Under the moniker Miniatua, Montreal designer Nicolas Temese makes hyperrealistic scale replicas of vintage computers, real and fictional, in stunning detail with animated displays and period-accurate LED lights.
The bedroom diorama follows an earlier WarGames project commissioned by a private collector to recreate the WOPR computer from the film, also in 1:12 scale, with 960 blinking lights that mimic the patterns from the movie. You can see it in action in a video on his site.
The surface mount LEDS being square, a front plate with 3D printed “bulbs” that replicate the movie lights were put in front of the custom PCBs to give it’s unique look. The light pattern can be changed using the “DEFCON” button found at the back of the model, cycling through “idle”, “playing thermonuclear war” and “hacking the nuke code”.
Previously, Miniatua created a limited-edition run of IBM 5150 miniatures to celebrate its 40th anniversary, complete with a functioning TFT screen that cycles through period-accurate videos of Zork, Jumpman, Microsoft’s Multiplan, DONKEY.BAS. IBM even granted permission to use the logo!
You can see all the details, including the monitor in action from one of the 40 miniatures sold, in LGR’s detailed video about the project.
Miniatua recreated several other vintage computers, including the IBM 704 from 1954, the Hewlett-Packard HP264x from 1974, and for its 60th anniversary, the IBM 1401, which was donated to the Computer History Museum, where it’s now on display.
The pseudonymous Irishman known as “Bobby Fingers” has only made three videos since launching on YouTube last August, but each one is an unhinged masterpiece.
If you haven’t seen them before, Bobby Fingers makes elaborate 1:9 scale dioramas depicting embarrassing moments in the lives of famous men, showing off his talents in model-making with a range of techniques from Bronze Age wax casting to modern 3D laser scanning.
But each video veers off wildly in different directions, interspersed with field trips, interviews, deadpan commentary, surrealist humor, and inevitably, a musical number.
Craft-wise, it’s on par with the best modelmakers on YouTube, but shares more in common with viral video phenomenon like Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, Too Many Cooks, Nathan for You, and Unedited Footage of a Bear. Each one subverts the conventions of a familiar genre, whether it’s educational children’s shows, classic TV intros, business makeover reality shows, pharmaceutical ads, or in this case, crafty ASMR artisan YouTube channels.
Who Is Bobby Fingers?
Normally, it takes months or years for a YouTube creator to refine their style, but it seems like Bobby Fingers figured it out on day one.
His combined set of skills is so unusual — prosthetics, model-making, video production, musical comedy — and the channel showcases all of them so well. But I also sensed this was an experienced internet creator, someone who knew what worked well online.
I wanted to meet the full-size person behind these miniature worlds — so I did a little digging and tracked him down, and he kindly agreed to answer a few short questions.
His real name is, in fact, Bobby. But the surname is an alias, obviously, and he asked to stay pseudonymous. (With that in mind, comments identifying him by name or past projects will be removed.)
As is clear from the videos, Bobby is an experienced model maker and prosthetics artist with over 15 years of experience in film and television, a frequent collaborator with Odyssey Studios, the Limerick-based model-making studio featured in his videos. (You can see his past prosthetics work on Instagram.)
He also has deep experience in music and film, as a musician, producer, and video director. (And, yes, he’s found viral success online before under another name.)
While he’s collaborated with others in the past, Bobby Fingers is entirely a solo project, from conception to launch. “It’s just me in the shed,” he told me. “I sometimes tell my ideas to [brother] Billy Fingers and he makes sure they’re not bad ideas. Like a dung filter. But other than that, it’s just me.”
His choice of subjects is pretty unique, described by one commenter up as “filling the niche of scale models of iconic embarrassing moments in the lives of famous monsters.”
All three dioramas capture, in excruciating detail, embarrassing or traumatic moments in the lives of controversial male entertainers with reputations tarnished by allegations and lawsuits:
Mel Gibson, with a well-documented history of hateful comments, is depicted during his 2006 DUI arrest in Malibu, during which he unleashed an antisemitic tirade at the cop who arrested him.
Steven Seagal, the subject of multiple lawsuits and allegations of sexual harassment and assault, is shown getting choked out by stuntman Gene LeBell and losing control of his bowels.
