Feb 15, 2018
Welcome to the extra-tangenty 51st episode anniversary of the Department of Tangents Podcast, my interview with inventor and Information Philosopher Dr. Robert Doyle, with new music from Ruby Boots.
This interview came about it a strange way. For years I have been trying to explain to people my favorite board game as a kid, Stop Thief. It had a regular cardboard square with a cartoon grid on it, and your job was to find the thief, who was still actively moving around the different stores and the outside on the street. What was different about Stop Thief was that it had a handheld scanner giving you audio clues – footsteps, doors opening, shattering glass, street noises. It was a lot of fun, and I’ve always been on the lookout for it at thrift stores. This Christmas, my wife Melissa gave me an updated version of the game released last year by Restoration Games who did a top flight job of it. The game included a quick history and mentioned that its creator, Dr. Robert Doyle, lived in Massachusetts. I got in touch with Restoration Games, and they put me in touch with Dr. Doyle, who, as it turns out, lives in the same house he has lived in since 1970, and it is stuffed with wonderful books and every new bit of communication technology you can imagine, including a bunch of games he designed that were never released, like a handheld flight simulator, and the “suitcase computers” that contained the original electronics for Stop Thief and other games.
That would have been fascinating enough on its own. What I didn’t know when I initially contacted Dr. Doyle was just how accomplished he is and in just how many fields. We start the interview going through the cliff notes of that history – PhD in Astrophysics from Harvard and consulting on the space program before helping to simplify editing for Super 8, then on to Parker Brothers where he invented Stop Thief and, the one many of my friends were excited about, Merlin. Then he created MacPublisher, the first desktop publishing program, to bring publishing to the masses.
And there might not even be a Department of Tangents Podcast if Doyle hadn’t worked with Christopher Lydon in 2003 to bring radio to the Web in a form that would eventually become known as podcasting. To top it of, he is what he calls an Information Philosopher, and a strong advocate for the existence of free will. If you want to follow up on what Dr. Doyle is doing now, his books and lecture series, you can find that at www.informationphilosopher.com.
Our featured track for this episode comes from rocking singer/songwriter Ruby Boots. It's called "It's So Cruel," and it's from her second album, and first for Bloodshot Records, Don't Talk About It. She's got a great, tough rock and roll sound and I'm looking forward to hearing more from her, and to seeing her live if she comes through Boston. You can find out more about her at www.RubyBootsMusic.com.