Old Hardware, Once Treasured, Begs

Hard times.

Discovered the above here. Was reminded of “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a short story in Ted Chiang’s collection Exhalation, in which digitally created entities, or “digients,” interact with human trainers who help them grow and develop. The trouble comes when the software company that developed these digital products goes bankrupt, and the digital world hosting these interactions becomes dated and obsolete. Chiang’s short story is provocative, inviting reflection on how we interact with technology and what it means to be human.

The Macintosh Classic II is a piece of hardware, running software that gives it the appearance of a human face. We do not think of “things” as having personality, but we relate to them as though they do. When they fail us, we get angry at them, as though they possess a will instead of a malfunction. Who among us has not called a computer stupid? We interact with our things, our technology, often more than we do people! The computer on which I’m writing this post is but one link in the chain of technological mediation standing between us. We become attached to our machines, too. We develop a bond, perhaps affections.

Until we upgrade. Then we move on.

If you watch the video above, you’ll see the Macintosh placed on a city street, passed by pedestrians, with few turning their heads. This computer was placed outside an Apple Store, begging for change. The irony. The company that created the machine could bring it in for recycling. But then that’d be the end of that piece of hardware. Before pulling the plug, you’d have to look into those eyes.

It’s a wonderful piece of art, doing what art does, making us evaluate how we see and how we think, raising questions, inviting reflection, pondering what is true.