10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10

I do quite a bit of work with the programming language Processing, and am very much interested in the interaction of art and code, so I am excited by the new book Print 10, which is about a single line of Commodore64 code (10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10)

This book takes a single line of code—the extremely concise BASIC program for the Commodore 64 inscribed in the title—and uses it as a lens through which to consider the phenomenon of creative computing and the way computer programs exist in culture. The authors of this collaboratively written book treat code not as merely functional but as a text—in the case of 10 PRINT, a text that appeared in many different printed sources—that yields a story about its making, its purpose, its assumptions, and more. They consider randomness and regularity in computing and art, the maze in culture, the popular BASIC programming language, and the highly influential Commodore 64 computer.

The book positions itself within the realm of ‘software studies’, and opens with this beautiful description of computer code:

Computer programs process and display critical data, facilitate communication, monitor and report on sensor networks, and shoot down incoming missiles. But computer code is not merely functional. Code is a peculiar kind of text, written, maintained, and modified by programmers to make a machine operate. It is a text nonetheless, with many of the properties of more familiar documents. Code is not purely abstract and mathematical; it has significant social, political, and aesthetic dimensions. The way in which code connects to culture, affecting it and being influenced by it, can be traced by examining the specifics of programs by reading the code itself attentively.

Like a diary from the forgotten past, computer code is embedded with stories of a program’s making, its purpose, its assumptions, and more. Every symbol within a program can help to illuminate these stories and open historical and critical lines of inquiry.

Looking forward to reading it.