I first encountered Tim Hunkin via his 1980s TV series, The Secret Life Of Machines, in which he and Rex Garrod explained how various household electrical gadgets work. One of the remarkable experiments I remember from back then was their demo of how audio tape works: they rubbed rust on sticky tape, and used it to record and play back sound. Not very hi-fi, but it worked!
Tim Hunkin’s main occupation since then seems to have been as a maker of 3D mechanical cartoons. I call his machines “cartoons” because for a while he had a regular cartoon in the Observer, The Rudiments Of Wisdom, or, Almost Everything There Is To Know, and his 2D people and 3D people look very similar. He has an exhibit in the basement of the Science Museum in London, inspired by The Secret Life Of Machines, and amusement arcades in Southwold (the Under the Pier Show) and Holborn (Novelty Automation). His machines are surprising and funny!
So, this year Tim Hunkin has made a YouTube series called The Secret Life of Components in which he talks about the parts that he has used when making his machines - a different kind of component in each of the 8 episodes. It’s fascinating and informative.
And, as a bonus, he has also been releasing remastered versions of The Secret Life of Machines: 11 episodes so far, with a new one added each week, plus extra commentary with Tim Hunkin’s memories of filming them.
I was lucky to find out about this newsletter/blog at about the time of its first article, and I have been looking forward to its weekly entries ever since.
It tends to focus on the people creating the games, the context in which they worked, with enough about the games to give you an idea of what they were like, and less about the techincal details. Each episode has an epilogue saying how you can play the game today.
What I love about it is how varied the creators are: the husband-and-wife team in Florida, the lesbian house in Cork, the Czech satirists - and the games too: history, romance, politics, horror.
I confess I’m not a keen player of adventure games, but the intersection of literature, technology, and play is so cool, and this series of articles showed me how much broader and deeper interactive fiction is than I was previously aware.