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Journal Journal: spimes

A friend pointed me to the "95 Theses of Geek Activism" at

One thing I noticed is his mention of "spimes" which I haven't thought about for awhile. I like Bruce Sterlings futurism more than I like his fiction. I like viridian design - if someone were to ask me if I were a "Green" I'd probably counter that I was more of a Viridian (technocrat green rather than luddite green). So I goggled about for spimes and it doesn't look like the term has caught on, basically since people can't seem to wrap their heads around it and picture a concrete example.

So, here I'll take something that seems to me almost a spime and add a few features that would make it truly a spime. Sterling originally used the Treo/Blackberry as an example of a highly evolved gizmo with spime qualities. I like mine better:

The Line Six Variax Guitar [url][/url]

Looks like a guitar, plays like a guitar, but its not really. It's a computer that you interact with via strings. It acts and sounds like dozens of different guitars (though honestly none perfectly) and a few non-guitars. It's a ditial modeling insrument, digital modeling being Line 6's forte.

It's very cool.

It's not quite a spime yet. Part of what holds it back is Line 6's desire to keep it proprietary, part is probably just a failure of imagination or a fear of putting in things that their customers don't know they need yet.

As a punchlist here are the six technologies that converge into a spime and how they could come together as a next gen guitar spime based on the Variax.

These six facets of spimes are:

  1. Small, inexpensive means of remotely and uniquely identifying objects over short ranges; in other words, radio-frequency identification.

    You could do exactly that, but it's not very interestng. How about we blutooth it? That gives us 3 Mbps bandwidth to play with. The drummer can grab your initial E power chord wirelessly and map it to his low tom. The keyboard player can set his system to change patch settings when you switch from a faux telecaster mode to a faux banjo setting. You could do stuff I can't think of right now (and that's rather the point).

  2. A mechanism to precisely locate something on Earth, such as a global-positioning system.

    Sure, why not. If I loan my guitar to a friend for a gig and ask google "where is my guitar" and get back a location for the local pawn shop - I can take action. I'd be more interested in knowing where my glasses are, or my car keys. But sure, why not add it?

  3. A way to mine large amounts of data for things that match some given criteria, like internet search engines.

    I can't thing of a useful way to map this to a guitar, but others probably can.

  4. Tools to virtually construct nearly any kind of object; computer-aided design.

    Keeping within the context of a useful guitar...

    As a guitar the Varix leaves a lot to be desired. The first model had build quality and playability about equivalent to a ~$100 Epiphone. Not horrible, but not somethng that made people eager to plop down $1200 for one. Build quality on the new ones are better, but not top drawer. Add a CAD/CAM order system. Custom scale lengths, custom neck parameters: baseball bat, single radius compoind radius, thick thin, fngerboard radius, jubo or regular frets? Better yet - why don't you hold your favorite old guitar up to the nice lasers and we will scan it and make it just like that.

    If you are Eric Clapton, you can get this now. Gibson or Martin will lovingly your favorite axe in every detal and then update it to be better than the original. As has been said - "the future is here, it's just poorly disseminated".

  5. Ways to rapidly prototype virtual objects into real ones. Sophisticated, automated fabrication of a specification for an object, through "three-dimensional printers."

    They have this one, within limits. A couple of years ago they came out with a workbench editor that allows you to create models of guitars that don't exist ... yet. Take off the limits (many of which are probably there to try to limit reverse engineering)and:

    create things that are not remotely guitars

    share patches transparently. If a "myspace" friend of yours creates a new instrument, have your guitar automatically grab it.

  6. "Cradle-to-cradle" life-spans for objects. Cheap, effective recycling.

    Guitars are not really like that. I know I've never thrown one away. Cradle to cradle makes good sense though, they do become obsolete. How about if the next time you walk withing bluetooth range of your net connection your guitar tells you "dude! there's a new DSP for me that outputs a Dolby 5.1 signal - can I have it?!".

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