so… i’m diving heads first into the newly acquired teletype, and to be honest i suck a lot at coding. i failed gloriously at super collider and have a hard time around lua. and even with years of experience, i’m still having a hard time around Max.
this means, i never really finish any project, but have tons and tons of half-finished patches. Sometimes i record stuff with them, but most of the time, they just collect digital dust on my harddrive.
But thinking about it the other day, i had this epiphany, why i still like working on programming-related stuff, even when nothing really turns out working they way i intended.
the reason is: i like solving puzzles. Programming to me is not a language, but a puzzle to be untangled. it’s more of a game then building something.
I’m a professional software engineer and I mostly feel that way
I found I mostly don’t like coding when making music – I guess it’s my threshold for “too much like work.” Simple ad-hoc Teletype scripts on occasion are an exception though; it’s worth it for the flexibility.
I can certainly relate to that. That curious entanglement is something I’ve applied to anything I’ve taken interest with. I feel there is something immensely rewarding, and addictive, to just taking on the challenge figuring things out, and hopefully being pleasantly surprised with the results (or totally bombing it and discovering how to recover). I do sadly fear that coding would be a massive time sponge I don’t have the luxury for, and hence have kept Teletype and Max at bay in my music (as much as they fascinate me).
Ah cool. I thought, as soon as someone does know how to code, they are kind of fluent like speaking a foreign language, where you just need to look some words every now and then. Thanks for sharing this insight.
Absoluetly there’s something rewarding in figuring things out. I totally agree. As for the time sponge thing – if i make music that only gets listened to withi a niche context or spend my evening wasting my time with trying to figure out some programming stuff, is the same to me: time well spent. That all that matters.
The thing about code is, one can understand specifically and locally what each line of code is doing, but very easily not grasp the context without “decoding” a much larger section to get some idea of what the values are for, where they come from, how the output is used, the side effects of changing values, etc. It’s definitely not like reading human languages.
Some of the code base at my work was written 40 years ago by mechanical engineers who were brilliant mathematicians but not good coders, and it involves hundreds of two- and three-letter variable names involved in hideous tangles of vector calculus. I’m glad I don’t have to touch that stuff. Some of it was written 10 years ago by other professional software developers and it still takes some working out on a notepad to figure it out. For that matter, some of it was written 3 months ago by me, and I still have to decipher my intent
I relate a lot to this. My list includes all of the above… I wonder if it is my lack of non day job time and the effect working a multitasking/coordinating/communicating job has on me.
Still I always return to these things and have another try. Often I am also just doing weird adjustments on scripts or take elements and stick them together, that is with Norns.
I did try to do all the teletype studies but then tried short cuts as I wanted to move as quick as possible to Just Type stuff, I guess that was not great for my learning curve. For Norns, there are too many smart scripts that more or less do more than I want to do already anyhow, similar with Max (especially certain Max For Live devices and Ppooll are really what I enjoy).
I want to go back to teletyping…
nothing wrong with shortcuts, I’d say. Being in my mid 40s i’m pretty sure that i won’t ever learn to code properly, so franken-code is the only code that works for me. so why not embrace it for the fun of it. as long as these things works and make sounds.
what’s weird with max for live though, is due to the specifics that are needed to work with ableton live (especially, when it comes to API integration or just simple parameter saving), M4L never really clicked for me. Plus most M4L patches look really ugly compared to proper Max patches or lloopp
I resonate with this. I got my degree in computer science but went into the broadcast production field after college. To be honest, I can hardly remember any of the technical things I learned in college. However, what really stuck with me though is the critical thinking and thought process of coding. I also like to approach the Teletype with the puzzle mindset. Echoing what @Starthief said, making scripts on the fly for whatever creative idea comes to my mind is what makes the Teletype so special.
If you’re thinking of teletype like a puzzle to be solved I think you’re onto a winner.
