September 10, 2002
3:55 PM   Subscribe

While poking around today, I found a link to Treefold, which isn't all that impressive in and of itself. The reason for my interest was that it's the first use I've come across of the Proce55ing language, which is a sort of continuation of John Maeda's teaching language, DBN(Design by Numbers). While still not ready for general release, it's grown a lot since the last time I looked at it.
posted by Su (11 comments total)
Neato. DBN itself appears to be almost exactly like Logo, which I was pleased to discover is still alive and kicking.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:37 PM on September 10, 2002

Treefold is kind of funky; it uses Proce55ing, a special purpose language, to implement L-systems, another kind of language, which in turn creates programs in turtle graphics, a third kind of language. All of that runs inside Java, a fourth language, which in turn is a VM for instructions native to your CPU, a fifth language. "Turtles all the way down".

Proce55ing and DBN are cool. I was at the Media Lab with these folks for awhile - my old class design projects are online. John Maeda was one of my favourite professors there, his work is truly amazing.
posted by Nelson at 4:51 PM on September 10, 2002

Proce55ing? I'll probably take a second look, but anytime people resort to H4X0R 1337 spelling I fear they have run out of ideas.

Reminds me of when the Jackson Five had a Saturday morning cartoon (back when Michael was a black male), and they wrote it as "The Jackson 5ive" My brother and I always pronounced that last word as "five ive", since even then we knew it was just oh so too damn clever to use a number as a letter.

So, is it pronounced prah-see-five-five-ing? Have they discussed this on KuroFiveHin yet?
posted by Ayn Marx at 4:57 PM on September 10, 2002

Heh. Shades of the complaints in the '80s from BBS ruggies about Poison and other "pu55y metal."
posted by kindall at 5:10 PM on September 10, 2002

this is really frustrating - is there a java plug-in for mozilla 1.0? i know, i'm a friggin programmer that uses java everyday, but i'm knackered and particularly stupid today...

(i'm sure this would be a great link is only i could see it - maeda@media is the only big, all-colour book i own...)
posted by andrew cooke at 5:25 PM on September 10, 2002

As Su said, Proce55ing is in some sense a continuation of DBN. Both provide alternative methods of learning about computational design. Proce55ing is more flexible, and can be used to build more than purely visual pieces. It was the software used in John Maeda's class Computational Media Design, which also had a hardware component.

Proce55ing is pronounced "processing".
posted by shortfuse at 6:36 PM on September 10, 2002

can maeda actually program? i mean, iirc, dbn is pretty ugly as a language (from a "language designers" viewpoint - i'm not knocking it as a useful or expressive tool) and the code snippets in maeda@media aren't that impressive. what i mean is, obviously he can knock something together and, presumably, for him it's the end visual result that's important, but did he ever discuss elegance in the program code or algorithms, for example? i'm not trying to criticise - just curious whether he treats code as purely a tool, or if he also works with the code itself as something that can be beautiful...
posted by andrew cooke at 7:12 PM on September 10, 2002

I kind of hate the Proce55ing spelling, too. At least they seem to have settled on one. The last version of the site had different 1337 interpretations of it on every page(pr0cessing, proc3ss1ing, etc).

Andrew: DBN wasn't ever really meant to be elegant. It just had to work, and most importantly, be very simple. I admit I called it a teaching language, but the thing is that it wasn't quite being used to teach Programming. It was more of a way for him to trick his students into programming(via simplicity) as a tool for presenting other concepts.
As for whether he can program, well, that's a relative term, I suppose. Lots of his static design work was programmed directly in the PostScript language. He's done a lot of work with Java, obviously, but his book Maeda @ Media, mentioned above, was laid out by a program he developed for the purpose. As contrast, I remember seeing a review that didn't think much of the book's layout, so...

I'd think that in many cases, he passes up "pretty" code for code that simply does what he wants it to. While this might be an unacceptable tradeoff for things involing serious math work, or for general use programs, I don't think it's much of an issue for him, possibly. He writes his programs to accomplish a very specific task(the project at the time), and then writes another for another task.
posted by Su at 7:48 PM on September 10, 2002

andrew cooke: maeda actually went through MIT as a CS major. I don't know where his current skills are, but I took his class this spring, where he described DBN as a programming language "even 80 year old artists and architects could understand." The point of the class was to learn to use it to design, not to write algorithms, though that speeds them up significantly in this environment. His defense for this was that design had become his thing, and if we wanted to write eloquent code, we should be in a different class.

maeda@media is an excellent book, and Design by Numbers (the book, not the software) is an interesting read about where he came from and what can be done with some simple mathematics.
posted by whatzit at 9:55 PM on September 10, 2002

thanks - those comments kind fo confirm my impressions. as i said, it's not a criticism - he's perfectly free to use computing as a means rather than an end, and he's obviously brilliant at what he does (i ask because, in contrast, i worked for a while on a project which was a very elegant language (an extension to haskell) for describing images - but, "of course" none of my attempts at generating images in that language were particularly brilliant. so i've seen this dichotomy from the other side...).
posted by andrew cooke at 3:02 AM on September 11, 2002

This comment is way late, but I happen to be the person who wrote TreeFold. It's simply a demo written in a language/toolkit that is in alpha, so I'm not surprised that it "isn't all that impressive." Proce55ing is still being developed, so using it for a big project wouldn't be appropriate quite yet.

When it is finished, I'm confident that Proce55ing will be a great solution for teaching and prototyping. Graphics programming has become unreasonable difficult ever since OS integrated GUIs. I like P5's back-to-basics approach.
posted by skyline at 1:20 PM on September 17, 2002

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