CMK 09: When is an Image a Computer Program?


Attached to this blog is a picture that I’ve called Alhambra.  The Alhambra, of course, is the palace of the Caliphs of Cordoba in the province of Grenada in southern Spain.  Its name means something like “Red Fort”, and it’s a place laden with ideas of magic and mystery and fallen empires, etc., etc., etc.

This image is meant to evoke that.

Except of course, that it’s not an image. It’s a computer program.

I produced this image using TurtleArt, from  Brian Silverman and Artemis Pappert were here at Constructing Modern Knowledge 2009, where they gave me some ideas about how to proceed with this program.  The bricks along the sides of the arch are small bits of code; so is the arch, and so is the blue background. Actually, the blue background visible through the window is the kludgiest, ugliest thing I’ve ever written.  But hey, it works.

This wasn’t easy to produce.  I could probably have produced this image much more easily by drawing it by hand, actually.  But I learned more about programming by writing the code that drew this image, than I would have by drawing it.  A gentleman at the same table is going to show me the Apple iPhone developers kit tomorrow or Thursday, and I may increase my knowledge by using Scratch tomorrow.

There’s a tremendous amount of satisfaction that I feel right now from discovering that programming need not be a mystery to me or to anyone else.  Is this a powerful, or important program? Maybe not to the world.  But it is to me.


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