Contributor Post Created with Sketch. I, Computer

 

Pasted image at 2015_10_15 07_38 AMI am a Macbook Air—the ordinary 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5 machine familiar to all boys and girls and adults who can read and write.

Writing is both my vocation and my avocation; that’s all I do.

You may wonder why I should write a genealogy. Well, to begin with, my story is interesting. And, next, I am a mystery—more so than a tree or a sunset or even a flash of lightning. But, sadly, I am taken for granted by those who use me, as if I were a mere incident and without background. This supercilious attitude relegates me to the level of the commonplace. This is a species of the grievous error in which mankind cannot too long persist without peril. For, as a wise man observed, “We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”

I, Computer, simple though I appear to be, merit your wonder and awe, a claim I shall attempt to prove. In fact, if you can understand me—no, that’s too much to ask of anyone—if you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing. I have a profound lesson to teach. And I can teach this lesson better than can an automobile or an airplane or a mechanical dishwasher because—well, because I am seemingly so simple.

Simple? Yet, not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me. This sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Especially when it is realized that there are about one and one-half billion of my kind produced in the U. S. A. each year …

Don’t take your computer for granted.

MacBook_Air_13-inch_35330106_12Perhaps I just needed to feel good after yesterday’s freaky-deaky, but when I walked into that Mac Store today and walked out twenty minutes later with computing power sufficient to send a man to the moon in my hands — in a device barely heavier than a bag of croissants — it struck me, yet again, how astonishing the free market really is. How did someone like me get lucky enough to live in an era where such a thing is a household item, readily affordable even to those of us who can’t even install our own operating systems unaided?

The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society’s legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow. Have faith that free men will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed. I, Computer, seemingly simple though I am, offer the miracle of my creation as testimony that this is a practical faith, as practical as the sun, the rain, a cedar tree, the good earth.

If this little computer lasts as long as my last Mac did, I’ll end up paying less for it per month than I spend on cat litter. And less than I did on my last Mac, too.

Apple_Store-Paris-LouvreI went to the Apple store beneath the Louvre museum, by the way. The lines to get in it on a weekend are almost as long as the lines to get into the museum. But that store belongs there: It’s one of the great design achievements of human history.

You show me a government that can provide this kind of service at this price — anywhere, even once in human history — and I’ll revise my beliefs about the blessings of the free market.

I’ll wait.

(… Steve Jobs, forgive me for the unpleasant things I said about you yesterday after the business with El Capitan. May everyone at Apple be fruitful and prosper.)

 

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  1. Crabby Appleton Inactive

    Two observations. In 1980 I bought a Radio Shack TRS80 computer that had 16K of RAM and cost $999. Six months later they introduced a newer version that had 32K of RAM for the same price. Last week I took the bus into town. I get on at the beginning of the inbound route and noticed as the bus filled that virtually every (!) passenger had earbuds from their personal gadget or phone installed or had their personal gadget in their hands and were engaged with it or held their gadget ready for immediate use. I, myself, was listening to a podcast on my iPod. There was almost no personal interaction among any of the passengers.

    • #1
    • October 15, 2015, at 5:51 AM PDT
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  2. Ward Inactive

    This attitude, the wonder and delight that comes from profit-motivated technological advancement, is a huge part of conservatism. I would call it a subset of Russell Kirk’s “the conservatism of enjoyment” and I think we should give it more play. I think it would attract more millenials than “feel the Bern”

    • #2
    • October 15, 2015, at 5:56 AM PDT
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  3. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    Capt. Aubrey:This attitude, the wonder and delight that comes from profit-motivated technological advancement, is a huge part of conservatism. I would call it a subset of Russell Kirk’s “the conservatism of enjoyment” and I think we should give it more play. I think it would attract more millenials than “feel the Bern”

    I agree.

    • #3
    • October 15, 2015, at 6:00 AM PDT
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  4. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    Crabby Appleton:

    There was almost no personal interaction mong any of the passengers.

    I think to some extent this is because the technology has outstripped our manners: We’re obviously going to have to adopt a new set of adapted manners to it if we want to feel as if we live in communities full of humans, and I suspect we all do.

    There’s still plenty of social interaction among passengers in France. France is almost as wired up with gadgets now as the US, but I think French social codes are much more rigid than American ones (for good or ill), so you see the baneful effects of this less — so far.

    • #4
    • October 15, 2015, at 6:06 AM PDT
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  5. Bill Walsh Member
    Bill WalshJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Which makes me wonder, Capt. & Claire, why conservative parties aren’t stauncher defenders of consumer choice in itself, against, e.g., environmental regulation. Where’s the pushback against bans on types of toilets, light bulbs, shower heads, etc.? Is it that those types are usually older and therefore more emotionally passé? But if say an artist revels in the spectrum of incandescent light, why shouldn’t she be able to outfit her studio appropriately? Or if someone is willing to pay a higher water bill to enjoy a benefit, aesthetic or otherwise, from a higher-flow plumbing fixture, why do they not find defenders? Is it simply regulatory capture by motivated lobbyists and crony industry? Or is it that the presumed defenders don’t sense the technological delight you convincingly invoke and therefore don’t have either the vocabulary or inclination to defend the fruits of progress?

