Hacking hardware and software

I’ve been buying a lot of “hack friendly” books recently, that give a dangerously semi-technical person like me a lot of tools and ideas for hacking together software visualizations, as well as hardware and software interfaces. Although I’ve started working a little in WPF/Silverlight there’s not a lot of resources out there specifically for that platform with a focus on designers like me, who want to get their hands dirty programming and prototyping ideas, but don’t have the rigor of someone with a CS degree. Flash has a long history of designers doing this, and a lot of books that encourage it, so I’ve been translating much of what I read between different platforms, which isn’t that hard to do. Mostly it’s a question of finding the algorithms that do what you want and moving them to a new context.

Some books worth considering include:

image Roger Penner’s Programming Macromedia Flash – With this book it doesn’t really matter if you’re working in Flash or WPF. It gives you a lot of the basics for on screen, maths-based dynamics. It’s easy to adapt the algorithms that Penner describes for physics-based motions, for example, to any platform.

image Processing A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists by Casey Reas Ben Fry – A new book on the basics of Processing, but it really does start from basics. The concepts are really adaptable to other platforms.

image Flash to the Core by Joshua Davis – Pretty much the first book I had that introduced me to doing dynamic stuff in Flash. Out of print now, and a bit pricey second hand. Wish it would get a re-release, though.


Here’s a really inspirational video, as an aside, showing some of the kinetic work of Bruce Shapiro. He has some wonderfully poetic ideas, which is really his skill, because if you’d HAD the idea yourself a lot of his work feels eminently hackable with a hardware such as Phidgets. I’m sure I’m underselling what he does.



Pigeon architecture
Ray Lamontagne

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