importing ROM/disk images, etc. I was hoping for an app you could run.)
posted by darkstar at 7:34 AM on February 13, 2020

darkstar, does this run on iPad?
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 8:00 AM on February 13, 2020

posted by darkstar at 8:03 AM on February 13, 2020

Mrs. Wreckage had some very weird (even for the mid 90s) computer instruction in college and didn't grow up with computers. She does so much in PowerPoint and Excel that I would use 'better' tools for but she can make magic happen. It's amazing to see what people can do with limited tools given imagination and time. Sometimes not knowing the 'better way' is an advantage. With electronics I'm constrained by lack of traditional training and better parts and equipment but I manage to make a lot of things work in ways that really shouldn't. People who know what they're doing are quick to point out good reasons I'm doing it wrong and they're right but it's still fun.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 8:09 AM on February 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

At this point it's honestly more surprising to me when a piece of software accepting user inputs doesn't model some Turing complete system.
posted by PMdixon at 8:22 AM on February 13, 2020

FWIW - Hypercard was deliberately Turing complete - it had a HyperTalk (iirc, it's been a minute) programming language, which was a pain in the butt "easy" syntax language that Apple loves to impose. I found myself endlessly annoyed by it as a tween.
posted by wotsac at 8:29 AM on February 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

At a previous job, people used Word as a graphics design application, including poster size pieces. Why? you ask. Because the IT department wouldn’t spring for Illustrator, etc. Nor would they train anybody, including themselves, in how to use (support) it. Necessity breeds invention. So PowerPoint as an programming tool? Why not?
posted by njohnson23 at 9:05 AM on February 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Word's page size tops out at 22"x22" which is damned inconvenient for poster design. PowerPoint allows up to 56"x56", which lets you work with all of the standard Ansi and Arch page sizes.

And while is it's got some sharp limitations for design function (don't get me started on its indent shenanigans), offices have PowerPoint and, as mentioned, often won't pay for Illustrator, InDesign, Quark XPress, and so on. Even if they let the design team have one of those, the files are uneditable by anyone else.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:35 AM on February 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

I keep remembering a thread from the early mefi days, but I can't find it. Effectively an article headline that read "Computer Scientists accuse Mathematicians of not producing anything practical."

The comments in the thread pointed out pretty early on that the article actually described Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs accusing Computer Scientists of not producing practical results. The editor of whatever paper it was simply didn't understand that CS was science rather than software development.

I think about this every single time I see the phrase "Computer Science".
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 9:46 AM on February 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

I used PowerPoint one time to make a bunch of video clips because it allowed me to without special software insert a video of the speaker in the corner of their slides. I had to separate it into about 8 zillion PowerPoint files and then merge the .mp4 results of each with another free program, but it worked oddly well other than the export processing time.
posted by typecloud at 12:31 PM on February 13, 2020

Jon Bois (the Breaking Madden / 17776 guy) does a lot of his motion graphics in Google Earth, if I recall correctly.

I am a big fan of creatively off-label uses of software so long as I don’t have to maintain them in a professional setting!
posted by Alterscape at 1:29 PM on February 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

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