Generation JPod

Sat 03 June 2017 by Jim Purbrick

I’ve just got back from Kaş where I spent a lovely few days celebrating Pinar and Simon’s wedding and while there spent a few hours reading Now We Are 40: a thoughtful and entertaining look at everything from house music to house prices from the perspective of Generation X.

While a lot of the book was familiar, I was surprised how different my experience has been. I don’t feel part of the last generation who grew up without digital technology, but part of the first generation to grow up with it.

I learned to program at school, started writing code professionally at 18 and haven’t stopped. I didn’t work many McJobs, but have worked in many JPods (and seen friends move to Vancouver to work in the games industry there). I may have bought my first smartphone when I got my first job, but my life has felt digital from the start.

One focus of “Now We Are 40” is the changes in music over the last few decades from the pre-digital rave scene to the current over-saturation of recorded music available from streaming services which has rendered selling recorded music unsustainable for almost everyone. Food and drink followed on as the next big thing, something I’ve experienced personally as my brother-in-law morphed from hip hop pimp to sommelier. You may not need to buy recorded music any more, but you still need to eat and drink.

In fact raves, clubs, cafes and restaurants are mostly a place to hang out. When people were incredulous at the idea of spending real money on virtual goods Cory and I used to point out that most of what you were buying in Starbucks was not coffee or service, but an experience just as ephemeral as a virtual hat.

Virtual worlds like Second Life and now Social VR showed that you could digitise the hanging out too. It’s already proving to be an invaluable lifeline to people who find it hard to hang out in real life. While festivals, clubs and gigs are where musicians are increasingly making money in real life, they also work in virtual worlds. I first saw the Qemists, now one of my favourite bands, on the Ninja Tune stage at a festival in Second Life organised by Aleks. Later, Leon poked me on Facebook to ask me to advise his new tech startup because, after music and food, technology is apparently the new rock and roll.

For most of my career I have been building experiences which compliment the real world and working at Facebook is the first time that I have felt like I might be working somewhere that has been disrupting existing industries. The view that Facebook is an existential threat to the open web (a prospect that Bryan likens to the bug sucking the wildebeest dry) is relatively widespread and I remember a circle forming around me when I told Aral and some of the other web developers at a Skiff Christmas party that I was going to work there.

In fact I’ve spent much of the last few years working on open source tools that will benefit the wider web while also being able to support my family more sustainably than I could working in a games industry where redundancies and closures were more common than Philip Rosedale being asked how much he would sell Second Life for at Davos.

While the software industry seems to be constantly changing with new tools, languages, platforms and frameworks arriving all the time, a deeper disruption is potentially coming to the business of writing code for a living. Increasingly large parts of software systems are learned by machines rather than programed by humans. As Jeff Dean at Google observed: “If Google were created from scratch today, much of it would be learned, not coded.” When I started studying Computer Science in Nottingham my dad advised me not to become just a computer caretaker. It’s very possible that I may end up becoming a computer trainer instead.

If my experience has felt so radically different despite being only a few years younger than Tiffanie Darke - if I feel more Generation JPod than Generation X - are we already at the point where technological change is rendering the use of 15-20 year long generations obsolete?

The difference may also just be because “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”. If you were connecting early modems to BBSes at the start of the 90s it was easy to become a digital native. If you were busy dancing to Charly in a warehouse you may have had to catch up later.

One thing that is clear is that we need to work out how our increasingly disrupted and automated society will function. If software is eating the world and software is increasingly learned, then we’re going to have to find a way for people to flourish in that future. Brexit and Trump show what happens when people are worried about their place in the world. I’d like to see my children grow up in a future which is closer to the The Culture than Mad Max. There’s a general election in the UK next week. My next plan is to vote for a more progressive future.

2² Decades

Thu 20 April 2017 by Jim Purbrick

Several years ago when we were in 100 robots together, Max was celebrating his 40th birthday. When I said that mine would be in 2017, it felt like an impossibly far future date, but, after what feels like the blink of an eye, here we are.

Along with many other ...

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Fri 15 April 2016 by Jim Purbrick


3 weeks ago I spent a few hours with photoshop working on the Story Bird logo that Linda made a while ago to make it suitable for print. 2 weeks ago I spent a few hours researching the best way to convert the 24 bit 48 Khz Story Bird mixes ...

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Sat 26 March 2016 by Jim Purbrick

Black barn mixing desk

I love record shops. Whenever I had pocket money it would go on Metallica and Nirvana CDs bought from Our Price or black t-shirts to match. When I lived in Nottingham I bought Boards Of Canada CDs from the same Selectadisc that my Dad bought a rare Fairport Convention single ...

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100 robots Vs The Audience

Wed 04 January 2012 by Jim Purbrick

A couple of years ago I had great fun putting together the London Geek Community iPhone OSCestra at Open Hack London and I’ve been controlling Ableton Live with iPhone tapped to my guitar as part of 100 robots for a couple of years now so when @andybudd suggested I ...

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100 robots Attack!

