Friday, September 23, 2016

My Laptop, My Novel, and Flash

This is my laptop.  As you can tell from the duct tape holding it together and the worn-out keyboard, it's not doing well.  If I hold it the wrong way, the graphics chip fails and crashes the machine.  The backlight flickers and I have to slap the screen to get it to work.

By now you're asking the obvious question:  This man is so frugal, why isn't he president?
Or you could be asking the other, obvious question:  Why doesn't he get rid of the f-ing thing?


In the late 70s, I tried to get into programming.  I was very enthusiastic about this new thing called video games and desperately wanted to make some.

I borrowed some of my brother's BASIC books (Hi Jon!) and got in front of our Osbourne 1.  I couldn't figure it out.

Later, I took a programming class in middle school.  I got in front of a TRS-80.  I couldn't figure it out.

Later, I took a Pascal programming class in college.  I got in front of a Mac.  I couldn't figure it out.

I got a copy of Visual BASIC.  I got a copy of Java.  I couldn't figure it out.

Later, I got a copy of Flash (Actionscript 2).  I sat in front of a PC.

I got it.

It clicked.  Everything suddenly worked.  It made sense.  I programmed like crazy.

I bought a new laptop.  Swelling with pride in my new skills, I got a shiny, red case.

Adobe switched to Actionscript 3.  I couldn't figure it out.

Still, I worked at it and worked at it and (eventually) got close to understanding it.  AS 3 didn't come as easily to me as before, but I was stuck with it.  No other language made sense.

My laptop decayed.  The backlight became unstable.  The repair guys said they couldn't permanently fix the problem; I needed a new computer.  I paid to keep it going for a few more months.  I just needed to finish my projects.

I began work on a real game, a game that could make money.  I decided to do it in Flash.  If anything went wrong, I could look into the code myself and help out.

My laptop decayed.  The DVD drive started making grunting noises instead of playing anything.  The battery wore out.  I paid to keep it going a few more months.  I just needed to finish the game.

The problem with Flash is you can't transfer files easily; they become corrupted.  I'd have to upgrade my copy to fix the problem, but I had a limited budget.  It could wait.

I got a programmer.  I got an artist.  I got a sound guy.

I got taken by the programmer.  I got a new programmer.

The artist stopped working.  I got a new artist.  That artist quit.  The programmer got bored and quit.  The other programmer got a job and quit.  I got a new artist.

I hit my budget limit.

I put the game aside.  Someday, I'd do it myself, but I decided to finish my novel first.  I wrote for 3 years.

My laptop decayed.  The hard drive failed.  All my Flash assets were on there.  I paid to keep it going a few more months.

I promised myself I'd finish the novel and then get back to Flash.  I'd get the new version and transfer files and start over.  I'd learn the code myself. I'd paid for the art and programming and I would figure them out.  Then I'd export to web and Android and iOS and even Windows Phone (dammit) and I'd be awesome.

Meanwhile, my laptop decayed.  Microsoft tried to force me to switch to Windows 10.  I paid to keep it going a few more months.

My novel became two novels.  My son started nagging me: he wanted to teach me how to program.  I told him to wait until I finished writing.

Meanwhile, my laptop decayed.  The CPU came loose and had to be "refloated" several times.  I paid to keep it going a few more months.

Flash died.

I'm not sure when it happened, but I just noticed Flash doesn't run on Android.  Remember how people ridiculed Steve Jobs for keeping it off the iPhone?  Remember the jokes about Android being better then iOS?

Meanwhile, my laptop is still decaying.  The graphics chip and motherboard are failing.  I have to turn it off and shake it every few hours to keep it from crashing and losing my work.

The novels are nearly done.  My expensive game art and code are stuck on my fragile computer.  And Flash is dead.  I have to figure out a way of moving them to HTML 5 (or Unity or Clickteam Fusion or...).  Oh, and my old games.  I have to save them, too.

With the amount of money I've spent on my laptop, I could have bought a couple new computers, but I paid to have it fixed again.

I just need it to last a few more months.


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