Monday, January 25th, 2010

Waiting for the Apple Tablet, with Joel Johnson

Say GoodbyeSo the first thing you should know about the Apple Tablet is that I just bought a van. It's creepy. Mary HK Choi hadn't even seen a picture yet before she called me "shady." This dashed my hopes of driving to New York and taking her from Maine to Florida, eating things covered in mayonnaise all the way.

The reason I bought the van is that even when I am in the process of wanting to drop out of society, "get back to nature," etc., I can't do it without spending $5K on a fuel-snorting machine. It's what tech dorks do when we look at the world: try to find a thing to purchase through which to realize our fantasies.

With that in mind, consider what it's like to be a technology writer, especially on the consumer side of the business. It's not like we sit around trying to get people to buy things that they don't need, but we're sort of fundamentally part of the problem. I mean, we take some comfort in the fact that we ostensibly are steering people toward the best items for purchase, but, isn't the world shaking itself apart? Aren't we running out of oil and rare earth metals and kids in Liberia are smoking heroin and raping their neighbors and the entire civilization is ready to collapse?

Isn't that happening? Or is it not? I don't even know how to spell "tourniquet" without a computer.

But then there's Apple, which, in the balance, is kind of a miracle. They don't just make good products, but with the iPhone they actually pushed the whole industry ahead in profound ways. When you're a tech writer that's what you live for. It's like if you were a fashion writer and there were really only one designer nailing it year after year. Maybe that's what it is like in the fashion world now. I pretty much wear puffy vests and bib overalls now.

Has it been three years since the iPhone? Amazing. And in the interim what has been the facefuckingly awesome justification from the electronics industry for the use of all that oil and energy and natural resources? Some decent products, sure, but nothing amazing. Android phones? Okay, sure. The Kindle? I guess.

We all know deep down that this civilization is doomed. Or even if it isn't, it should be from the way we abuse it. And since we all fundamentally believe in the myth of progress-which I hope to Christ is not a myth-just by dint of our Western upbringing, it's the easiest thing in the world for us to project our hopes onto this upcoming Apple tablet. Because it doesn't just represent the latest distracting widget, but at this moment in time, with no space program, with an auto industry that refuses to advance, with no cure for cancer, a lot of us are transposing our belief that science and technology will actually save our species from disease and hunger and death onto this literal blank slate.

It's kind of beautiful, metaphorically.

Anyway, that's why the tech dorks keep going on and on about it-and we just embody an extreme quality of a material culture. We wouldn't have a job if no one cared. And I'm not even sure I even feel that guilty about it. We're on this train together. Nobody is changing anything, apparently. We're going to suck this planet dry like the bratty, brilliant teenagers we are. So if it takes a stupid computer company to inspire our scientists and show other companies how much money can be made from old fashioned competence then so be it. Meanwhile I will be figuring out how to tie half-hitch knots and playing crappy guitar covers in my van.

The van's pretty awesome, by the way. I spent the night Saturday in a gully somewhere in the Siuslaw National Forest with my bulldog. Watching his genetically-ruined form gambol through the mud, like the back halves of two rhinos welded together with a manatee face loosely stapled to one end-that made it worth every penny.


Joel Johnson will totally give you a ride.

24 Comments / Post A Comment

saythatscool (#101)

Now all you need is a fake cast, some night vision and a couch. And that size 14 girl is all yours…

HiredGoons (#603)

"I can't do it without spending $5K on a fuel-snorting machine."

You could convert it to run on grease and biofuels.

My friend did this and basically refills at fast food restaurants. I'm not sure where he is right now, he doesn't have email or a phone – so basically I could just throw a dart at a map and might get lucky. Every year or so he just show up at my house, or calls me from a cell phone and it pleases me to know he's still alive.

In case you can't tell I am very jealous of him.

Nice van though!

oudemia (#177)

Well, it has windows at least. Unless you're planning on blacking them out?

missdelite (#625)

Just don't park near a school, park or Little League game.

