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Interactive Art Shows the Fun Side of Computer Science

Arnolfini’s “Fun With Software” exhibition proves that goofing off was always part of geeks’ DNA.

Playful software didn’t begin with the invention of iPhone apps — it’s been going strong ever since computers and programming were invented more than half a century ago. A new exhibition at Bristol’s Arnolfini gallery entitled (appropriately) Fun With Software collects interactive works that let non-geeks experience the goofier side of computer science.

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David Link’s Love Letters_1.0 is a reconstruction of a hack conceived half a century ago by Christopher Strachey and Alan Turing, two of geekdom’s holiest saints. It lets visitors write love letters to each other in computer code on a machine not unlike one of the first computers that Turing and Strachey actually used.

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Another work called Open Circuit transmits multichannel audio along copper trails built into the floor. Visitors can follow the trails to wireless speakers that play the sounds, and they can move the speakers around to play different audio depending on which copper trail they connect to.

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But if you still need a bit of seriousness in your art, the exhibition also includes Coal Powered Computers, an installation that dramatizes the sooty power structure (literally) that makes our electronic gadgets go. As Arnolfini puts it, “black “lungs” will inflate every time a database record of miners? lung disease is shown on computer monitors.”

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The exhibition closes on Nov. 21, so buy your ticket to Bristol NOW!

[Read more at Arnolfini]

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About the author

John Pavlus is a writer and filmmaker focusing on science, tech, and design topics. His writing has appeared in Wired, New York, Scientific American, Technology Review, BBC Future, and other outlets

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