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.