Rod T (#33)

Okay, but hey. HEY! Mr. Techie-tawkie. You know as well as anybody that buying first generation Apple anything is a fool's errand. (Seriously, if they came out with paperclips tomorrow, I'd wait for the second generation.) So, yeah, my laptop is dying just as this is about to come out. The Internet (still capitalized, if not capitalized (seriously, who's paying Facebook's bills?!?), anyway, the Internet is now capable of handling my word processing, spreadsheet and file storage needs.

Mr. Techie-tawkie, or whomever: What do I buy?

oudemia (#177)

I'm stupidly fond of my MacBook Air. It's much improved now that it is no longer rev. a or whatever and is light enough that one can always throw it in one's bag without concern for added weight.

joshc (#442)

this is sometimes true, but the iPhone Part the First was still very good. More than a few of my friends still have theirs and I'm often a bit jealous of their brushed metal classic cases.

Yes, sometimes true. Never had a problem with my iphone, except for that time my first first gen got run over by a cab. Anywaaaay, no regrets about being an early adopter ( I AM A PIONEER. AND YOU ARE WELCOME.) with that one, but glad I waited, like oudemia, for the rev b. air.

Not sure what I will do about the tablet. But iffen I do something? YOU'RE WELCOME.

/Making the future better for all you ingrates one purchase at a time.

(Still rockin' the first gen, meant to say.)

Mary HK Choi (#1,469)

First gen iPod was incredible. Didn't have power steering but it trooped til last fall. Totally took 2009 to kill it. I dropped it once a week for years.

And stay out of my way. There is almost nothing worse than being trapped behind a van in traffic. Though I imagine being trapped in a van would be worse.

Flashman (#418)

Does creepy mean amazing now? I can't keep up with the new lingo. Then again, I used to drive around in a Toyota cargo van of my own (the 'taliban van') and it was THE best.

Please please please tell me you're living down by the river, and that really? it's not as bad as Chris Farley made it out to be.

Cause lord knows I need something to look forward to, and an extra large iPod Touch ain't it.

the Loud Coast (#1,362)

As a technology writer, do you feel that you don;t write much about "disease and hunger and death" related technologies because the news isn't there or because the audience isnt there?

It would be my guess that news in those fields comes out fairly frequently, but people dont like reading about miniscule advances on seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Some rims on those tires would help dial back the creey-quotient. Just some cheapo plastic ones from Canadian Tire (or whatever the US equivalent might be…China Tire? (ha ha ha)) would work.

Flashman (#418)

I love it here when winter rolls around and everyone puts on their winter wheels. Plain black rims just look so badass.

katiebakes (#32)

Man, I can't wait to read your End of the 10's essay. So much vansex.

misterpearce (#3,159)

I think that's the best description of bull dog I've ever read.

El Matardillo (#586)

The new Apple tablet will make a fantastic dinner tray.

Phantomairplane (#3,161)

As a technology writer (you, not me), I imagine one of the biggest problems is finding ways to talk about the "real world effects of technology" instead of trying to force the "technology angle" into the "real world stories". I'm reminded of the Iranian election, in which gaggles of offensively smug white people talked about the Iranian election only because it allowed them a chance to congratulate themselves on having brought Twitter to the world so it could have a vaguely quantifiable effect on the Iranian election.

Anyway, what I mainly wanted to say is that this is one of the loveliest things I've read all day, and I hope you have a lot of fun in your van. (Consensual fun only, ha ha ha!)

I just realized I don't even know what the Apple Tablet is supposed to be instead of. What in my life will it replace if I get one, etc. No idea. That's sort of like living in a van!

HiredGoons (#603)

I think it's a newspaper/video game console.

Flashman (#418)

That's what they said about the wheel too.

drew (#1,287)

If your van can make it down to SF, I know a guy that can airbrush an eagle onto the side of your van. Then you'll be set.

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