Obsolete Words About Obsolete Technology

14 Nov

I am now the proud owner of a MacBook Air. It’s the 11-inch model with the standard 1.4 GHz Intel Core 2 processor and two gigabytes of RAM. But I souped up the flash storage to the maximum 128 GB. I’ve never had a computer that opened applications and documents faster. I’ve never had a lighter computer. I’ve never had one that is as cool looking as my MacBook Air. It’s simply the most sophisticated computer I’ve owned.

I wonder how soon it will become obsolete.

This is my first Apple laptop since my PowerBook Duo 230, a state of the art machine from 1993. I’ve been using Windows or Linux laptops since 1996 when I left MacWeek and became the director of ZD Labs. Needless to say, while at the Labs I had access to the most advanced personal and business computing tools the market had to offer at the time. It was while there that I fully recognized the futility of my work as a technology journalist.

Nothing I write about for my work will stand the test of time. Which, of course, means the bulk of my writing is as immortal as a mayfly. But like most writers there’s a part of me that wants to produce something of lasting value, something that might be of interest to someone who’s around long after my ashes have been scattered to the winds. As a writer with an ego, it’s disappointing, to say the least.

The nature of technology is to change, to replace itself as rapidly as possible. Cars drop carburetors for fuel-injection. Circuit-switched telephone networks give way to packet-switch systems. Surgeons (thankfully) replace ether and chloroform with advanced anesthetics like bupivacaine and sodium thiopental. Technology change is not just inevitable, it’s generally for the better.

But those of us who earn our livings writing about technology crank out prose destined for dustbins and delete keys. We know that what excites our readers today will bore them tomorrow. Beyond archivists and historians, few care to read about obsolete things. I know I don’t.

So, getting excited about new technology, such as my new MacBook Air, is a double-edged sword. I love this machine. It’s so much cooler in so many ways than every other laptop I’ve ever owned or used that words can’t do it justice. Not that words would matter anyway since they will become as obsolete as my latest computer in short order.

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4 Responses to “Obsolete Words About Obsolete Technology”

  1. Carl November 15, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

    Mark,

    Yes, your words, and the art my group paired with them, is not much of a legacy. I will just say I remember your words and the great time we had putting materials together. And it doesn’t matter how old they are, they are great memories.

    Cheers,

    Carl

    • Mark Everett Hall November 16, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

      I guess our job, Carl, was to capture the technology moment, visually and conceptually. And we had the pleasure of working with a very good team of people at Sun over the years who could do just that.

  2. David Morgenstern November 16, 2010 at 1:09 am #

    Is it as bad as that, Mr. Ozymandias? You’ll always have Paris and the MacBook Air. In a while, you will want something more. Be happy. And even if you were writing about the eternal Torah, you can only be sure about your readers this week.

    And, btw, it’s MacWEEK.

    • Mark Everett Hall November 16, 2010 at 9:37 am #

      Oddly enough, David, it was thinking about our scoop on the once-wonderful, now laughable Iomega Zip drive that reminded me about the effervescent nature of technology, particularly computing systems. The Zip was probably the coolest removable storage product available in its day. And, while I suspect some benighted folk continue to use it today, it’s, oh, so yesterday, making everything written about it obsolete.

      While I defer to you about all things relating to the Torah, my friend, I’m guessing many of the rabbinic writings from hundreds, maybe a thousand years ago are still read carefully today. But I’m also guessing our Page 1 story in MacWeek about the Zip is (rightfully) ignored by all.

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