Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Just thinking

The Apple “iphone” reminds me of a novel I read years ago (while I was still at school): “Phule’s Company” by Robert Asprin (I’ve already written a post about his “MYTH” novels). The books of the “Phule’s”-series are his tribute to science fiction, one could say.

Now, I hardly will own an “iphone” in the near future (not before I make my first million or so with my novels, that is) - and, honestly, I don’t need one, I use my own cell sparsely, if ever. I’m no businesswoman, neither am I another person who needs to basically carry her whole office around. I’m just a simple office worker, nothing more.

But the “iphone” (or, rather, the advertising for it which I saw) reminded me of how much our technical possibilities have changed over the years. When Asprin wrote the “Phule’s” novels (at least two of the three I’ve read), the idea of a small device, not bigger than a paperback novel (Apple’s new phone is even smaller) that can hold your notes, get you online wherever you are (well, if it’s somewhere with a connection to the cell network, of course), serve as a phone, get your emails and so on, was real Science Fiction. Nobody would have expected such a device to be (almost) affordable for everyone (wait a few more years and you’ll have to walk past a mobile shop quickly to avoid “iphones” being thrown at you). The commander of a squadron of space legionaries (like French Foreign Legion, just with less sand and more space) owns such a thing - but then, he’s a millionaire.

But then, some years ago, nobody expected almost everyone to be able to afford a cell phone. And nobody would have thought the internet would become such a big thing, when it was invented as a means for scientists to work together. Computers you can buy in a shop today do things that were next to impossible for the huge main frame computers twenty or so years ago. It’s really amazing, when you think about it.

I can still remember my first computer, a simple one, starting up with a disc (though it was 3.5” already).

One of the first games I played on it, by the way, was “Pirates!” (and I never got anywhere, I just couldn’t navigate ... so Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Hector Barbossa are safe from me, I guess). By now I’d say the graphics were dreadful ... but then, for that time they were quite okay. I even managed the fencing part, but the navigation always got the better of me - which is quite bad, if you’re trying to actually board ships and later on sell the loot ... hard to sell anyone anything, if you can’t find a harbour. (Kate is so going to laugh about that...)

And I remember installing the first “Discworld” game (still one of the best for me, although I like “Discworld Noir” more) from 20(!) floppy disks (took ages).

The third computer I had was the first with a CD-drive. By then, games on CD were quite the rule. (But I’m not going to tell you how abysmal I was behind the controls of an X-wing.)

And now? I’ve got two DVD-drives (one for burning and reading, one for reading only), two hard disks (which are far bigger than the first one I had), a 3D-graphics card, a CPU that’s faster than everyone would have thought possible when I bought my first computer. I won’t even mention the masses of RAM... (Or “Windows”, but for other reasons entirely.)

Technical means have evolved a lot during the last twenty years or so, that much is for sure. And that was what I thought about after that “iphone” advertising.

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