Blue Box

The co-founders of Apple’s first, erm, “collaboration” with AT&T went a little differently. Like the iPhone, it made calls on AT&T’s network. Unlike the iPhone, there was only one calling plan. It involved you calling as much as you wanted, and AT&T getting nothing. This collaboration proved short-lived.

You know I’m often (well, sometimes, anyway) a reasonable, rational, measured person. And you can probably guess that, as a fan of design and elegance, I really appreciate the iPhone’s elegant design, the fact that it pays attention to user experience. I think it’s a major innovation, one that will have far-reaching effects. Yet, something about walking out the door of my apartment building and seeing a hundred people waiting in line just because there’s an AT&T Wireless store on the block — one of many here in Manhattan — is setting me off.

I miss computers. Remember computers? Remember the Apple II, which came pre-installed with BASIC so you could start programming it out of the box (in stark contrast to the closed nature of iPhone)? Remember the Newton, which you could turn into a drum machine if you wanted? Remember how Steve Jobs’ first product, with Steve Wozniak, was a device that actually ripped off AT&T? That sounds like fun. It’s just sort of hard to see the iPhone being the landmark 50 years from now, even if Steve Jobs told Apple employees they’ll tell their grandchildren about the iPhone launch. (I have a feeling their grandchildren will respond, you used THAT?)

I like devices that can make music, not just listen to it. Mac? Check. iPod? Nope. iPhone? Not so much. That’s the reason so many readers here still get creative with old Nintendo game systems and Commodore 64s and 1960s modular synths — music doesn’t age, and neither does music technology. Sure, I might even get an iPhone at some point … but for now, the best gadget I’ve ever met is still the Mac. And June 29 for me is a Pixar release date more than an iPhone release date, a reminder that, despite the name of this site, art made on computers can be more than “digital” — it can ultimately be just music and art. Eventually, the technology doesn’t matter. And creativity is still the best killer app of the digital age.

It’s not that I don’t understand the appeal. Tycho on Penny Arcade puts it best: “I just think I’m ready to use a device where each application was designed by people who seem to talk to one another on occasion.” Wow, the wonders of modern technology. That would explain why people are lining up for this thing like it’s a Depression-era soup line: most phones really are that bad.

But here’s my suggestion: Let’s talk about anything. Anything. Worth $500 or less. (Heck, two years of service … say $1500.) Anything that’s not an iPhone. (Newton totally counts.) I mean, either you’re going to go get an iPhone and you probably need someone to take your mind off of it for a few minutes while you wait in line, or you’re like the rest of us, surrounded by a swamp of hype. Meditation time … Moooooooooooooog. Moooooooooooooog. (Hint: if you just sounded like a cow, you’re saying it wrong. Think Ohm. Or Ohms.) What technology do you get excited about that’s not an iPhone?