Michael Jackson, accused and sued for alleged child molestation before and after his death, is shown at the moment his hair caught on fire during a Pepsi commercial taping in 1982.
I asked Bobby why he chose the subjects he did.
“I like men who have failed us,” he wrote. “The feeling they give is interesting. Like a dog who has chewed something we once enjoyed. But we move on.”
Each of the finished dioramas are buried somewhere in the world, with coordinates hidden in the video itself. Viewers are encouraged to go find and dig them up, with early access given to his supporters on Patreon, an ingenious way of driving support and involving the community, who scramble to crowdsource information, reminiscent of ARGs, geocaching, and other collective internet projects.
“I have no sentimental attachment to things. So I’m happy to give them away,” Bobby told me. “And I have always believed there are not enough treasure hunts in the world. So it just wrote itself really.”
I also asked about his influences: the artists, people, and projects that inspired him, and specifically inspired the channel. I was expecting other internet creators or YouTubers, but he only cited sculptor Kris Kuksi, also known for his intricate sculpted dioramas, musician and actor Tom Waits, and, “anyone with an Irish accent that’s so thick that I can’t understand them.”
Bobby Fingers seemed to burst onto the internet fully-formed, delivering a remarkably consistent quality for a fledgling YouTube channel, executed with uncanny skill and high production values.
I suspected the person behind the channel was a seasoned internet veteran, with a deep understanding of what works online and how to execute it, which is why I wanted to track him down in the first place.
But I understand why he asked not to be named or tied to his other projects. Working under a pseudonym can be freeing: unburdened by expectations from the past, a clean slate to build something new, on its own merits.
And it’s just so early! Only three videos in, he’s growing a new fan base that’s financially supporting his work on Patreon — me among them — anxiously waiting to see what humiliating scene he’ll take on next and the absurdist lengths he’ll go to recreate it.
If you want to help Bobby Fingers achieve his dream of making videos full-time, or get early access to videos and the diorama’s hidden locations, you can support his Patreon now. Otherwise, all his videos are on YouTube and you can subscribe to get notified when the next video is out. Allegedly!
This morning, I was shaken to learn Heather B. Hamilton (formerly Heather Armstrong) aka Dooce is no longer with us. I learned the news from a post to her Instagram, confirmed by several friends after and then the Associated Press, announcing the tragic news that she died yesterday at the age of 47.
I’m shaken and sad, and my heart goes out to all her family and friends feeling her loss right now, but especially her two children.
We weren’t close friends, but as part of the same old-school blogging cohort, we hung out over the years at conferences and meetups, getting together whenever she was in town.
Heather was the consummate poster, sharp and hilarious, famously sharing her personal life on her blog, finding early fame getting fired (“dooced”) for writing about her coworkers, and later writing extensively about motherhood while raising her two children. She was a well-documented pioneer in how to make a living writing independently online.
Her writing brought her an enormous audience of fans who loved her and her writing, which eventually expanded into three memoirs and mainstream attention. Along the way, her success also attracted a small army of haters who criticized her every move in dedicated forums and blogs. The pressures of living online took a toll on her emotional well-being, and she quit writing several times.
But the last few years were clearly much harder on her. She’d publicly struggled with alcohol addiction and depression for years, eventually leading to an experimental, risky treatment for chronic depression, a series of chemically-induced comas to repeatedly approximate brain death, which she wrote about in her last book.
I last saw Heather on that book tour in May 2019. We talked a bit after the event, and I left feeling unsettled. She kept talking about how much better she felt, but she didn’t seem well.
Then, last August, she posted a bizarre rambling screed that talked about her addiction and a suicide attempt, ending in an upsetting transphobic rant, seemingly in response to her child coming out as non-binary to her. It was pretty awful, alienating many of her friends and fans, myself included. She eventually deleted it all.
I don’t know if she changed her mind about any of it before she died. I hope she did, because that rant seemed out of character from the person I thought I knew. I was hoping to someday read about her successful recovery, a change of heart, an evolution of thinking, a thoughtful apology. Maybe a new book, or maybe just another beautifully-written blog post, one of so many she penned over her 22 years on the web.
Maybe it’s appropriate that she leaves a complicated legacy. Life is hard and messy, sad and angry, dark and beautiful, miserable and hopeful, all at once.
