Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Next Next Generation

Dude from 2010: Hey, you know those hand-held computers that they use in TNG?
1980's TNG Fan: Yeah, what about them?
DF2: In 2010, you'll be able to buy one for a week's wages.
TNGF: Really?  Fuckin' sweet!
DF2: Not really.  Everyone will bitch because they don't multi-task.
TNGF: Wait, what?
Dude from 2040: You think that's bad, wait until you hear the bitching about the new flying car models.  The fusion reactors need to be replaced every 20 years, and you can't even do it yourself!  You have to have to tell it fly itself over to the shop!


Devin said...


Or you could buy a real netbook, like, yesterday.

Devin said...

And before you make your obvious "Yeah, but they all suck" comment, I'll note this:

If you wanted to say, "The iPad looks to be a fine device, despite its obvious technical inferiority," you could have used any number of clever metaphors. You could have used some of the age-old technical progress vs beauty stories, such as videogames (Nintendo vs everybody else, gameplay vs graphics) or animation (2D vs 3D). You could have used some of the age-old technical progress vs utility stories, such as eReader v. Book, or pen-and-paper v. Visio.

But you didn't. You invited a guy from the past and a guy from the future to play, which means you framed this as a discussion of its merits as a technical achievement. As far as I can see, the only technical achievement here is that this is the largest touchscreen I can recall being in a mainstream consumer device, if you don't count the old Microsoft Tablets as mainstream.

Me said...

I think you've mis-read. My point wasn't that they all suck, but that they're all unbelievably awesome, and we just can't see that because the existing market has framed our understanding.

What this particular device has going for it is that it's the first super-popular unit I've seen that looks unmistakably like the computers that were used in Star Trek. No keyboard, no wires, just about the right size. This is something that we already had a concept of in 1988. We wanted it, a lot, long before it existed. Now that it's here, we have a different reaction.

TNG fan from the late 80's isn't going to evaluate an iPad against existing netbook technology, or against smartphones or laptops. He doesn't have the full techno-landscape kicking around his brain, defining the way in which he thinks about this new device. He can only see it for what it actually IS, and he would, I think, be amazed by it.

I'm a dude from 2010, and I can't appreciate it the same way. My reaction is more like "meh - it can't do what my laptop can do, and my smartphone does almost all the same things..."

This argument could be made about an android or a PC tablet as well. The thing that distinguishes the iPad is that 1) EVERYone has been talking about it, and 2) It's a device that TNG fan would instantly recognize as being Picard's computer.