Laughing as I threw a small red ball around my desktop — that’s my earliest memory of using KDE.
That little red ball was a KDE widget that could be added to the desktop. A quick flick of the moue is all it took to send the ball ricochetting off the bounds of your desktop workspace, boinging and banging, from top to bottom, side to side, over and over, until it slowly expended all its energy and jogged to a slow halt.
Absolutely pointless, utterly ridiculous — and something I totally hadn’t thought about again until a chance encounter on YouTube earlier this week.
A Bouncing Red Ball, Because Why Not
For a bit of fluff I imagine some time went in to creating the bouncy ball widget. Proper calculations, logic and physics must have been crafted to control how the ball bounced because it reacted to force and height, and you could control its speed.
The latter setting was also a danger. Get too playful with the speed and velocity options and you’d end up with a ball you couldn’t catch, as detailed in a forum post of the time:
“I played around with KDE widgets, and decided to try ‘bouncy ball’, it’s a big red ball that bounce around on your desktop. the problem, and here I am not sure if I should blame myself or the ball, is that i adjusted some settings, so that the ball bounces around at a quite high speed, and…. well…. I just can’t catch it…”
Sadly in the (admittedly not deep) research of this article I couldn’t find out who created the widget, nor when it first appeared in KDE.
But I did learn what became of it.
Widgets Were Everywhere
At the time this widget was around desktop widgets were the “in thing”.
Like most desktop widgets the KDE bouncing ball was, of itself, largely pointless. But the relatively randomness of it amidst a set of semi-useful tools, like clocks, battery meters, and app launchers added to its appeal.
And not just to me — cats, the general measure of awesomeness, also loved it.
What Happened to the KDE Bouncy Ball?
KDE dropped the bouncy ball from Plasma add-ons in 2014, reasoning at the time that: “…when trying to develop a professional experience toys and gimicks aren’t a good thing to be shipping by default. The user’s desktop is not a showcase for us to experiment with.
As “gimmicky” as the KDE bouncing ball widget was its existence will have served a purpose. When developers build crazy things like they they push limits, encounter flaws, and highlight areas that benefit for useful things, like improving animations, shadows, frame-rates, etc.
I was only reminded of the bouncing ball widgets existence today, by chance. It’s something I had not thought about for years but being reminded of it put a smile on your face.
I hope this post puts a smile on some of yours!
Gif created from this video.