Alternative titles for this post:
“Progress Bars and Existentialism”
“A single video encapsulates everything I have to say about the nature of time as reflected in interface design”
“When the (*&$& is this damned wait cursor going to stop spinning, and why did it start spinning in the first place?”
“Real-time – or its nearest approximation – is always more awesome than rendering.”

Let me explain. Last Friday about this time (relatively speaking), I was speaking to MGFest in Chicago about how real-time is transforming visuals. (And speaking of time, I’ll be posting those slides real soon now.) Naturally, I couldn’t resist a side trip into an explanation of how “real-time” on a computer actually isn’t, how computers and digital hardware have to intelligently delay events so you think they’re happening in real-time, and how complicated this can get when you have multiple things going at once.

Being that this was a room full of designers and motion graphics people, though, they instantly got the gag with this image of the Progress Bar. I wish this place were real and we could have an open bar at SIGGRAPH. Maybe we’ll just have to make it real.

The reason I love this video? Well, I think that goes without saying. It encapsulates a lot of discussion of how time is passing on your computer and the feedback design elements onscreen give you for what’s going on (or don’t give you, as the case may be). And while this covers the simple stuff, it also speaks to the profound nature of our relationship with our computers as temporal beings, which gets into all the messy stuff we have to deal with in real-time visuals (frames) and music (samples or parts per quarter or other tiny bits of time).

For some reason, the original post links back to me on CDMusic, but since this is a more interesting post if you’re not blind yet still works if you’re deaf, I’ll put it here. I’m not sure why it links to create digital music, but maybe creator Frank Davis knew I’d like it.

Geek Media Zen 1.30.09
via Xeni at Boing Boing

Oh, and by the way — I still believe real-time performance is our ultimate escape from computers that make us sit in a chair and watch while they do stuff.

Now that’s progress.

(And the performances are best held at bars.)

More progress bars from the CC search on Flickr:

Photo: Matt Brett.

Photo: sainz.

Photo (of the Hong Kong airport express – blurred vision means it’ll look exactly like this after an all-night flight from California, trust me): Jiayoung Ou.

Photo: Neil Crosby.

Hellllllllllllppppp…. Photo: Stephen Coles.

No comment. Photo: Ian Hampton.
  • Nice article , i once saw one guy that did some progress bar animations , that wasnt actually loading anything , it was a nice concept and it had a more "phylosophic" story behind it, but i just cant find whare he was on the internet.

  • Well, the reason I put a link to create digital music in a "geek media" zen was because I wanted to add a live media to the list of sit in your chair creations.

  • bunto

    uhhh…the "progress bar" is just a mockup from ironic sans:

  • djmike

    Big Spaceship (in conjunction with other agencies in NYC) has put together a tribute to the preloader. It's pretty cool to see the creative efforts that have been put into transforming the lifeless blue bar into something fun and interesting.

    Check out the tribute Pretty Loaded

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