Hey, remember that iMac I was working on last week? The one that I was putting Mojave on just ’cause? Well, I told you I had a project in mind for it!
Let’s take a trip, shall we? I used to use this 2010 iMac at my office before it became hopelessly outdated. It’s spent close to the last half decade in storage at the shop (just off the left side of the screen in videos, actually). I’m gonna try to repurpose it pic.twitter.com/mS2G90nBhH
— Matthew Eargle (@airbornesurfer) May 29, 2021
Also: For the record, it’s an early ’09 model, not a ’10.
Anyway, I’ve always been a bit of a broadcasting nut. I always loved/hated the politics, the business, and the technology of commercial broadcasting.
In fact, in high school/early college, I wanted to make a career of it.
Even before then, I was recording “radio shows” and “TV programs” with friends. Much of it was parody–inspired by Dan Aykroyd sketches, Tiny Toon Adventures, that “Stay Tuned” movie, and Wayne’s World–but I played it seriously (which was part of the fun)
More than the programming, though, I was fascinated by the technological infrastructure. How radio equipment works, how signals are converted, but especially how that can be exploited.
When I was 14, the school band went on a trip to Panama City. My best friend brought a small FM transmitter like you would plug into a CD player to listen over a car stereo, and I hatched a BRILLIANT scheme.
After a covert mission to Radio Shack during a lunch break, we had exactly what we needed to build that elusive dream of all Gen X kids (and some of us Xennials): an unlicensed radio station.
It didn’t take long for us to get into a LOT of trouble with the adults ?
Anyway, I’ve always romanticized broadcasting. Fortunately, after a wave of consolidation and format changes in the late 90s (as well as the unfiltered reality related to me by industry vets), I saw where the industry was going and got out before I grew to hate it. That’s why I gravitated toward YouTube early on, but it’s very noisy and just doesn’t feel the same. YouTube is more like an old VHS exchange while running a production, aesthetically, feels different?
So, this bit of personal history brings me back around to the project at hand. I know that with today’s technology, literally anyone can broadcast. There’s really no gatekeeping anymore (which is a good thing), but I still love the idea of “curated” content. I love the idea of having a “channel” that plays constantly changing content, and I love the idea of being able to produce that content without necessarily “going live”. It’s not just making videos, but creating an experience beyond the video.
So I wanted to build a little homage to analog broadcasting. I wanted to capture some of the essence and the nostalgia of the old ways without getting caught up in the whole “content mill” mindset. Something that people could drop in, have something unique served to them, then stay and chat or just move on without commitment. Something that could run itself, automatically generating that curated content without my input.
So to start off, I built what might be the epitome of mid-90s automated analog TV:
The Weather Channel
It’s simple, but it’s proof-of-concept for a little side art project that I’ve been kicking around in my head for a long time. Eventually, I want to add more concepts like simulated EBS, station ID, sign-offs, and other goodies.
And, of course, programming.
The biggest thing is that I want it to be fun. I want there to be interesting little surprises for people who watch, and–really–I want people to take part in it in some way.
There’s no other goal here than to have fun, so expect puzzles, Easter eggs, and plenty of irreverence. Eventually, I want to position this concept kinda like a zine-meets-public-access where people can submit content and share without the disparate nature of something like YouTube. I’d love to see this become a sort of discovery engine for other like-minded artists where real humans are finding oddities and curiosities and presenting them. I’d even love to see communities spin off and thrive on their own.
For now, though, just enjoy the wallpaper.