The name of the website came from a class I had durring my computer science studies in college, that being Assembly Language. In fact, the site's slogan "Making Art With Machine Code" was a tribute to its ties with that very subject. Those ties also transformed into a philosophy I had about my work and art in general. Most artwork tells you little about process, and in fact most artists choose not to devulge this information. With Assembler, I not only wanted to do something different with DHTML, but I also wanted to show everyone how to do it, and encourage them to take what I had done, learn from it, and take it to the next level.
XCHG & XLAT
The first projects I did on Assembler became known as XCHG (Assembly for Exchange) and were released in January of 2000. For this first iteration I decided to learn DHTML from the ground up. Everything was hand coded from scratch, with my only source of DHTML info coming from the excellent Dynamic HTML book from O'Reilly.
XCHG mainly had experiments dealing with video games and old computers, with experiments such as bouncing Super Mario Bros 3 characters, a replica vintage computer, and a direct copy of the stage select screens from Mega Man 2 (some of which do not work correctly in mondern browsers).
Soon after XCHG launched I started work on the next iteration of Assembler known as XLAT (Assembly for Translate), which launched in June of 2000. I wanted to simplify the site, and thus made each experiment use minimal shapes (mostly blocks) to convey what the underlying programming was actually doing. Each project again had source code available. This time however, the site was expandable, every so often a new project would go up on the website.
It was XLAT, not XCHG that would become the site most people would recognize as ASMBLR. It was featured in such magazines as eDesign and Cre@te Online, as well as the book Taking Your Talent To The Web. It was also featured at the World Wide Video Festival of 2000 in Admsterdam.
The XLAT version of Assembler was a victim of the very idea of the redesign, expandibility. As it got more popular, so did the demands and expectations to create more and more DHTML widgets and projects. Because of time constraints, this meant doing smaller, simpler experiments just to produce something for visitors expecting new work to view.
On one project, 0C, I added some video game elements like the previous version of Assembler, and put a long scrollable level of the game Excitebike on the page. Then came a conversation with Josh Davis of Praystation about it. His take was that it didn't fit with the rest of the site, given every other project used blocks and simple shapes, and should be changed. This was a correct statement, it didn't fit. But those comments also shed light on the fact that the site was being pigeon holed into something that it shouldn't be, and didn't have the breathing room it should have to branch out. Assembler was becoming about making a site for other people, instead of simply as a way to show and share my work as it was in the beginning. This was concerning, and it made me rethink the entire purpose of the website.
On July 6th, 2001 I took down Assembler. This prompted a firestorm of comments, both on the design forum Dreamless as well as Metafilter. The Metafilter thread was interesting because it delved into the notion of "Do artists owe it to their audience to keep their work available?". There were varrying opinions on both sides. However, the original Assembler projects were never really offline, they were simply removed from the front page.
I took a year off to regroup, refocus and figure out where I really wanted to take the site.
It occured to me that Davis' comments about Excitebike were actually quite the opposite of what I should be doing. The idea became to ebrace gaming and try out new projects that had nothing to do with ASMBLR's roots in DHTML, and instead focus on video game projects in particular.
In October of 2002 Assembler relaunched with a project called AX. Unlike the previous versions of the website, the entire site was the project. There was no navigation. Assembler is now set up to focus on one particular project only. Old projects are available, but not linked to from the front page. The theme of each project somehow relates to video games, gaming culture and/or gaming history and preservation. At this point, the site is simply a showcase for that work.
Projects on Assembler in order of creation: