I've Always Been This Awkward - Fourteen

I've always been a bit of a geek. I know, hard to believe, huh? Not the hard-core programming type of computer nerd since I don't know my BASIC from my Fortran from my Java, but I know enough to get by. I know enough to know when to call others for help. I have solved numerous computer-related problems though, since most problems, in general, are only a matter of logic and stick-to-itiveness. Stubborn and smart is a bittersweet combination. But with technology I've always been appreciative of the elegance and sophistication and thought processes that go into making intuitive and graceful hardware and software. The stuff that make the machine feel like it's a part of you; like you're part of the machine (see geeky). This is why I hate all things PC and Microsoft. That shit's just junk. This is why I drive the '06 GTI. I've thought it out, perhaps too much. I know what I like. But I do not nor have I ever played or owned video gaming systems. My TeeVee ain't plasma or LCD or hanging form the wall.

Which is also why, for good and for bad (and through a long period of shitty hardware and software) I've been associated with Apple and their consumer electronic products. Not a "fan." Not a "groupie." I do not enjoy giving Apple my money. In fact, Apple kind of annoys me nowadays. But I get Apple (maybe they get me). I've lived in Cupertino. I know people who work there. I kind of understand. And, for me, their stuff works. It syncs with me. I am not shilling for them.

I've used and owned the Apple ][, ][c, ][e and the earliest Macintoshes. I've owned a Mac Plus (the plus is for 64 kilobytes of RAM. I updated my Mac Plus to 128K of RAM (and an internal fan). Blah-blah-blah and on through the Performa, the second Macintosh laptop, and the iMac. I've had two iBooks and am burning through this Intel-based duo-core MacBook right now. I've owned three iPods. I recommend some of these things to people whom I like and whom I think would get it. I hate it that it's all so popular now but I don't hate 'em for being successful.

I do believe the whole iName convention is tired and weak. But, it's their thing and they're rolling with it. So what? They're doing well and I attribute it all to Steve Jobs. He left and they sucked. They begged him back and they rule again. He's also the Pixar guy. That's a good life. He beat pancreatic cancer. He's prickly and he's known to be an ass. He beat that whole stock scandal thing. Fuck it. But he does look sick of late which makes people consider Apple's succession plan. Dang, who could succeed Steve Jobs? That will be rough time come retirement or the croaking. I can only think of one person who could succeed Jobs: Jack White. That's right, that Jack White.

Anyway, when the iPhone first came out last year, I was immediately asked if I was going to get one. My answer was no. It was $400 and, what, 4 GB (or $500 and eight). I claimed a defiant position of superiority in that I was 1) weaning from the mobile phone and that, 2) I wasn't in search of status symbols. Both remain true. I hate the telephone. Who do I have to talk to? Nor am I seeking status identification. Nor, coincidentally, am I attempting to affiliate with any "kind" of people. I really wouldn't want to be called an iPhone type of guy. See what I said last year here: [clicky]

Yet I've always felt that I possessed a keen sense of timing when it comes to consumer electronics, trends, and design. I typically felt that I could tell when it was time to invest in something, when the technology—hardware and software—was right. I may not be the earliest of "early adopters," but I feel that I am a "timely adopter." I'm not on the cutting edge but on the early second wave. When it's right. I'm okay with all of that.

So, I decided that this new iPhone 3G bullshit was something that I'd like to have. Yes, it's just another toy; it's a want not a need. It was time. Not for the telephone that's for sure because AT&T sucks. In fact, having shitty voice service is a good thing for me; it's a convenient excuse to not talk on the phone. But, I have been in search of a good portable internet device. Even though my laptop is small and powerful, I don't enjoy lugging it around anywhere for email or music. But, this new "phone" has a few things that make it interesting: internet browsing capability, map-based GPS, it's a pretty good music and video player too. Oh, and it syncs seamlessly with my laptop. Oh, and it has multi-touch (the future). It should never have been named "iPhone," though, that's just terrible and fairly weak. It should have been called the "iPod Talk." There's no going back.

Aside from the twice the speed/half the price bullshit (actually that is a brilliant tag line given that the overall price is more than the old one) this thing has generated crazy hype. Launched on July 11 there are still suckers lining up for hours and the supply or availability is sparse. I would never wait in line for more than, like, a half-hour for most things, especially a telephone. That's just beat. That's just embarrassing. That's just the mope-ness. I did read on the internet that people were celebrating the fact that they were getting their vaunted iPhones after waiting for only four hours. Still. I'm not going to do that.

Well I bought an iPhone yesterday (see photo above). Here's my how it went.
Ty's Handy Guide to iPhone Buying (at least how I did it):

1) Check out Apple's Apple Store iPhone Availability tool thing.
2) Go to a store that shows zero availability.
3) Walk into store early. I went at 9:30 for a 10:00 opening time and found that they were running a kids summer technology camp and were open.
4) Have your number and porting information available.
5) Buy your phone.
10 minutes. Done. Activated. Home by 10:00.

When I was at the Apple Store I asked the staff if it's been crazy. They conceded that it had been and that people were going nuts for this thing. One young woman indicated that "Watch, in an hour they'll be lined up all the way to Nordstrom and won't have anymore in about five minutes." We laughed. We were friends. We shared an experience.

I never interacted with a mope during my 10 minutes at the Apple Store (and I hate the Apple Store with the stupid Genius Bar and shit). There are some interesting and quite brilliant subtleties built into the transaction. They open the box for you but they have you take it out, "There you go, there's your iPhone," they announce. They have to take it out to activate it but they make it your decision to touch it first. You are congratulated on your choice and your purchase. Pleasant smiles all around. Then you get a very special bag that feels like luxury itself. The bag has the image of the phone and announces to the world and to crooks that you are one of the lucky/chosen with and iPhone 3G. Even when I was leaving the mall, an employee coming in said, "Enjoy your iPhone."

It's all status cues and me-first heuristics. It's straight out of Pratkanis' chapter on "how to start a cult" and Caildini's chapter on "why people agree to things." Social Psychology is my thing, baby, and I was totally enjoying being witness to this blatant and elegant and convincing theater. I do not for a minute, though, believe that the AT&T store people can pull the act off anywhere close to the Apple Store version. Brilliant.

It's a great device too. Everything and probably a bit more than I expected, really. But I'm not reviewing my phone here. I'm not showing off. There's no status involved here. I'm just another mope with just another thing in the end. It's just another item to check off on the master list of geekdom.

I've Always Been This Awkward
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