Douglas Coupland has been drafted in to fill Stephen Fry's shoes on his tech column Dork Talk, while the British polymath recovers from a broken arm. The Canadian author and artist has tackled the subject of gadgets and obsolescence, taking as his starting-point the fact that the box of techno-baubles he received from The Guardian in London were all unworkable in North America. And this got him thinking, about how time is now measured in "tech-waves." If that's the case, then what era are we currently in?
I guess we are coming to the end of the early iPhone era. But Coupland, the author of Microserfs and Generation X, moves onto another, more disturbing theory: that gadgets make morons of us all.
I remember in the 80s when cellphones first started to pop. I remember how, if you saw someone using a cellphone on a street, you immediately thought they were an asshole: gee, my phone call is so important I have to make it right here and right now! Twenty years later, we're all assholes. We're assholes at the supermarket's meat counter at 5:30pm, phoning home to ask if we need prosciutto; we're assholes driving in traffic; and we're assholes wandering down the streets. And with cellphones and handhelds, we collapse time and space and our perception of distance and intimacy.
And he has a point. I can see how gadgetry does strange, stupid things to people, but in a different way. My Motorola Razr Mk 1 is dying a pathetic death. Its current battery life stands at approximately 15 minutes, it does nothing but calls and SMS. Basically, I need a new phone. But am I going to get one? When Steve announces the arrival of a 64GB iPhone, (estimated arrival Summer 2009?) I will. But until then, I'll make do. You see? Technology has turned me into an a-hole. [Guardian Unlimited]