Jo Luijten – What if Twitter was created in the 80’s?

December, 2013
Reading Time
7 mins
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Image © The Interviewee

A talk with Jo Luijten,  the retro pixel-smith who’s taken YouTube by storm…using MS Paint.

The internet has come a long way in the last 20 years or so, but Jo Luijten, a Dutch information specialist and his partner Kinna McInroe of Office Space fame have envisioned some of the more prominent internet phenomena’s of recent times as if they were created in the 80’s and 90’s.

Ever wanted to know what YouTube would have looked like in 90’s? How about Twitter in the 80’s? I talked to Jo Luijten to get some insight into these great videos.

Be sure to check out Jo Luijten on his website and YouTube channel.

Hi Jo Luijten, tell me a little about yourself?

I am 34 years old, I work as a web editor and information specialist at the Dutch Veteran’s Institute and I live in The Netherlands.

What inspired you to begin making your retro videos?

My love for nostalgia. Back in the eighties, when I was a child, I already had a computer, a Philips P2000t. It was a very slow computer with Ceefax graphics and loud bleeping sounds. I think computers really triggered my imagination back then. When a blocky graphic with three dots was approaching your game character in a video game, you didn’t see a blocky graphic, but an inimical plutonium monster with three eyes. The actual moment when I wanted to make the videos was after I watched some episodes of the BBC comedy ‘Look around You’, which parodies educational TV shows of the ’70s and ’80s. The idea of creating a non-existent world in the past intrigued me.

What software do you use when working on a new video?

For the retro videos I use software like Autodesk Animator, notepad, Microsoft Paint and DOSbox, which has a recording function. The text mode graphics you see are made in QuickBASIC. People are often surprised when they hear that the software they see is real, but they are often disappointed when they hear that the software only contains the GUI and nothing more. Afterwards I edit the video in editing software.

“I became a YouTube partner, they broadcasted my Angry Birds video in a cinema in New York City and on several TV stations”

Has the exposure garnered from the videos changed your life in any way?

Yes, I became a YouTube partner, they broadcasted my Angry Birds video in a cinema in New York City and on several TV stations, I was interviewed on national radio, celebrities, including the rapper of Linkin Park, Mike Shinoda, tweeted about my video’s, and last but not least, cool websites, like this website want to interview me. That feels amazing! Unfortunately, I also have bad experiences. People steal your videos and put advertisements under it. Last year a couple of followers from Argentina asked me some questions about a TV commercial. I didn’t understand what they were talking about until I received a copy of a TV commercial of, an Argentinian news website. They edited a commercial of a couple of my videos without letting me know, without giving me credits and without giving me a single penny. They ignored all my complaint letters and they didn’t understand English when I called. Of course, I am powerless against such a big company.

Your videos envision modern web concepts running on 80’s and 90’s hardware but what sort of videos do you think we might see in 20 years times, envisioning the futures latest web trends on our 2013 technology?

When media write about pioneering software or hardware, they focus on what’s so fantastic about it and never on the fact that the invention could be improved a lot. Being overly enthusiastic about something that is not a big deal has a humorous effect on modern readers and watchers. In the future we will laugh for sure about the first generation of the affordable 3D printers. Although the media describes the 3D printer as the 8th wonder of the world, it is still in its infancy.

The 5th 366 Award goes to Jo Luijten for his outstanding creative work.

It is only possible to print 3D objects in hard plastic and it takes a long time. So maybe they will make a funny video in the future about somebody in 2013 who tries to print underwear or starts to print plastic wear before breakfast…for dinner.

Have you got anything exciting in the pipeline?

Yes, I am always working on new videos and new ideas. Instead of animations I will also make videos with actors in the near future.

And finally, if you died and were reincarnated as a song, what would that song be?

Hahaha, as a reincarnated person, I would have a totally different life and name. I could re-incarnate as an Eskimo called Nanook, so I choose “Don’t eat that yellow snow” by Frank Zappa.

Don't Eat the Yellow Snow"
Don't Eat the Yellow Snow (1974)
Frank Zappa
Play on Apple Music
Play on Spotify
Play on YouTube
What began as a fun question to end an interview, has now become a wonderfully eclectic collaborative playlist by 161 people (and counting).
Jo Luijten
Our Forest