May 8, 2022 The ideas we leave behind

This week I finally received my Playdate from the folks over at Panic, and it’s just as delightful as everyone knew it would be. The Playdate account on Twitter recently tweeted:

That link at the end is not of the hypertext transfer variety—it’s a link to a resource via the Gopher protocol, which is an early predecessor of and not alternative to the web as we know it today. Gopher is used by a very small few today, but that’s not to say it’s not thriving. There are beautiful and rich communities running on Gopher.

If you don’t have a Gopher client handy, here’s a link to the document on the web. It’s a short reflection by Panic co-founder Steven Frank on the Playdate finally shipping after years of work, and I recommend you give it a read.

This stood out to me:

Maybe not every piece of new tech has to be the all-singing, all-dancing conqueror of all tech that came before. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to slow down for a moment and re-explore some of the genuinely good ideas that fell to the wayside as we hurtled headlong into our current future. Maybe hardware whose primary appeal does not hinge on being the absolute cutting edge won’t become landfill quite as quickly. Maybe crushing every competitor needn’t be the goal of every business. Maybe, just maybe, it is good for alternatives to popular ideas to exist.

I immediately thought of the recent swerve in front-end development back towards the platform and web standards. Tools like Remix, Astro, Eleventy and Deno lean not just into the technologies of the web but also the underlying principles. Turns out there are lots of fantastic ideas that we largely forgot about while chasing after the latest and greatest.

To echo Steven, maybe code whose primary appeal does not hinge on being the absolute cutting edge won’t become obsolete quite as quickly. Sustainability is derived from a deep understanding materials, mediums, and their histories.

Playdate doesn’t compete with traditional handheld game consoles in the same way that Gopher no longer competes with the Web—by not playing the game at all. They are projects that understand their medium and are satisfied with exploring their own tiny little corner of it. They know that it’s more important to have 1,000 true fans than millions of unengaged users.

What are some of the genuinely good ideas we let fall to the wayside during our time working on the web that we could re-explore?