My Paper iPhone

2007 July 7

I visited the Apple Store yesterday to try out an iPhone. As I have finally figured out how to do my email, shared-calendaring, address-book, etc. from my regular phone, I really had no intent of going out to purchase one. Peer pressure is a powerful thing, and hasn't played its hand yet in this journey.

While in Shanghai recently, I had that awkward feeling one has when you're not able to communicate in the native local tongue. Luckily my hotel bellman would slip me one of these cards as you entered the taxi. It was easy as pointing to where I wanted to go (from the limited set of choices), and I would magically be transported there. Sort of like having a touchscreen where you click on the choice you wish to make as on the iPhone. And much like the difficulty in typing on an iPhone keyboard, the taxi driver would stumble a bit figuring out which destination I was really pointing at.

The introduction of the phrase in the 80s of "point and click" was a radical idea with the mass adoption of the computer mouse. I remember that crazy feeling of being able to indirectly move the cursor around with the mouse in a time when mice were just beginning to roam the planet. Until then, all you could do is roughly move the cursor around with your keyboard -- some of us were lucky to have a lightpen or otherwise technical oddity which was always rare. Now with touchscreens and other surface-based computing systems, to point has real meaning and zero levels of indirection.

One could say that the power of indirection, or an otherwise abstraction, is something powerful and necessary to all higher level thought. I guess that will be my ongoing philosophical excuse for not going out to get an iPhone. "The phone for the rest of us," except for me.