I’ll remember her as the person we invited to open up XOXO 2015. Big-hearted, funny, thoughtful, provocative. She gave me a minor panic attack when she showed me her opening slide, and then I laughed and cried, along with everyone else in Revolution Hall. I’m going to miss her.
Red Team Blues, the latest novel from my old friend Cory Doctorow, is out today, the first in his new series of near-future techno-thrillers. The protagonist, Martin Hench, is a 67-year-old forensic accountant on the verge of retirement, doing one last big job for an old friend.
Hench spent his career on the red team, in the cybersecurity meaning of the word, identifying vulnerabilities and exploiting weaknesses to track down crooks and cheats hiding and laundering their money. But when the job goes sideways, he’s forced to switch to the blue team, going on the defense and thinking like his attackers to stay alive.
I just finished the advance copy Cory sent me this morning and it’s a wild ride. It reminds me of some of my favorite detective noir, from The Maltese Falcon to Chinatown, but in a near-future setting grounded in real technology.
The plot centers around a critical piece of digital information: the signing keys for the secure enclaves on mobile devices, which are used in the book to verify transactions on a fictional cryptocurrency ledger. This approach to trustless computing is a risky idea for reasons that quickly become clear, and explained well in cryptographer Matthew Green’s book review.
If you’re in the Portland area, Cory and I will be talking about the book at Powell’s at Cedar Hills on Tuesday, May 2. If you’re not in Portland, his book tour kicks off today in San Diego, with dates across the U.S. and Canada. Hope to see you there!
While trying to fix my printer today, I discovered that a PDF copy of Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin whitepaper apparently shipped with every copy of macOS since Mojave in 2018.
I’ve asked over a dozen Mac-using friends to confirm, and it was there for every one of them. The file is found in every version of macOS from Mojave (10.14.0) to the current version, Ventura (13.3), but isn’t in High Sierra (10.13) or earlier. Update: As confirmed by 9to5Mac, it was removed in macOS Ventura 13.4 beta 3.
See for Yourself
If you’re on a Mac, open a Terminal and type the following command:
open /System/Library/Image\ Capture/Devices/VirtualScanner.app/Contents/Resources/simpledoc.pdf
If you’re on macOS 10.14 or later, the Bitcoin PDF should immediately open in Preview.
(If you’re not comfortable with Terminal, open Finder and click on Macintosh HD, then open the System→Library→Image Capture→Devices folder. Control-click on VirtualScanner.app and Show Package Contents, open the Contents→Resources folder inside, then open simpledoc.pdf.)
In the Image Capture utility, the Bitcoin whitepaper is used as a sample document for a device called “Virtual Scanner II,” which is either hidden or not installed for everyone by default. It’s not clear why it’s hidden for some or what exactly it’s used for, but Reid Beels suggested it may power the “Import from iPhone” feature.
In Image Capture, select the “Virtual Scanner II” device if it exists, and in the Details, set the Media to “Document” and Media DPI to “72 DPI.” You should see the preview of the first page of the Bitcoin paper.
Of all the documents in the world, why was the Bitcoin whitepaper chosen? Is there a secret Bitcoin maxi working at Apple? The filename is “simpledoc.pdf” and it’s only 184 KB. Maybe it was just a convenient, lightweight multipage PDF for testing purposes, never meant to be seen by end users.
There’s virtually nothing about this online. As of this moment, there are only a couple references to “Virtual Driver II” or the whitepaper file in Google results. Namely, this Twitter thread from designer Joshua Dickens in November 2020, who also spotted the whitepaper PDF, inspiring this Apple Community post in April 2021. And that’s it!
One other oddity: there’s a file called cover.jpg in the Resources folder used for testing the Photo media type, a 2,634×3,916 JPEG photo of a sign taken on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay. There’s no EXIF metadata in the file, but photographer Thomas Hawk identified it as the location of a nearly identical photo he shot in 2008.
If you know anything more — about how or why the Bitcoin paper ended up in macOS or what Virtual Scanner II is for — get in touch or leave a comment. (Anonymity guaranteed!)
Update: A little bird tells me that someone internally filed it as an issue nearly a year ago, assigned to the same engineer who put the PDF there in the first place, and that person hasn’t taken action or commented on the issue since. They’ve indicated it will likely be removed in future versions.