    • #5
    • October 15, 2015, at 6:13 AM PDT
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  6. Vance Richards Member
    Vance RichardsJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    So they give a free new OS that screws up your old computer so bad that you have to buy a new one. Yes, capitalism is alive and well. (but you were probably overdue anyway)

    Enjoy your new machine. Let us know how El Capitan is when installed properly.

    • #6
    • October 15, 2015, at 6:26 AM PDT
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  7. Ward Inactive

    Yes I don’t know the answer but I agree. There is so much brand value in silly nonsense like free trade coffee and driving a Prius. It inevitably leads to massive hypocracy but it’s probably better to ridicule it than criticize it.

    • #7
    • October 15, 2015, at 6:27 AM PDT
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  8. Casey Inactive

    The free market didn’t build it. The free market doesn’t even have hands.

    • #8
    • October 15, 2015, at 6:32 AM PDT
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  9. Crabby Appleton Inactive

    Casey, the free market does have at least one hand, it’s just invisible.

    • #9
    • October 15, 2015, at 6:36 AM PDT
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  10. Casey Inactive

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Capt. Aubrey:This attitude, the wonder and delight that comes from profit-motivated technological advancement, is a huge part of conservatism. I would call it a subset of Russell Kirk’s “the conservatism of enjoyment” and I think we should give it more play. I think it would attract more millenials than “feel the Bern”

    I agree.

    I agree that it is. But it oughtn’t be.

    • #10
    • October 15, 2015, at 6:37 AM PDT
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  11. Casey Inactive

    Crabby Appleton:Casey, the free market does have at least one hand, it’s just invisible.

    The free market is an idea. Not a thing.

    • #11
    • October 15, 2015, at 6:39 AM PDT
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  12. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    Vance Richards: So they give a free new OS that screws up your old computer so bad that you have to buy a new one. Yes, capitalism is alive and well. (but you were probably overdue anyway)

    Yes, and I understand full well that my computer expired when it was meant to. But that’s okay. I knew when I bought it that it didn’t come with a lifetime guarantee: That’s why they stress that AppleCare lasts for two years, not five.

    I should have replaced it sooner and spared myself the frustration and the waste of time.

    • #12
    • October 15, 2015, at 6:41 AM PDT
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  13. Songwriter Inactive
    SongwriterJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:Yes, and I understand full well that my computer expired when it was meant to. But that’s okay. I knew when I bought it that it didn’t come with a lifetime guarantee: That’s why they stress that AppleCare lasts for two years, not five.

    I should have replaced it sooner and spared myself the frustration and the waste of time.

    That touches on a genuine change in the way we view the things we purchase today, electronics in particular, versus a few decades ago. We no longer expect much of anything to last more than a few years. And rather than repair things, we replace them.

    I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. But it is definitely a major shift in attitudes from when I was a kid.

    • #13
    • October 15, 2015, at 6:53 AM PDT
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  14. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    Songwriter: That touches on a genuine change in the way we view the things we purchase today, electronics in particular, versus a few decades ago. We no longer expect much of anything to last more than a few years.

    In the case of computers, that’s truly because they’re becoming so much better, so fast. In the case of washing machines — it’s not. Those just aren’t built to last anymore, or at least, not the ones I’ve bought at a midrange price.

    • #14
    • October 15, 2015, at 6:58 AM PDT
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  15. Barkha Herman Inactive

    Your essay reminded me of this video:

    • #15
    • October 15, 2015, at 7:02 AM PDT
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  16. Casey Inactive

    The free market is here fixing my washing machine right now.

    • #16
    • October 15, 2015, at 7:04 AM PDT
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  17. Crabby Appleton Inactive

    SONGWRITER ” That touches on a genuine change in the way we view the things we purchase today, electronics in particular, versus a few decades ago. We no longer expect much of anything to last more than a few years. And rather than repair things, we replace them.

    I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. But it is definitely a major shift in attitudes from when I was a kid.”

    All we can do is replace them. We do not repair things because we cannot. We do not and cannot understand how things work. When I was a kid my dad fixed our car in our own garage, like he fixed a lot of things in our home. When the vertical hold on our TV went, he bought a new tube, replaced the bad one and fixed the set. How many people today have the technical understanding and the material wherewithal to do anything to their cars beyond the most basic servicing? If my flat screen LCD monitor goes I toss it and buy a new one.

    • #17
    • October 15, 2015, at 7:06 AM PDT
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  18. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    Barkha Herman:Your essay reminded me of this video:

    I hadn’t realised that my old computer’s speakers were broken. The sound had ever-so-slowly degraded, and I’d become used to straining to hear. Now I can enjoy watching a YouTube clip on my computer again.

