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Thoughts on Permacomputing

26 Oct, 2023

While searching for info around Uxn, I stumbled across a new blog by the name of Oatmeal (not that Oatmeal). The last portion of this post on permacomputing (a topic I’ve become interested in) stuck out in particular:

A lot of the dialogue around permacomputing that I’ve seen seems intertwined with a certain aesthetic sensibility that is entangled with the demo scene and retro computing communities. While I think both these spaces are kinda rad, I think they’re specifically prone to a certain flavor of navel gazing…a flavor focused on specific tech stacks, and tooling, and apparent minimalism. It’s a flavor that leaves a gap in the conversation around what I’d call the “why” of permacomputing.

Most of the conversations I see are hyper focused on the “how” and “what” of permacomputing. “How” and “what” cover the skeleton, “we use X system running on Y reclaimed hardware.” The discussions that gesture at “why” that I see tend to be like “because it’s the more harmonious way to do computation given that we’re living amidst climate collapse.” And, while that is a great reason for choosing lower impact tools, I think the community generally misses what I see as the most important bit of permacomputing:

Let permacomputing be an invitation to question why and how much computation ought to be involved with a thing, and, if that computation is being used to increase or decrease the anomie between folks…and with what impact to the world?

My take on permacomputing is that it’s a way of approaching computation that’s further distanced from the goals of capitalism. It is an effort to re-imagine our tech landscape, and in so doing enchant it with values that support, for lack of a better word, “balance.”

Though I like the idea of permacomputing, I had yet to see anyone present it in practical terms that could be relatable to normal people. To make technology more intentional, working for you and less about monetization. It’s almost a mindset one has to settle into.


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