The other day my friend sends me a YouTube clip of comedian Lewis Black. Mr. Black was peeling forth about what he was calling “the end of the universe.”
His point of departure being, that he walked out of a Starbucks on the street corner, and saw that they had built a Starbucks across the street. This, of course the type of thing that knocks the satirical life out of The Onion’s “Starbucks Opens in the Restroom of Already-Existing Starbucks” headline.
These types of oddities have the feel I used to get when I’d try to play one of those Mario games–there always seemed to be a gaffe in the game, in its essential coding, in its allegedly-impregnable structural base–that allowed on the exploit some “flaw” in the game. Mario Cart 64 had this place where you could crash into the wall on the dirt track, and come out in another place WAY ahead of the others. Sure, it was clever, but I never felt good about the whole deal.
The ENIAC computer–you know the one that took up literal ROOMS of space to perform a function of storage dwarfed many times over by even a flash drive now–is considered our cyber-Eden. And we were determined to head for that tree. And did.
Ultimately computers became obtainable. First, there were the ones that allowed you to program in Basic–but those only allowed me to think I was an espionage-grade hacker by typing:
10 print “Punkin is my dog.”
20 goto 10
Hit enter, and that quotes phrase would scroll into eternity.
Then, the Commodore 64 came along with the Texas Instruments and Radio Shack volleys. Actual programs to allow one to see what was possible were published, and a few people I know now who DO write code still have an affection for the Commodore.
But then, we needed storage, and none of these offered that. Somewhere along the line, the PC came into being. These required towers, hard drives, RAM, and all of that.
They also required a VGA monitor the size of a small house.
It was only going to be a matter of time before the society that was infatuated with the “credit-card-sized” calculator was going to pine for smaller computers.
Without tracing the entire range of permutations, we arrived at the laptop. 2 1/2 inches thick–and with a grayscale monitor.
On and on and on . . . and before we know it, we’re down to some pretty slim hardware with some pretty large storage and graphics capacities.
But. We. Just. Can’t. Be. Satisfied.
The Blackberry comes along from the marriage of computer and and phone. Then:
The Iphone. Not only were we going to marry phones and computers, we were going to genetically-engineer away their toes and fingers with the touch screen.
This was, to my mind, the time where we finally got the first Starbucks erected at the corner of Technology and Convenience.
But. We. Just. Can’t. Be. Satisfied.
As brilliant as Steve Jobs was, even his reality distortion field wasn’t immune to the “Good Idea Fairy.”
Along comes the Ipad–which is, of course, essentially a bigger Iphone.
Shortly after that, bluetooth technology allowed for an attactchable, book-foldable keyboard to coonect with said Ipad.
Thank you, Steve Jobs. You’ve re-invented the laptop.
Not to be outdone, someone thought it a most swell enterprise to invent and market the Ipad Mini.
Congratulations again. You’ve now made smaller what you JUST GOT DONE making bigger.
This–is the second Starbucks on the corner. Our restelessness, along with what is called engineered obsolescence–has guaranteed that not only will we build a Starbucks across from a Starbucks, but that we will build them above each other, in varying sizes, with express service and streamlined menus.
As we have done with our computers. August 20th, I am slated to climb Half Dome in Yosemite with a friend. I fully expect some hardscrabble rock climber from the Royal Robbins school to be hammering crampon hookups on the granite face with a full-size PC and gargantuan grayscale monitor strapped to his back.
And I’ll bet there’s a WIFI port up there now, in case anyone gets struck by lightning again.
All the great tamperers; Starbucks, Apple, Steve Jobs, George Lucas–cannot think of it all. At some point, crowd-sourcing becomes viable.
And when Apple gets back to me on my Iphone MAXI idea, there’s no turning back.
Then–it WILL BE–the end of the Universe.