Why there’s one iPad left in stock

What’s the opposite of an Apple fanboy? This fellow:

The previous generation of hackers didn’t just twiddle the switches, they invented the switches, which required a much more open system than Apple ever marketed. They didn’t use operating systems, they created operating systems, network architectures, languages and oh, incidentally, applications that were used by, ahem, users. User, consumer, whatever: they were a Gibsonesque horror and quite irrelevant from the hacker perspective. It didn’t really matter what you fed users since they would eat anything. They had no taste or comprehension, they merely had appetites. They want more, not better.

As an ancient home brew sort of fellow I’ve never found anything even slightly interesting about Apple. I’ve always tinkered up my machines from cheap off the shelf parts and ran whatever software I could steal, borrow or make. After all, I was just waiting for the cloud to finally mature and at long last realize the lowest level of useful computing while science advanced enough to support the sort of direct linking and mental prosthetics that would significantly change the species.

“Gibsonesque horror”? Cory Doctorow reproduces the quote:

The model of interaction with the iPad is to be a “consumer,” what William Gibson memorably described as “something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It’s covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth … no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote.”

As Harlan Ellison never said, “I have no mouth and I must buy apps.”

I have to wonder, though, if maybe this sort of scary “consumer” is now the rule rather than the exception. Certainly old hackish types are fading into the background: Ed Roberts, who hacked together the original Altair 8800, died last week, and the two guys who built a version of BASIC for the Altair — Paul Allen and Bill Gates — are now doing, um, other things.

I admit to a certain vague distrust of the cloud: I know bytes are no more tangible on my hard drive than on, say, Google’s, but I feel better knowing they’re only a few feet from my desk. Still, if I’m around twenty years from now, I assume I’ll have adjusted to whatever form of computing exists then. And I suspect Apple will have done likewise.


  1. Lisa Paul »

    4 April 2010 · 10:18 am

    Fear not, the hacker do-it-yerselfer breed still exists. There’s a wonderful program here in San Francisco designed to give underprivileged kids computer skills. In addition to donating working computers, they encourage the donation of non-working computers, bits of old computer “junk” and old programs. The kids use them to take apart, reassemble, hack around and generally do what kids of an earlier aged used to do with old clunkers and car parts from the junkyard.

    Great idea. Unless these kids start hacking into the National Defense System in a few years.

  2. canadienne »

    4 April 2010 · 4:57 pm

    Oh, please. I am an unabashed Mac fangrrl, and sometimes I want to get under the hood, but sometimes I just need to get things done (hello, Excel), and appreciate the GUI. This is like dissing drivers because they have never wanted to rebuild an engine (which is something I have also taken part in, btw.)

    The quote is from Gibson’s novel “Idoru,” the words of a very nasty character, referring to the audience for Slitscan, a media corporation devoted to celebrity stalking for the masses. Brainless consumption of trivia. The last line of the quote is “And by voting in presidential elections.”

    I love the idea of hackers teaching kids the computer basics.

  3. CGHill »

    4 April 2010 · 5:31 pm

    Then again, “celebrity stalking for the masses” is now the rule, rather than the exception, in American (if probably not Canadian) media.

    I admit to a certain level of frustration when I pop open the engine compartment and can identify maybe half of the components on sight. I also admit that this frustration has not yet driven me to the local vo-tech to take auto-repair classes.

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