As an aside teletype is definitely at its best when using it for smaller relatively simple scripts. There’s a reason the script count is limited to 8 - cognitive load becomes super high very quickly. Ive just come out of coding up a relatively complex sequencer using grid ops- really pushing things to the limits using a 20 script firmware. Things become very difficult to follow and bugs are super hard to resolve when there’s no room to manoeuvre because you’ve used every single line of script possible. I needed to use a spreadsheet to keep track of everything. Not a fantastic developer experience and would probably have been better off using Norns or something. Still - it was fun whilst treating it as a puzzle. Not so fun to get it over the line.
Edit: I’ll be posting it once I’ve done more testing and made a video explainer
This was one of my initial hurdles to getting into Monome stuff. It’s still a bit alienating since the majority of the active community is so technically minded, and I have almost no coding experience, but I’ve found that you can enjoy the norns/grid/etc. without having to be a dyed-in-the-wool coder. By all means, learning and trying new stuff is cool, but coding just isn’t for everyone, and it leaves me with a bit of an unpleasant taste when it’s treated like a prerequisite.
In some ways, my lack of coding knowledge was beneficial because I had to forge my own relationship with the norns and grid. I have almost a childlike approach to them that’s much more music-minded (i.e., I don’t think about what’s behind the curtain) and uninformed by a technical approach. All of that said, I do want to play around with coding sometime for the challenge/journey of it, as you alluded to.
Yep, I totally get and relate to this. It’s actually nice to hear this.
I tried some arduino coding years ago for the Snazzy FX Ardcore, and bits and pieces in Max (via Monome) before that, but found the curve too steep and most of what I was looking to do was available to me anyway in hardware.
I was adding a totally unnessecary step to the process, for me.
It’s only now while building a modular only live performance case that I need way more specific bits & pieces to tie it together for how I work. I think I’m finally diving into Teletype after seeing it’s release years ago.
I still can’t code, but the limited simple syntax and the vast resources here I feel I have a chance.
I didn’t learn how to code until about 7 years ago, which is about the time I started getting into modular stuffs. Basically, I was writing a variety of scripts to do mundane work tasks. I ended up with a Teletype not to long after that and found the studies mixed with random experimentation provided me with a solid conceptual framework to think about programming with code in general.
I don’t write code for a living, but it overlaps a lot with what I do for work now.
Something that stuck with me when I first started scripting was from a data engineer coworker of mine. We ended up collaborating often and what they said was something to the effect of “coding isn’t what matters, understanding what you’re programming is what’s important. And if you think that sounds intimidating, you might not know it, but you probably program something at least once a day. Have you ever set an alarm clock? Or a thermostat? Or cruise control in your car? If so, then you know how to program”.
Learning how to do it with code seemed less intimidating after hearing that for some reason.
Small, focused bits of code that solve real-world problems are how most professional software engineers cut their teeth. They are rewarding, useful, and a fantastic way to learn. Teletype and crow both shine in this role.
One of the nice about both environments is that they are constrained enough that you can get to the point where you are fluent and don’t have to resort to manuals all the time. Just don’t try to build something really big in Teletype. That’s not where the module excels, and you will exhaust yourself. Make an LFO. Add a Turing machine. Use a pattern or two to drive both with a melody. Then maybe throw it all away and make something else. Make the tool that the patch is asking for. Go for immediately audible results and then tweak from there. So rewarding!
I can absolutely relate. Like Starthief, I’m a professional software developer and while there are certainly tasks where you’re just encoding something you already fully understand in a “different language”, those are the boring tasks. The interesting stuff that makes me get out of bed in the morning is just as much puzzle solving as it was when I started to learn programming. In my opinion, this is the main reason why people like math and programming. It’s a way to get a never-ending chain of new puzzles and solve them for the next dopamine kick
That is reassuring, that even all you people, who do coding for a living, feel similar.
So, to everyone who is on the fence, if you should start digging into Max/PD or teletype and is not sure: as long as you are not totally averse to programming, give it a try. It might be quite fruitless, but it might be also fun and a good way to spend the evening.
i totally suck at it (not in a bragging way - but honest to heart) and i still find joy in it
Hehe, this is so nice to read. I have worked as a developer for about 14 years and still feel i have no idea what i am doing. It’s a very common feeling, especially considering how the pace of change. Try to embrace and reach out, as you have done.
I really like your post title, i might say that to myself when feeling overwhelmed.