For the purposes of this column, I’m inaugurating The Society for the Preservation of Defunct Digitalia. The members of SPDD are with me in spirit, rather than monthly dues. Don’t look for us online; we don’t have much of a web presence.
Tech-wise, we’re not what you’d call “early adopters.” We’re more like “early resisters.” We’re mostly indifferent to whatever’s hot off the assembly lines and steaming up the tech blogs. That goes double for social notworking apps. (No, that’s no typo; we get nothing done surfing Facebook.)
Like many SPDD members, I have a not-so-smart phone with a cheapo, no-frills mobility account. The dinky, lozenge-shaped thing can receive text messages, but it’s an open secret that I will not respond to them, having failed to master the itsy-bitsy alphanumeric keypad. I might as well be a bonobo ape with a Star Trek tricorder. I’m a talker, not a texter.
Others are welcome to assimilate themselves to the telecom Borg, their noses stuck in their smartphones while they ride public transit or wander into traffic. But as president of the SPDD, I prefer to relax and watch the wheels go by, reminiscing about a time when personal computing hadn’t yet leapt from desktops like an escaped velociraptor.
This brings me to my aging portable, a 12-inch aluminum G4 Powerbook. Although the line was discontinued in 2005—the Upper Paleolithic in terms of tech cycles—I continue to dally with a model I picked up last year for 650 bucks. Away from home, she fulfills all my needs: word processing, web-browsing, email, graphics, and music. She’ll even Skype, although I prefer she didn’t. It might persuade others to text me.
The Powerbook continues my pattern of serial monogamy with older-model Apple computers. By staying well behind the bleeding edge, I’ve saved big bucks. My first Powerbook was a 3400c, the fastest laptop of its time. It retailed at over $6,000 in ‘97. I picked up mine second-hand in 2002 for $800.
My first desktop system was a new Quadra 605, already close to discontinuation in 1994. For $2,000, this Seinfeld-era Mac offered the same computing power that ran $10,000 only two years earlier. For four years, the Quadra worked as advertised—and better. Tossing in some extra RAM, I even knocked off full-colour illustrations for magazine covers, a feat it wasn’t really designed for.
If nothing else, my computer purchasing habits have countered Apple’s business model of constant disposal and replacement. My editor thinks Steve Jobs’ true legacy is “frantic consumption,” and who am I to argue with him, especially after publicly admitting my employment-begging tech skills?
At SPDD, we leave the hot, new gadgets to the trend-conscious and the hype-suggestible. We leave it to you to gnash your teeth, pull out your hair, and cry for help on tech forums. A year or two later, when you’re in hot pursuit of another digital fling, you’ll let go of your previous purchase for a song. And we here at SPDD will be ready. That’s right: sooner than you think we’ll be picking up your foxy iPad 2 off Craigslist for 150 bucks. Count on it.
Many of you Apple-addled gearheads may consider my Powerbook a rickety old Volvo compared to its tricked-out, lowrider successors, like the MacBook Air. You may consider its G4 processor the computing equivalent of a geriatric, tie-died Deadhead, and you’d be right. But who cares? The chip takes me where I need to go, with a tardy but grizzled determination. It only shows its age with its palsied response to high-res videos from Vimeo or Hulu.
I imagine I can get away with another year or two at most with my long-in-the-bluetooth Powerbook. Any longer than that and I’ll be raising the eyebrows of holodeck hipsters when I plunk down it down in East Side coffee shops. But that would actually give me a perverse, time-warped pleasure. I like the idea of coming across like Gordon Gecko on the beach in the 1988 film Wall Street, yammering into a mobile phone the size of a brick.
Here at the Society for the Preservation of Defunct Digitalia, we like to arrive late to the party. Sometimes years late.
The Vancouver Courier, June 1