Science seemed so exciting back in the 1980s. Stephen Hawking popularised quantum physics, virtual reality looked like it was just around the corner, and one of the biggest-selling non-fiction books of the decade was about fractals. James Gleick popularised chaos theory and no student hall bedroom wall was complete without a Mandelbrot poster on it. Then came the software; tools that generated fractals on your Mac Plus or SE, based on user-defined parameters, drawn line by line on your monochrome screen.
Fractals may no longer be trendy, but technology has definitely caught up in the 20 years since Gleick’s bestseller. Fracture brings fractals back to OS X and, suddenly, it’s like the 90s never happened. Fracture runs as a screensaver, displaying a sequence of freshly generated, primary coloured fractal images based on random parameters.
If that was all it did the review would end here – but the software offers you some control – unusual in a tool that’s supposed to just pop up in your computer’s idle moments. With keyboard commands, you can alter the fractal parameters as they’re being generated. You can change the colour scheme, save a favourite fractal or generate new images.
The tool’s default behaviour can be tweaked in your Mac’s Screensavers panel. There you can choose what kinds of fractal the software will generate, what colour schemes to use and adjust the balance between performance and quality.
It’s disappointing that there’s no greater control over the generated fractals. You can decide how the images will be rendered, but you can’t enter your own numeric parameters, for example. We also recall that half the fun of fractals in the old days was being able to zoom in and out of the designs – demonstrating their recursive, repeating nature. You can’t do that here, sadly.
As a replacement for your default screen saver, Fracture is nostalgic fun – and a whole lot more interesting to look at than some of your Mac’s default screensavers.