hey can anyone out there help me find critical/theoretical writing on hardware modding? (especially on video game hardware, but any kind of consumer modification of industrially-manufactured products would work)
I know that (e.g.) Stephanie Boluk and Patrick Lemieux have studied video game modding from a software perspective, but I don't know anyone studying hardware mods in particular.
(doesn't need to be "academic," just looking for stuff beyond tutorials and enthusiast press)
@aparrish Bunnie Huang's "Hacking the Xbox" is old but was fascinating to me. I also have a tiny credit in it.
I'm sure there's more contemporary work but that's the first thing I thought of. It doesn't get into modding per se but it did make a lot of mods possible later
@aparrish It's also not very critical or theoretical, aside from engineering theory. So probably not exactly what you're looking for
@aparrish Oh also you probably already know about this guy https://www.benheck.com/controllers/ but he has written quite a bit about modding controllers for accessibility and I think also just for kicks
I am also reminded about the kerfuffle when Adafruit offered to pay a bounty for Kinect hacks way back in 2012 https://learn.adafruit.com/hacking-the-kinect/ but I am guessing you already knew about that too
@aparrish Sweet! I don't really want to doxx myself but I have also written a little but it was all in the early 2000s and I'm not even sure if I know where it is now
@aparrish I would bet dollars to donuts that like a lot of things from that era the bulk of writing is probably languishing in someone's archive of their PHPBB forum
@aparrish I also think I mixed up the Adafruit thing with this guy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Lee_(computer_scientist) but he hacked on the Wii Remote and then I think later was hired by microsoft. I would check to see if his personal site has any writing but it's busted
@pagrus @aparrish can recommend Ben Heck's work: I was working in assistive technology and gaming at the time I met him, and he spent far more time and shared more expertise than anyone really needed to
On gaming mods (also for accessibility) Barrie Ellis at OneSwitch in the UK has been doing it since the 80s. Chris Power at UPEI/AbleGamers Canada might have academic bg for you. Adrian Petterson at KMDI (UofT, Toronto) too
@aparrish @pagrus came here to mention Bunnie! The Hactivist documentary is fairly new and a great intro to his work:
Also Tom 7's emulation/reverse engineering work maybe?
@aparrish it’s probably over-covered, but my first thought was to look at who has written about cory arcangel’s super mario clouds and follow the citations from there
@aparrish This isn't exactly what you're looking for, but throwing these out in there in case they lead to something else. Bunnie Huang has written about "Gangkai innovation", which is sort of modding on an industrial scale. He also wrote about his work on the Chumby, which he wanted to be hacked.
And on his blog:
There also his earlier Xbox hacking:
@aparrish This is probably not what you're looking for exactly, but here is an amazing PS2 mod :D
I don't know if they wrote much about that or their work, but seem to have both a practical and theoretical approach to things, so maybe they can point you to things..
The devs behind all the PS Vita exploits have/had good blogs.
Yifan Lu has a lot of great posts: https://yifan.lu/
Their PS Vita stuff is largely about hardware hacking in pursuit of software hacks (e.g. dumping hardware encryption keys, bootROM, etc.). They also have good posts about some miscellaneous hardware hacks and exploits. (Go way back in the history, lots of good stuff buried there)
@aparrish it's a clash of various personalities in which a lot of enthusiastic people are thoroughly chewed up by both gamers and lawyers, mostly in service of their own egos though so it's kind of karmic
@aparrish video game reverse engineering can be a rewarding medium for folks who are tragically interested in knowing details of things. it ends badly in my experience, people get taken advantage of
@scanlime is there a particular incident that you can point to? I have to admit that I didn't know about this aspect of the practice
@aparrish still freshest in mind is an emulator dev who had a bunch of their work stolen and ended up dying by suicide.. I wasn't involved with that specific scene though. Many years ago I did a little reversing on nintendo stuff and there was constant tension between homebrewers and both the game corps and the pirates. It was hard to keep motivated. Used to be there was a lot of motivation in repurposing hardware to do something novel but nowadays portable computing is mundane.
@aparrish anyway to be in that scene you either have to get there by accident or you have to be kinda the worst sort of reclusive egotist, so that's the set of people you end up with
@scanlime thank you for sharing your experience with me! my goal is to propose a class about modding that mixes practical skills with theory, especially around copyright, right to repair, accessibility, environmental concerns, etc. if the class happens I definitely need to be able to make sure students don't get harmed or otherwise in trouble :/
@aparrish I love the theoretical idea of promoting agency over the hardware in your own life.. it's something I used to be enthusiastic about sharing. In practice these days it's hard to find a way for any of it to matter. Big corps can deploy complexity so much faster than any of us can manage it
@aparrish at this point I'm just not sure anything good comes from starting with the tech instead of starting with the human needs and relationships. reverse engineering is often seen as like a power move, something you can do to get control back. it's not a cheat code though, it's just obeying the same rules power always follows.
@scanlime i'm not sure i entirely agree with this take, though i know where it's coming from. for me, the spirit of RE, "hardware hacking" and generally modifying stuff to do what it wasn't intended to do is a useful thing to keep around given the potential of impeding climate and economic collapse. technology really does lot of important things for people and when we're finally completely fucked in our ability to make it new, being unafraid to look inside the black box will really come in handy
@scanlime of course it's mostly just a "hobby" now, even for those who make it political with e.g. right to repair. but i do think it serves a purpose, and while it's not human-first now i think will be able to be put to human-first needs in the future.
@alexisvl the thing that kinda really bums me out about all this is that the process of opening some corporate black-box tech is just an arbitrary hoop you can choose to jump through, and if you do it's mostly the original device manufacturer who benefits from the "community engagement" or whatever.
@scanlime agreed, but i think the blame for the value-extracting machine successfully extracting value from yet another thing belongs with the value extraction system, not the people they're skimming off :)
agreed about arbitrary hoops. REing some product does not by itself fix any real problems.
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@th @scanlime @aparrish This is a risk even well outside USA - I remember some Boomers on a vintage electronics forum asking why their grandchildren didn't take apart/modify hardware and learn from this like they did, and pointed out "they are good kids, they don't want to risk being nicked for "IP theft / piracy" and shaming their families by having the Police turning up at their home...
@scanlime it's such a shame how much capitalism and egotism can ruin a good thing. I always admired your ability to reverse engineer things and mod them, and it was such fun to play those games with that hardware with you (although the loud clacking of the GameCube controllers did make it hard for me to sleep sometimes when you and David were playing Tetris Attack 😂)
@darth_mall I wish there was something underneath all that tech culture beyond gawking at "skills" that are just fossilized boredom
@aparrish have you looked into circuit bending at all? I'm not really involved in the community, but some composers are very serious and philosophical about it.
Speak and Spell comes to mind as a popular subject for circuit bending.
@paul @aparrish i also think Peter Blasser is particularly mind-blowing https://rhizome.org/editorial/2011/feb/2/psychic-circuits-peter-blasser-ciat-lonbarde/
@firstname.lastname@example.org headphone modification is another widespread practice, but couldn't find much writing on it beyond tutorials. forums could be interesting to browse, for that.
@email@example.com car tuning seems to be in a similar vein to what you're asking about, quick search didn't turn up much ( https://conferences.eagora.org/index.php/tecnoysoc/techno2019/paper/view/10396 looked interesting, as did https://koreascience.kr/article/JAKO201328137519224.page tho it's in korean) but i would expect there's plenty written on it and that i was just looking in the wrong place for it, given how old a practice it is
@aparrish Rachel Weil might know some stuff. (I don't remember her handles but she's online) Natalie Silvanovich used to hack Tamagotchi.
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