Monday, 15 September 2014

In praise of the clunk

The future's bright; the future's Apple. And it's all about the interface.

To judge from the obiter dicta of Tim Cook (born 1960, reputed 'net worth' 400 million dollars - net of what, one wonders in such cases*) the mission of Apple is to drag us out of the 1970s. Some of us are still stuck in the 1960s and have but a dim awareness of just what it was that gave the following decade, in which Mr Cook must have spent his formative years, any claim to distinctiveness. 

But Tim Cook knows and has just pronounced that the problem with television, in which Apple still maintains a keen interest though it has yet to make its carefully planned takeover, is that it has 'not changed since the 1970s'. The thing is it is 'too clunky for the modern world'.

The 'modern world', the world of Apple, is the 'seamless' interface. Some of us think that is the problem, and that the 'clunk', as a quality of experience - the perceived otherness of things - is a something to be valued and even striven for. 

Is the epiphany a clunk or a seamlessness?

*It would of course have been a pertinent question in many other cases: Bernie Madoff perhaps, or, in an earlier decade Robert Maxwell, who was hitting the headlines in the 1970s and knew how to clunk, or his nineteenth-century precursor, in death as in life, Augustus Melmotte. The nature of finance has moved on since the nineteenth century and even since the 1970s: those who now wish to become seriously rich quick need not suffer the worries and aspersions that drove Mr Melmotte to his death. Ask any number of modern CEOs. Inebriation in the House of Commons may still be with us but it is seldom followed by recourse to the prussic acid bottle.The rich, it seems, as well as the poor, are always with us; it is just those in between who seem to be going away.

No contact

Apple Inc., it seems, is moving into sweeping up the way we, or at least the smart and affluent we, pay for our goods and services.

Apple HQ

Soon the mobile phone - the 'device' - will become not just the all-pervading tool for communicating, for gathering factual information, for publishing our doings to the world, for finding out where we are and where we are going, but for buying everything from coffee to cars. We need take nothing else with us, but we need to have our mobile with us wherever our mobile lives take us, from Iceland's frozen mountains to Afrique's sunny shores.

No more cards: just the phone.

Which sets me wondering - what about those other cards, so far repelled in this country (whatever that means after 18th September) but still lurking in the background? The identity card.


Are not our mobile phones making an an increasingly fair bid to becoming our de facto identity cards? Increasingly they contain a vast bulk of our personal information, our personal history and our communications. Our governments already have pretty comprehensive access to them. In their Apple apotheosis they are linked to our persona by our fingerprints and now they are set to become, perhaps, essential to our acquiring our daily bread. What more could our governments ask for?

Galactic HQ

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Anatomy of intervention

Whatever happened to hearts and minds, which used to seem to be the major item in our military arsenals?

These days it is all 'no boots on the ground'.