Friday, May 2, 2008

Moments of Wii-kness

I have a policy about first-generation electronics (that is, the first run of a product with a new technology).

This policy reads: "How about NO?"

Among geeks, early-adoption carries a fair amount of "cred," but it comes with a price . . . and I mean that literally, it comes with a direct monetary consequence. Plus there's a risk of the hardware defects and software bugs that are common with new products. You're generally better off waiting for the next iteration, which will cost less, have more features, and be more reliable.

Funny how the promise of a government rebate can overwhelm my own good advice. Sweet Lord I want a Kindle.

It's an electronic paper device, which also puts it into a substrate of technology that I try to avoid anyway, separate from the "first-gen" issue.

This substrate is labeled: "Solutions to the problems that no one has."

The Segway is a fine example of this kind of technology. Its very existence asserts that cars, bicycles, and even feet were always missing something, and that this something is best resolved with a several-thousand-dollar piece of equipment that has to be recharged. Unless you need an alternative to a wheelchair, I can't think of a good reason to have one.

And electronic paper is the same way, despite some of its unique properties.

Because, you know, in general . . . regular paper seems to work just fine. The book has been around a long time, and there's a reason. It's a really good design.

But eReaders make use of technology's intoxicating little "hook," they unfold (no pun intended). The most desirable machines always have a "reveal" quality, they open up or unfurl. This is why the XMB won an Emmy. It's the reason cell phones are always finding new ways to flip open. It's why Transformers resonated so strongly with my generation.* There's just something about watching the text of one page vanish into a whole new page that makes your better judgment all woozy.

It's like bananas, really. Bananas are a perfect metaphor of superfluous technologies. In most ways they're completely impractical. They bruise easily, aren't very durable, and you've only got about a two day window between when they're no longer green and when they're black and gooey. But there's just something neat about how they peel. They even have a handle!

*It's also why I'm sitting here thinking about new electronics right after seeing "Iron Man."

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