Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 31/9/2004Apple has chosen the Apple Expo in Paris to launch its new iMac -- well, fair enough. Our Gallic brethren have always loved the Macintosh with passion and dedication -- clearly, it epitomises style and la difference over the stolid Anglo-Saxon functionality of Wintel PCs.

Tuesday 31/9/2004
Apple has chosen the Apple Expo in Paris to launch its new iMac -- well, fair enough. Our Gallic brethren have always loved the Macintosh with passion and dedication -- clearly, it epitomises style and la difference over the stolid Anglo-Saxon functionality of Wintel PCs. Predictably, my Apple-owning friends are besides themselves with joy -- but I can't see what the fuss is about. It looks like a flat-panel monitor. Well, coo. "Oh, you've got to see it!" say people who were there, and then I could decide whether the lack of integral Wi-Fi, rather meagre memory allocation and not quite best of breed video chip will sour my glee at its sheer aesthetic… flat panelness.

But what can you do? Those who think about such things have been predicting that the PC will vanish over the next ten years. It won't go away -- we'll probably be in closer personal proximity to more sheer computing and communications oomph than anyone can imagine -- but the boxes themselves will be subsumed into other devices. The end result will be some sort of wireless input -- hand gestures, speech, a virtual keyboard projected onto a handy surface -- and an image that appears as required. It doesn't really matter how good your industrial design is then.

I once experimentally set up a system to be like this -- nothing special, just a small wireless keyboard and a video projector aimed at a nearby wall. The rest of the gubbins I hid out of sight. I didn't expect it to make much difference, but the sensation of working on a system that wasn't there -- no boxes, no wires, no frame on the display; in fact, no display, just a glowing wall -- was eerie. I began to resent the space that the system boxes and cables habitually stole, and soon began to forget there was a computer hidden away at all.

There is a science fiction theme, the Singularity, where we create machines (or modify ourselves) to the point that they/we are smart enough to improve them/ourselves exponentially. In short order, we become beings of pure intellect, propelling ourselves into a universe of raw existence uncoupled from the dull limits of mere matter.

Can the iMac compete with that? I think not.

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