The Exigent Duality
Will it ever end - 07:01 CDT, 1/09/17 (Sniper)
I always laugh when I read articles like this one. "Impress your friends" with the "sexiest smart phone yet!"

I haven't known a single person for years that's impressed with an iPhone or clone-- they all look nearly identical, they all have cameras, and they all have touch screens. If you've seen the original iPhone, you've seen them all. It's no mystery to me why Apple's sales are flagging. And I'm a technologist, who works with technologists-- we're the kind of people who typically get excited by gadgets.

The fact is, I've absolutely hated Apple's products, dating back to the Apple IIs that my elementary school replaced all of their Commodore 64s with in the mid-to-late 80s.

Apple products have always been defined by form over substance: a mouse with one button; floppy and CD-ROM drives with no physical eject buttons; cases that look like Fisher Price toys, or plants. Thank the universe, Apple's designs never caught on. Apple were a niche player, catering to hipsterville idiots. Personal computers and gadgets kept going on their own evolutionary paths, totally independent from the inane machinations emerging from Cupertino. Apple products were something I could merely laugh at, from a safe distance.

And then the iPhone came out.

I had a work dinner the day after they released, and the social justice warrior "educator" woman next to me had one. She handed it to me, "hey, check this out!" I held it, "swiped" around the user interface, and immediately had the exact same reaction that I had to every other Apple product: "who in their right mind would buy something like this." Yuck. I reflexively reached for the Nokia N-Gage in my pocket, with its physical buttons and dpad and conventional, menu-driven interface: "thank goodness, it's still there!"

But to my absolute horror, it wouldn't be there for long: for the first time since the advent of the user interface in the 80s, companies copied Apple, essentially wiping the smart phone off the map as an entire segment of personal electronics that were interesting to me. I was in love with the prospect of powerful, handheld computing during the physical keyboard Palm Pilot and Symbian days-- but that entire evolutionary branch was totally terminated, wholely replaced with absurd Apple's hipster "chic". Apple was now in my back yard-- and I couldn't get them off my lawn.

Even the birth of the Linux-based Android-- like a silver lining for a dirty toilet bowl-- couldn't save the smart phone for me. Since that fateful dinner all of those years ago, I've owned and even professionally developed on a Google Nexus One and HTC One M8, the latter of which has been my phone for the past few years. I've tried hard to make them "mine"-- things I could identify with-- by installing on them SSH clients, terminal emulators, and IDEs.

But both of those "devices"-- as phones have bizarrely been referred to since the plague of the iPhone-- are nothing more than expensive alarm clocks; I use them to wake me up in the morning, and basically nothing else. I have zero passion for them, and I could accidentally drop my phone into a lake tomorrow and not miss it.

Fast forward to the year 2017, where there are articles like the above telling me to get excited for the iPhone 58 or its countless clones, and all I can do is sigh. Like is the case for so many things over the past fifteen or twenty years, the world is stuck on endless repeat, in this case hitched on the idea of the "slate" phone. I can only hope that some day will bring the fall of designers as the dominant force in computing, and a renaissance for the dominance of engineers.
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