A Little History of the TR-808

Today, on 8/08, please enjoy some reading about everyone’s favorite drum machine, the Roland TR-808. You probably recognize it from Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, or the beginning of Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody.  Or from the album Kanye named after it. Regardless, there’s a lot to love and a lot to learn and a lot to listen to. I bet after all this you’ll start hearing it in places, even songs produced today. Like the other day I heard it in this Tennyson song.


Further reading/watching:





Nate and Charlie of Switched on Pop takes us through the song's musical, lyrical, and cultural history

Switched on Pop has become one of my favorite podcasts recently because of how deeply they explore small individual aspects of pop music, be it the musical and lyrical parallels between current hits, the evolution of a single artist (check out their masterful “The Oeuvre of Taylor Swift” episode), or the history of some lesser appreciated elements (e.g. sax).

In this episode Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding explore the origins of The Star Spangled Banner, where it came from (a British drinking song!) and how it’s evolved through avant-garde performances of it throughout the years.

Is this leaked "Death Note" script real? Gwern Branwen considers ALL the factors.

It starts with a simple enough question: In 2009, a pdf file circulated the Internet purporting to be a leaked script of Hollywood’s adaptation of the popular anime Death Note. Is it real? Gwern Branwen, in an impressive showing of detective work, breaks down various pieces of evidence to figure out the answer, ranging from checking the location and timestamp metadata on the pdf file itself, to mathematically comparing the style of the script against the supposed author’s previous works, plus a whole load of Death Note fanfiction. Not only that, but they also use probability to assess the level of confidence when weighing different factors. Overall, it’s a remarkable analysis worthy of L himself (that’s a Death Note reference).

Itay Keren goes through the various techniques used to control the camera in 2D games since the 80s.

(It’s Video Game Week on the Iceberg! New posts every day this week with in-depth niche topics relating to video games!)

This talk is just an amazing showcase of how many different ways there are to solve one problem. Itay Keren goes wide as well as deep, exploring different techniques for camera movement in a bunch of different genres of games with examples from games dating from 1980 (when computer graphics was in its infancy) to the present day, each one solving the problem in a slightly different way, depending on that game’s specific needs and gameplay. And oh, did I mention his amazing visualizations?

For an article-ized version of the talk, check out the Gamasutra article.

Michael Heilemann takes us from concept to production of a single, eminent vehicle

There’s not much I love more than deep dives into creative processes, and this particular piece is especially iceberg-y because it’s essentially a double whammy: not only is it the story of how George Lucas and his early collaborators (Colin Cantwell, Ralph McQuarrie) developed the concept of The Millennium Falcon and the stages it went through along the way, it’s also a story of how Michael Heilemann pieced together that history. There are some missing puzzle pieces and some conjectures, but to me that makes this all the more interesting. This is, without a doubt, a real legend. Highlight: Something that I sort of realized but never really considered was that 2001: A Space Odyssey really revolutionized spaceship design. Heilemann touches upon this, showing examples of pre-1960s sci-fi — all the ships are smooth, shiny and chrome. 2001 ushered in the era of greebled surfaces.

(Shoutout to Lian Chang for bringing this one to my attention!)

Michelle Erickson recreates an agate teapot using centuries old methods

I love seeing videos of people who work at museums because they do the most obscure and specific and obsessive things. Like in this video, about Michelle Erickson making a teapot (the historically accurate way). Watch when she folds in all the different colors of clay to create that agate pattern. It’s one of the most innately satisfying things you can experience in your life (along with skillful use of a pottery wheel). Honestly though, the whole thing is great insight into centuries old practices in ceramics, and presented so clearly and concisely you’re going to feel like you can try it out tomorrow.

John Collins talks your head off about the science behind his hundreds of paper airplane designs

This guy is SO excited about paper airplanes. Seriously, I wish I liked anything as much as this guy likes paper airplanes. Fervor aside though, there’s some serious science, engineering, and history knowledge being dropped in this video (it’s all about those dihedral angles). Highlight 1: Those boomerang planes. Highlight 2: how casually he just tosses these things around, although I suppose they are really just sheets of letter sized paper, aren’t they?

Marcin Wichary goes deep to solve a keyboard bug three decades in the making

This is the perfect recipe for an iceberg — one person’s story of diving deep, not just into a software codebase but also into history and language. I would say more but it would spoil things. Highlight: Communism playing a major role.