Uses This

1278 interviews since 2009

A picture of Jesse Holden

Jesse Holden

Writer, creative dork

in game, mac, writer

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Jesse Holden, and I've been a computer, video game, comic, art, music, movie, and writing dork since I was a lil' guy. In the past I've worked on indie video games, podcasts, and cartoons, and I've helped with weddings, live performances, short films... and a wedding that was also a live performance and short film.

Since 2016 I've been collaborating with the ineffable Matthew Bogart on a YA graphic novel series called Incredible Doom, published in two volumes by Harper Alley. In addition to plundering my embarrassing teenage years to co-write the story, I also research and re-create the computer interfaces seen in the comic, which draw upon the earliest days of networked computing.

What hardware do you use?

My home workstation is a 15-inch MacBook Pro, which I've been using since 2017 when someone smashed my car window and stole my last one. (Coincidentally at the time I had the first-ever print run of Incredible Doom Issue 1 in a box in my car alongside the laptop, but luckily for me the laptop thief lacked all taste and left the comics behind.) At my desk I use a Logitech M720 mouse and a Microsoft Sculpt ergonomic keyboard, AudioEngine A2 speakers, Blue Yeti microphone, and Dell U2419H displays, all plugged into an APC Smart-UPS 750.

We designed and built the "Feelies" - the physical artifacts from the story that we included with the original minis - using my Cricut Explore One which is an injket-printer-sized die cutting machine that's mostly marketed to hobbyists and scrapbookers, but which let us produce some really intricate and special objects for subscribers.

In the odd cases where I'm helping actually draw the comic, I also use an iPad Pro with a first-generation Apple Pencil.

And what software?

I build all of the CLI computer screens in Incredible Doom by just typing them out in a simple rich text editor. Specifically that'd be TextEdit, the descendant of TeachText/SimpleText that's come with every Mac since the dark ages. This includes both the text-based software interfaces as well as the ASCII and ANSI art I create for the book. (I don't use any of the various ASCII/ANSI art generators or 'painting' tools that are available, but some artists swear by them!) Once the screens are composed, they're transplanted into the master file that goes to the publisher, which is an Adobe InDesign file that Matt and I share on iCloud Drive. Clip Studio Paint on iPad is what I use when I help a little with the illustration part.

I often overcomplicate the process of researching those interfaces and text-art styles, but I find it so rewarding to try to get all of the little details right. Some material is inspired by or adapted from Jason Scott's extraordinary USENET file archives, as well as an ancient repository from Mike Jittlov called "Jittlov's NetWit" that I've managed to hold onto since the '90s when I downloaded it from an early Subgenius website. I also found the archives at Defacto2 miraculous and indispensable to some of the BBS scenes in Volume 2, especially the full session dumps.

In rare cases I've had to actually build and run a CLI app like PINE or connect to a legitimate BBS to make sure I got the UI correct for one of the screens in the book. For those situations I use iTerm2, or I'll pore over original changelogs from the 1990s to make sure the features and UI elements I want to include actually existed in the exact year an issue takes place. TelnetBBSGuide also lets you connect to quite a few terminal-accessible BBSes right from your browser via HtmlTerm, which has been a huge boon for learning how some of these platforms worked and how users interact(ed) with them. For our promo videos and fun clips, the 'live' captured screens that we created were built in the Mac terminal emulator Cathode by Secret Geometry - now sadly defunct, but still extremely gorgeous if you love that aesthetic as much as I do.

(There's an easter egg associated with Volume 2 out there that I'm not allowed to talk about, but suffice it to say I built it with Coda, Pixelmator, and copious usage of the Wayback Machine and GifCities.)

What would be your dream setup?

Incredible Doom started as an Indie project in the purest sense, with Matt and I doing everything from scratch; from writing the script to making promotional videos to laying out and drawing the comic to printing mailing labels to developing our pre-press flow to recording video chats and story meetings for Patreon backers and a youtube/podcast series. So even though I'd love to say my dream setup is the simplest possible set of tools, with the smallest possible chance for some part of it to crash or fail - like only an iPad with Apple Pencil or even just paper and pen (I favor the Uni-Ball Signo DX, personally) - practically speaking that's just not enough to cover the multitude of things you're called upon to do as a DIY creator working and finding an audience online.

With that being said, I continue to appreciate everything Apple does to make their Mac hardware, OS, and software a powerful but accessible Swiss Army Knife for the innumerable requirements of working as an Indie in any creative field. My next computer will probably be the 14- or 16-inch M1 Macbook Pro and I can't imagine needing much more than that.

Well, that and my Playdate, of course :)