    You know the only thing the buying-a-new-computer-experience lacks? A characteristic smell, like the new-car smell. I’m surprised Apple hasn’t thought of that.

    • #18
    • October 15, 2015, at 7:08 AM PDT
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  19. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    Casey: The free market is an idea. Not a thing.

    The free market’s just a fact, unless someone tampers with it.

    • #19
    • October 15, 2015, at 7:09 AM PDT
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  20. Casey Inactive

    Love is a fact too. But love won’t keep us together.

    • #20
    • October 15, 2015, at 7:18 AM PDT
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  21. Mr. Dart Inactive

    Casey:Love is a fact too. But love won’t keep us together.

    Gee. Thanks for that.captain_tennille2

    • #21
    • October 15, 2015, at 7:28 AM PDT
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  22. BrentB67 Inactive

    Vance Richards:So they give a free new OS that screws up your old computer so bad that you have to buy a new one. Yes, capitalism is alive and well. (but you were probably overdue anyway)

    Enjoy your new machine. Let us know how El Capitan is when installed properly.

    My MBA is 2+ years old. El Capitan installed easily and I’ve had no issues.

    • #22
    • October 15, 2015, at 7:34 AM PDT
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  23. Great Ghost of Gödel Inactive

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    I should have replaced it sooner and spared myself the frustration and the waste of time.

    Given that it had physical damage (a cracked screen and more, IIRC). Again, my late-2010 MacBook Air is humming along just fine, and El Capitan installed and works great—just like every OS X version I’ve used since beta 1. To be fair, I have no significant third-party hardware with possibly-incompatible drivers or the like.

    BTW, the picture of Margaret Hamilton and her Apollo code is a nice touch.

    • #23
    • October 15, 2015, at 7:38 AM PDT
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  24. BrentB67 Inactive

    Mr. Dart:

    Casey:Love is a fact too. But love won’t keep us together.

    Gee. Thanks for that.captain_tennille2

    Hah. Thanks for that. I googled them for fun and they have a website looks like it was built and still runs on a Tandy TRS80, the 16kb model.

    • #24
    • October 15, 2015, at 7:41 AM PDT
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  25. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    Great Ghost of Gödel: BTW, the picture of Margaret Hamilton and her Apollo code is a nice touch.

    That was Tom Meyer’s idea. I liked it too.

    • #25
    • October 15, 2015, at 7:43 AM PDT
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  26. Casey Inactive

    The free market says fixing my washer is only $100 less than replacing. So the free market is arranging for delivery and hauling this hunk of junk to the dump.

    • #26
    • October 15, 2015, at 7:45 AM PDT
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  27. David Knights Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

     

    If this little computer lasts as long as my last Mac did, I’ll end up paying less for it per month than I spend on cat litter. And less than I did on my last Mac, too.

    Claire,

    That might not be as cheap as people might think it would be. I have 5 cats and am amazed what we spend on litter each month.

    • #27
    • October 15, 2015, at 7:45 AM PDT
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  28. Great Ghost of Gödel Inactive

    Songwriter:

    That touches on a genuine change in the way we view the things we purchase today, electronics in particular, versus a few decades ago. We no longer expect much of anything to last more than a few years. And rather than repair things, we replace them.

    To be fair, a good chunk of that is due to the evolution of electronics itself. You can’t “repair” the “broken” part of a System on a Chip. Good luck getting to the inner layers of a multilayer printed circuit board.

    There’s a similar argument about cars: the days of being able to pop the hood and tinker around are largely behind us, because the tooling for modern cars is much higher precision, with finer tolerances, and the control systems for spark plug timing, steering, braking, etc. are computerized—have to be, to adhere to those fine tolerances, to make the engineering make sense or to meet emissions standards (hello, VW!) or whatever.

    Miniaturization and integration takes things out of old-skool tinkering and repair. The good news is there’s a Maker movement that does the modern equivalent. It’s just different from the Heathkit and Radio Shack days of our youth.

    • #28
    • October 15, 2015, at 7:52 AM PDT
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  29. Great Ghost of Gödel Inactive

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:when I walked into that Mac Store today and walked out twenty minutes later with computing power sufficient to send a man to the moon in my hands

    Minor quibble:

    Orders of magnitude more computing power than it took to send men to the moon.

    • #29
    • October 15, 2015, at 8:02 AM PDT
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  30. James Gawron Thatcher
    James GawronJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Claire,

    I went to the Apple store beneath the Louvre museum, by the way. The lines to get in it on a weekend are almost as long as the lines to get into the museum. But that store belongs there: It’s one of the great design achievements of human history.

    the-promenade-1918

    May Gd bless you and your new computer.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #30
    • October 15, 2015, at 8:03 AM PDT
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