The Forbidden Gradient


I remember when I made my first gradient, though I don’t remember what year it was. Sometime in the late 90’s, or early 00’s, probably. I’m not playing both halves of an old married couple, here, so it doesn’t really matter.

This was long before I had any Apple gear. Before I had a CD player. Before I even had a phone.

I had an old beat-up PC, an age-yellowed monster which slouched beneath my desk amidst the wreckage of lesser machines that it had devoured: a graphics card, more RAM, various miscellaneous tacked-on improvements. I still have tiny scars on my hands, the secret badge of the adolescent PC enthusiast: from the regular ‘upgrades’ that more often broke than they improved my fragile giant of a machine.

Man, that motherboard could take a slice out of a too-hastily withdrawn finger.

It wasn’t all hardware, though. The constant refittings were always in service of some just-out-of-reach software goal: upping the frame-rate, getting rid of that bizarre purple flicker, making it all the way through an installation without a power-failure.

Getting Blake Stone to run with sound, as opposed to the jittery silent mummery that it seemed to prefer. SET BLASTER.

One day I found myself installing a graphics editor: maybe a version of Paintshop Pro that came bundled with PC Advisor magazine in one of their 1999 issues. I must have worked my way through every single game on the thick stack of shareware floppy disks, for me to be installing a graphics program.

No need to describe in detail the profoundly mediocre vacuity that I created then. Chances are you walked the exact same route at some point, whether in MS Paint or MacPaint or whatever weird Linux equivalent you hand-copied.

At one point, however, I discovered something called a ‘gradient’. I found them fascinating. They’re old hat now, but think about how clever the first person to create a gradient programatically must have been.

One of the first things I tried to do when I figured out how to make gradients is try to replicate the sky. If you’ve never studied Art, however, you generally don’t realize how many subtle colors actually go together to make up the world around us — quite often rather different colors than you’d expect.

That’s why one of the first gradients you make when you start out, like I did, is this one:

Hurghhhh. It’s ghastly, isn’t it? You’d never see that in nature. God has too much taste.

You sure couldn’t call that skeumorphism.

I looked upon the monstrosity which I had wrought, all those many years ago, and it took me very little time at all to realize that this was something that should never see the light of screen again.

The Forbidden Gradient. Dun dun dunnn!

Of course, the reason it stands out is because the rest of iOS 7 is so damn beautiful. But gosh. This has to be a placeholder.