Using Teletype when you're a full-time programmer

Hello peoples,

I am a proud owner of a new Grid 128 and Ansible. I’ve integrated it into my Eurorack setup and I’m enjoying it a lot. I love that I can hold it in one hand and operate it like the great Jonathan Pryce in Tomorrow Never Dies.

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I’m interested in adding the Teletype to my workflow but am a little concerned about coding after a day full of coding. I understand that Teletype has a different, maybe more script like feel to it but might not always want to engage my brain in that way after a long day at work. I’m drawn to the versatility and integration with Mannequins + Grid but have my hesitations.

Do any of you corporate coders have any insights on the workflow of adding another keyboard input programming language to your daily routine? Do the capabilities of the Teletype make up for it?

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Unfortunately one of the things that is difficult about answering this question is that for some folks, they are more than happy to code all day AND night, with little distinction made about work vs. fun.

That being said, it really is, as you say a “more script like feel to it”. And the scripts can only be 6 lines long, and there are only 8 scripts per scene. So you have a maximum of 48 lines of code per scene, with only 30 characters per line. It really is minimal! But it’s also terse, so it’s handy to have a cheat sheet around.

So I think about it in a couple of different ways: for really quick “utility” type stuff, I use Live mode for one-liners. I can hardly even call that “scripting” it is so simple. For more complex scenes involving the grid, etc. I think of them more as something I’d work up and debug once, and then re-use from then on without further editing. This cleanly separates “scripting” time from “music” time.

Hope that helps?

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I’m a “corporate coder”, and I’m often getting fed up with the work I’m doing. But I’m still happily programming synthesizers with various tools (currently it’s mostly Reaktor) in the evening. I’d be happy doing it with textual code as well.

So I guess it depends what make it exhausting to you. For me it’s not so much coding the issue, but everything around it. Which makes me fine to do it again in the evening, but for myself.

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I don’t find these activities to particularly overlap.

To me, programming for engineering work vs programming the Teletype to play music is a bit like writing a letter to my bank vs writing poetry, or drawing architectural floorplans vs drawing comics.

I guess in all of those cases one could say the main activity is programming/writing/drawing, but these are merely the medium with which I work to create something - and that something is what it’s really about and what stimulates my motivation and creativity, not the act of typing code or holding a pencil itself.

That’s just me though, perhaps for some the “programming” part sticks out more prominently as an activity of its own.

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That being said, it really is, as you say a “more script like feel to it”. And the scripts can only be 6 lines long, and there are only 8 scripts per scene. So you have a maximum of 48 lines of code per scene, with only 30 characters per line. It really is minimal! But it’s also terse, so it’s handy to have a cheat sheet around.

I’ve only just recently acquired the Teletype, but this fact hits you very quickly. You are very very limited in what you can write. You’re more likely to be frustrated by limitation than you are to get lost in a project. I think it’s a good thing to have the constraint – or at least I like it so far.

Teletype is like a system glue, it can do a lot or a little. You can feature it or treat it like an accessory.

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As an alternative, there’s a thread somewhere discussing porting Teletype into VCVRack. You might be able to evaluate the overall feeling of Teletype that way and decide if you enjoy it or not.

Totally an aside, but I just had an ‘aha’ moment and I feel compelled to share. I learned how to program through music in college (Chuck was my first language, learned as part of PLOrk). At the time, I could never understand why my friend Josh Aas (very early at Mozilla, now running LetsEncrypt) was completely uninterested in computer music. We would DJ parties, he was purely on vinyl and I was playing mlr with my 40h kit in a tupperware. I’m only realizing after your comment that music was likely his escape from coding, whereas music was my introduction to coding.

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teletype programming is a lot different than the programming i usually do for work (c#/unity).

a lot of the time it feels like a puzzle: how can i execute the idea i have within these unusual constraints

i find the syntax difficult to read sometimes when i return to a scene after a while… often i’m writing notes about the individual scripts on paper so when i return to it i’ll be able to follow what i’m doing

i think that @scanner_darkly’s grid integration firmware is a real game changer though. as it was said above, using teletype to make a playable grid interface does sort of create a cleaner delineation between writing the scene and playing it.

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FWIW. I don’t use Eurorack but spend time coding off-work (mostly grid-related stuff in SuperCollider). I find it hard to get motivated to stare at a screen again after staring at a screen at work. It’s not the programming, I really love programming, but the staring-at-a-screen-all-day part is numbing.

In the end, from a musical perspective, I’m more productive when I use devices such as the OP-1, that do not require a traditional computer.

After reading Jef Raskin I’ve started to think this may have to do with the fact that computers are littered with modes. With modal interfaces it’s hard to get into the flow state you get when playing an instrument like the guitar.

I believe I would have similar issues with the Teletype.

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I can very much relate to these sentiments. It’s the very reason I’ve only slowly adopted teletype in my jams. I guess the trick is to allocate some time to do interesting things with teletype and then have recallable scenes when you’re in the mood to just jam around. (btw IMO similar with the er301, the nature of open-ended systems I guess). at least that’s the theory, in practice the line is blurry.

my interest in incorporating teletype had a massive increase in last couple of months with the various community additions (huge thanks to @sliderule, @scanner_darkly and @sam for that!). ironically, besides the massive grid ops, also small higher level things things like LAST and BPM that made it more enjoyable to use tt on the fly.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about your responses and really appreciate the different perspectives on it. I fear that after reading my initial post again that it came off as a justification to purchase something. The real concerns I have have been articulated much better by all of you.

Jason, thanks, I agree it is difficult to say that another person will like something when all you have is a single post to go off. Your details and application of Teletype give me a much better picture of your workflow.

With regards to the writing analogy, I find it very refreshing. I love your thought process of how creative work is clearly defined and something enjoyable for you. For me personally, I would be looking to express myself in different ways. I imagine I would be feeling the same way about writing poetry after technical writing all day. I would be looking to paint or draw to add variety. New experiences and change of routine frequently inspire me and I enjoy using different mediums achieve that.

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I’ve always felt I’m one of the few full-time software engineers out there who hates using computers at home. I have no side projects, and I don’t write any software outside of work.

That said, the Teletype is probably the most essential module in my system, I couldn’t live without it. Coding in that environment feels totally different than coding at work, and is quite fun! I can happily spend an hour coding on the Teletype in silence, just watching the LEDs react to my inputs.

One thing I really enjoy is that even when I’m away from my modular, riding in a car or an airplane for instance, I’ll be thinking up new scenes I want to compose, and will jot down notes of what I want to code later.

I would like to echo this point, I find the constraints very satisfying, it creates very interesting problems to solve.

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