My laptop, my tricked out ride

What does airbrushing of laptops tell us about the maturity of the PC business?
Written by Mitch Ratcliffe, Contributor

Airbrushed laptop girlGizmodo points to a collection of photos of laptops that have been airbrushed with art that looks like it could have come from the side of a tricked out van in the 1970s. The work, done by Smooth Creations of White City, Ore., costs $300 to $500, about the same percentage of a laptop price as a custom paint job for a van.

What does it say about the state of the PC industry that the laptop and desktop CPUs have become canvasses for personal expression as a commodity product (these designs are available from Smooth Creations, which sells PCs with the airbrushing as products of its own)?

Society has completely adopted computational systems, like it did cars before. They have become as ordinary as a Chevy or a Ford van. As a former VW van owner, I think my prediliction for the PowerBook is evidence of the variety of tastes that PC manufacturers can hope to address in the market. Moreover, coding, like backyard mechanics, has become a normal middle class activity. 

The unconferences of the day are, in fact, just like the car shows that sprang up around hot rods. People get together and talk about their hacks and mods like car people do their custom body work and racing engines. They are more about conforming within a small group that appears to be different than being different than the rest of society. We all buy into the same basic concept: Computers are cool tools and we're cool for using them. iPod paint job

Unlike the car, which came with a single definition of what an infrastructure ought to look like—Interstates connected to highways and major arteries linked to local road systems—the PC and Internet are the basis for many infrastructures. The question is, if we settle for cool personal hacks and mods in lieu of pushing for more options in the infrastructure, are we passifying ourselves at the consumerist teat instead of building our world?

The custom-painted vans were always driven slowly, carefully, like they were part of a funeral procession. I never had a custom paint job, I just liked to drive fast and outside the lines, van or car. When we paint our PCs are we just giving in on the big issues by claiming to have personalized our little corner of the virtual world?

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