BAR CODE HOTEL – PERRY HOBERMAN
1994 • INTERACTIVE COMPUTER-BASED 3D ENVIRONMENT
Each guest who checks into the Bar Code Hotel dons a pair of 3D glasses and picks up a bar code wand, a lightweight pen with the ability to scan and transmit printed bar code information instantaneously into the computer system. Because each wand can be distinguished by the system as a separate input device, each guest can have their own consistent identity and personality in the computer-generated world. And since the interface is the room itself, guests can interact not only with the computer-generated world, but with each other as well.
The projected environment consists of a number of computer-generated objects, each one corresponding to a different guest. These objects are brought into being by scanning unique bar codes that are printed on white cubes that are dispersed throughout the room. Once brought into existence, objects exist as semi-autonomous agents that are only partially under the control of their human collaborators. They also respond to other objects, and to their environment. They emit a variety of sounds in the course of their actions and interactions. They have their own behaviors and personalities; they have their own life spans (on the order of a few minutes); they age and (eventually) die.
Conservation of the historical hardware (with Matthieu Vlaminck)
While making a duplication of the artwork computer, we discovered that the artwork’s sound program, Max FAT 3.5, needed the original master floppy disk to be launched on a new computer, even though the backup was a disk image of the original hard-drive (meaning operating system and software).
After crawling through the whole known web, we found a post from February 2006 on Max developers forum, Cycling’74. We were looking for the floppy disk or at least its disk image, the digital file of the disks content, but the post pointed out that we were looking into the wrong (legal) direction. The forum was spoiled by users complaining about losing projects because of copy protection for older versions. Some of them, even “encouraged” other users to crack Max’s older versions by illegally removing the copy protection. Since 2006, Cycling’74 has released older versions of Max on its website, but only up to the version 4.0. Actually, Cycling’74 doesn’t have Max 3.5 since it was developed by Opcode System back then. And Opcode System is closed since 1999.
To exhibit and maintain this artwork in its initial software and hardware environment we had no other choice then cracking the software. To crack Max FAT 3.5, we used the actual patch created by snapCASE in 1996, an unauthorized corrective program disabling the section of code checking for a valid master floppy disk. It is replaced by a portion of code that assumes that this floppy is indeed in the driver. And what is most notable is that this patch was still available more than twenty years later. These communities of amateurs, of pirates, gathering highly skilled programmers, are sustainable and able to safeguard their own heritage.
Hacking for the Sake of Digital Art Preservation, article presented at iPres2018