inessential by Brent Simmons

Louie on Tinkering

Louie Mantia talks about how he got started as a designer by tinkering:

Just as an engineer might. You start with something that exists and you change it to understand it. You do things on your own. But now… companies like Apple have locked down things like theming. It’s so hard today that no one even bothers. Changing icons is hard too. With some apps you can’t even do it without an app breaking because of code signing.

How will kids these days be able to tinker, Louie asks, when everything is locked-down?

I don’t know the answer, but I’m not too worried about it. A little bit, but not that much.

Here’s the thing: when the Mac came out in 1984, people asked the same question. The Apple II was a great machine for tinkering — and Macs didn’t even have BASIC. How were kids — and adults — going to write programs? It seemed like the end of tinkering as a hobby.

But it most definitely wasn’t.

It always seems like the age of tinkering is over. But, at least so far, it’s not. Tinkering is a strong human drive, and it will find a way.