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Traditionally, computing and programming are envisioned as activities that take place solely in front of a desktop screen. The advent of tiny - and increasingly capable - embeddable computation suggests a new and potentially quite powerful means to challenge, complement, and extend the traditional desktop-centric notions of computing and programming.

We describe MagicButton, a programmable button that may show the way to future systems that endow artifacts such as walls, garments, and bags with complex, fascinating, dynamical behaviors. To program the button, its user moves it across a deck of specially formatted cards laid out on a table. Each card contains a bar code that corresponds to particular tokens in the language. By re-arranging the cards, the user can change the programs on the device without typing text on a general purpose computer.

In this thesis, we explore a genre of computing in which craftspersons can interact with ambient, "room-sized" computing artifacts in interesting and empowering ways. We argue for a re-examination of programming in favor of a style of program-writing geared toward creating (as well as reading, discussing, and debugging) small programs embedded within these interactive physical objects.

We examine ways in which programming may be re-thought as an ambient activity, done away from the desktop, and in which input for running programs are gathered using novel means.

Last modified 10 December 2007 at 8:45 pm by nwanua