You know it from the first MacBook you bought, or from your school library’s computers, or from the backdrop of a film you recently watched. The Flurry screensaver, shipped with every Mac since 2002, has become an acquainted digital surface in movies, offices and homes.
But screensavers are a thing from the past: We all remember the infamous flying toasters, the virtual fish tanks and mesmerizing labyrinths that covered our grey CRT monitors when our dads entered the room. Flurry was different: it moved away from trashy aesthetics and added a soothing, ambient quality to computer screens. And since its release, it hasn’t changed: A variety of light streams gently move around the black screen, spreading colored particles at different speeds and magnitudes.
Flurry was created by software developer Calum Robinson as a side project in 2002. Briefly after he published it online (you can still find it on Github!), Apple contacted him to include it in their new operating system, Mac OS X “Jaguar”. It complemented the eccentric Aqua interface with a dark and subtle appearance, still colorful enough to catch your eye.
Screensavers were made to protect CRT monitors from phosphor burn-in. If the phosphors glowed at a constant rate for too long, they left traces on the monitor’s glass surface. But we’ve moved away from that technology years ago. Today, it makes much more sense to simply switch off your display. No one would download and install a screensaver anymore, not even for fun. But Flurry is still there, moving its tentacles around empty offices, libraries, accidentally being activated through your Mac’s hot corners.
For me, Flurry is also a steady component of the creative work space. When Macs were not ubiquitous, but mainly a tool for the creative industry, a creator’s desk was immediately recognized by the light-stream covered monitor. Of course, Apple computers also had their outstanding Y2K hardware design back then, but Flurry was that one recognizable software component that said: This desk is a creator’s desk. They might be on a break right now, but they’re still around. Just like Flurry is today.
Dear Reader, I am sending you this from a newly discovered place within my flat: The dove-colored armchair close to the window. I usually never sit in it, because its actually facing away from the window, and it’s not as soft as the sofa. But it does have the perfect comfort level: It’s very good for reading, but not cozy enough to fall asleep in it. So I’ve just been sitting here for the past two days. The sun came out and I moved the chair closer to the window, with an ottoman for extra comfort, and I read through some magazines and sipped my coffee. The chair is too low to look properly out the window while sitting. But it’s ok, that way at least I don’t feel exposed to my neighbors. Anyway, I hope you’ve found some nice spots in your apartment, too. Sending lots of love – Christoph
Klarkommen geht gerade am besten, wenn man Nachrichten weitestgehend vermeidet. Und statt in Newsfeeds in Gesichter schaut. Zum Beispiel wusste ich noch nie so gut, wie es ist meine Freunden in anderen Städten und Ländern geht. Ich weiß jetzt, wie Christians Leben in L.A. aussieht. Und welche Dinge Martin und den anderen Christian in Wien so beschäftigen. Und was Gabby in New York umtreibt, und Hayden. Ich weiß sogar, wie es meinem Bruder geht. Wir reden in den Telefonaten immer über das gleiche, aber gerade das hat etwas beruhigendes: Überall auf der Welt sind wir auf dem gleichen Level; also, vermutlich auf unseren Sofas und Sesseln, und niemand kann sich mehr als ein paar duzend Meter vom Fleck bewegen. Und dann erzählen wir uns wie es bisher war und wie es weitergeht, und an welchen Gedanken wir uns festhalten, und welche erfahrungsgemäß eher keinen guten Halt bieten. Und wir fangen uns irgendwie gegenseitig auf, durch unsere Mobiltelefone hinweg, und das ist doch ganz gut gerade. Mehr geht sowieso nicht.
Hallo leg doch mal bitte
Kurz deinen Kopf in mein Gebirge
Ja genau da
Wo es schiefert und raut
Wo das Eis bricht
Leg doch mal bitte
Kurz deinen Kopf in meine Schenkel
In meine Mauern aus Sand
Kannst du es hören, hallo
A four-year-old boy is sitting and sobbing on a hospital bed, refusing to have the mask put on his face. It’s 1995, that boy is me, and I’m supposed to go into surgery for my ear. But it’s not possible: I am too scared of a pictogram.
Even 25 years later, I can see it clearly in front of me: The brochure about inhalation anesthesia, with the drawing of a child with closed eyes, a huge mask covering its face. It honestly looked like the kid was dead, and even though I was only four years old, I knew one thing: I won’t inhale something that obviously would kill me!
In the end, I didn’t die, I just fell asleep. Everything went according to plan, and I lost my exorbitant fear of masks and anesthesia. I had to think about this pictogram the other day though, when I read Anne Quito’s design critique on the temperature guns used in public places like airports or on boarders. There are certainly more important things to worry about or focus on right now, but using the interaction design of pointing a gun to one’s head for a protective measure just somehow feels … a little off?
But I mean – a lot of things just feel a bit weird right now, right? It’s just a weird time; we’ve been placed in this odd science fiction setting and we all don’t really know how to act, or where to go. Well, the latter is simple: Nowhere. We’re all advised to just stay in, what I’ve been doing for about 10 days by now. And while I really enjoy being at home and by myself, I am surprised how exhausting it becomes after a while. The urge to facetime my whole address book is definitely there, and the magnetism of my sofa—preventing me from doing all the cozy quarantine stuff like baking and drawing and Telegym—is sending extra-strong vibes these days. I might need to find a solution for that. Or maybe not, and just nap. 8-hour-video-calls are exhausting enough; even though we’re all doing them in sweatpants.
* * *
— Speaking of naps: Here’s a brilliant video by the School of Life, on naps and slowness.
— I just bought a bunch of vouchers for the stores, cafés and places I would usually visit on a Saturday, but which had to close due to the current situation. In Berlin, you can do that on Helfen.berlin, and an another inventory of shops that need support can be found via Pleasedontclose.
* * *
This probably won’t end anytime soon. It’s the new normal, and we’ll need to find ways to deal with it. Every other day, I have a little meltdown thinking about all of this, and I miss hugs and sitting on crowded trains and falling asleep on a friend’s sofa and celebrating birthdays. Three things that helped me: This song by Barner 16, this cartoon on love during the pandemic, this cat on TikTok.
I hope you’re alright and safe and healthy. Try to avoid spending too much time reading live blogs, don’t get scared by graphs and pictograms, just stay informed and, last but not least, at home (if you can). I’m sending you virtual hugs and awkward handshakes.
* * *
This title’s song has been stuck in my head for weeks now. Works well as a soundtrack for when the pains pf physical distancing kick in extra-hard. Dijon – Skin (Spotify, Apple Music).
If you enjoy writing like this, you should subscribe to my (irregular) monthly newsletter: Christel’s Corner.