orbital : a postcard to space travel
orbital engine programmed by Neil Jenkins, original poem by Mac Dunlop.
The poem "Orbital" was inspired by imagining writing a letter to or from a traveller in space. It includes references to the sea and the navigators of the oceans, of which it has been said "they were the astronauts of their age."
Words arrive on the screen from where you are, plotting position and order for the words from its internal "map" reading back through the server addresses of other visitors to the orbital engine. A weaving together of languages (poetic and programming).
The orbital engine is a generative piece, running on two databases; the text of the poem itself and a list of logged IP addresses of visitors to the engine. It is programmed using Flash 4 and Perl. Counting back through the IP address list, the engine plots the next word of the poem in a three dimensional plane, using the first three numbers of the IP address as its x, y and z co-ordinates. The fourth number in the IP address determines the next word from the poem to be displayed.
In its early stages, under the working title 'clusters,' the engine was designed to produce a visible map of activity on the site, with each request appearing as a single pixel lit on the screen; plotting successive HTTP requests from Class A, B and C IP addresses in the three dimensional plane. Requests from seperate machines on the same network would result in clusters in a two dimensional plane (Class A), a line (Class B) or on a point (Class C).
Inspired by Mac Dunlop's poem 'orbital', The engine was re-written to use the words of the poem rather than pixels to show activity on the page. This format also resulted in the creation of a generic engine which can use the words of any poem as the source of the generative work; see also
the numbers and the names
flash plugin (v4+)