Fri 09 December 2011 by Jim Purbrick

Lots of exciting 100 robots news! Our debut album, Attack!, has been professionally mastered by Chris at Melograf Mastering who has done an amazing job and made the album sound incredible. The new version is already available at bandcamp and will be available on itunes, amazon and many other download ...

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Data Is Not Art

Sat 01 October 2011 by Jim Purbrick

This week I experienced two remarkable combinations of music and the moving image.

Natures 3B from Quayola on Vimeo.

This evening I watched Nature — Mira Calix and Quayola’s audio visual piece which took video footage of flowers blowing in the wind and used motion tracking technology to generate music ...

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100 robots attack!” Album Out Now!

Thu 19 May 2011 by Jim Purbrick

100 robots first album, “Attack!” is now finished and available to download now from bandcamp. I’m so glad that it is done and very proud of the result. It’s the first album I’ve made since 2005 and the first I’ve produced using Ableton Live, which once ...

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Meaningful Choices

Mon 27 September 2010 by Jim Purbrick

On Friday I jumped on the train to London to attend Playful 2010, a one day conference put on by mudlark of World of Love fame. Despite billing itself as a day of cross “disciplinary frolicking” and featuring designers, podcasts, discussions of narrative, iphone augmented paper games and Disco Snake ...

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Disco Snake

Wed 15 September 2010 by Jim Purbrick

Rock Band does a great job of inspiring people to play music, can you develop a game that inspires composition? Lumines and Rez create music while you play, can you make games where music creation is the goal, not a side effect? Pictionary does a great job of using game ...

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HTML 5 Audio Redux

Sat 04 September 2010 by Jim Purbrick

My recent experiments in to using Procssing.js and HTML5 audio to generate multimedia web applications didn’t get very far. I first tried generating a new HTML 5 audio element for each audio event, which quickly caused the browser to grind to a halt, and my attempts to reuse ...

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HTML 5 multimedia

Mon 07 June 2010 by Jim Purbrick

I’ve been morbidly fascinated by the Rich Internet Application technology blood bath for a while now: Whirled,Metaplace and others tried to stuff virtual worlds in to web pages using Flash, Second Life stuffed Flash in to virtual worlds via Webkit, Unity stuffed Mono in to a 3D engine ...

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Always Watching The Watchers

Sat 01 May 2010 by Jim Purbrick

On May 17th, the first 100 robots single, Always Watching, will be released online via Amazon, iTunes, emusic, Rhapsody, napster, spotify and many more digital outlets.

Always Watching has been one of the most satisfying projects I’ve ever worked on. Using a commodity PC and the incredible Ableton Live ...

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Battle of the Battle of the Bands

Thu 25 March 2010 by Jim Purbrick

Somehow, 100 robots have ended up playing 2 different Battle of the Band competitions on consecutive nights in Brighton: at The Providence on April 2nd and The Lectern on April 3rd.

So, which band is the best and which battle of the bands is better? Early indications favour The Providence ...

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An Open Source, Guitar Mounted, Multi Touch, Wireless, OSC Interface for Ableton Live

Thu 17 December 2009 by Jim Purbrick

Guitar mounted iPhone controller

(100 robots images by Steve Marshall )

Ever since playing with iPhones as music interfaces with the London Community iPhone OSCestra at Open Hack London in May I’ve been wondering how I could use my iPhone as a controller in my rock/electronic band 100 robots. The 100 robots set ...

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4 Robot Attacks!

Sat 21 November 2009 by Jim Purbrick

Incredibly, 100 robots have 4 gigs lined up in the next 3 weeks: tomorrow we’re playing at an electro/rock night at The Freebutt with Bang Bang Eche, Son of Robot and labasheeda, then next Thursday we’re playing at a more hip hop themed night at The Hope ...

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100 robots vs 100 geeks

Sat 05 September 2009 by Jim Purbrick

We’ve just about finished setting up the 100 robots gear at BarCamp Brighton 4 in a derelict building that’s going to make the gig feel like an illegal rave. If you’re at BarCamp please come downstairs to hear us sing songs about the surveilance state, Twitter and ...

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The London Geek Community iPhone OSCestra

Tue 12 May 2009 by Jim Purbrick

On Friday evening while mulling over potentially interesting hacks to build at Open Hack London I remembered an idea I’d had a while ago: there are now loads of interesting ways to use iphones as music interfaces and the iphone to hacker ratio at hack days tends to be ...

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100 Robots Vs 200 Zombies

Fri 27 March 2009 by Jim Purbrick

Dance Of The Dead Flyer

I may not have blogged much recently, but I’ve been hard at work writing new songs about the financial meltdown, the surveilance state, gene therapy cures for hiv, anger and guilt for the new band I’ve put together with Max Williams and Aleks Krotoski: 100 Robots. We’ll ...

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Music Again!

Mon 12 January 2009 by Jim Purbrick

Since moving to Brighton 18 months ago I’ve been pretty busy finding my feet, moving house twice, sorting out schools and setting up Linden Lab Brighton, so I haven’t had as much time to make music as I’d have liked. It hasn’t helped that my brother ...

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