About seven or eight years ago there was a very exciting phone out called the XDA Exec. At the time there was really nothing like this device. It essentially looked like a tiny laptop and had a keyboard that glowed blue in the dark and a lid you could close or open. When you wanted to use it like a phone or a tablet device, you could spin the screen around and lie it back on itself like the Lenovo Yoga and it ran an operating system called Symbian that was incredibly flexible in what it could do. It had a stylus like the Galaxy Note does today and if you were a gamer you would never get bored as it was capable of playing 3D games like Tomb Raider. You could even install emulators and play MegaDrive games on it and SNES games. Heck, you could even install QBasic if anyone remembers what that was.
And when you took it out of your pocket to make a phone call, people would literally gawp. They’d most certainly at least come and ask you what it was and where you could get one.
Remember: this was eight years ago. It had WiFi, it played 3D games, it had a touchscreen, it synced flawlessly with your computer… It made the iPhone look lame.
What device today is that exciting?
Where Have all the Exciting Devices Gone?
Go into a phone shop today and what do you see? Lines and lines of smartphones that look just like one another. They have no buttons, a big touchscreen display and one or two capacitive buttons. Thanks for that Apple!
Literally, if you want something different and exciting… then there’s nothing. Who wasn’t hoping that by now we’d have a smartphone that ran PC Windows? On an Intel processor? There was a phone with an Intel processor but it just ran Android…
Sure, we have a few more interesting things. The Note Edge is… sort of okay? It has a funny screen. And some other devices have heartrate monitors. But seriously, it’s not all that game changing or exciting is it?
How about computers? Things are a little better there. These PC hybrid slates are kind of cool like the Surface Pro with its touchscreen and SSD hard drive. But still there’s nothing that makes you go ‘wow’. There’s nothing like the first laptops.
And do you remember when we first transitioned from the MegaDrive to the Sony PlayStation? That was a huge leap in graphical prowess… a whole dimension! The Xbox One? That’s just like the Xbox 360… except with voice control for the TV. Cool?
Of course this is being a little unfair to things like Google Glass and the Oculus Rift. Only we haven’t actually seen any of those things yet have we? And exciting and game changing as they are, they don’t actually change your day to day do they? They’re really gadgets for gaming or doing things around the home. And Glass seems to have sort of failed anyway.
What’s the Problem?
Something like the HoloLens is amazing no doubt. And we’ll probably be able to get our hands on one in the next 5 years… But it’s still not really exciting in the way that old tech was and I think there’s a good reason for that.
The problem is Apple. And the problem is commercialism.
With the first iPhone and then later the iPad, technology became really accessible and approachable. Your Grandma can use an iPhone! And that’s great. But then suddenly everything started become ‘clean’ and ‘intuitive’ and ‘user friendly’.
And in some way, some magic was lost in the process.
Who didn’t love sitting in front of a green screen computer back in the day, basking in that eerie glow and writing BASIC code to make a square move around the screen? It was completely inaccessible and your Mother had no idea what you were doing. You could have told her you were hacking the government and she’s have believed you.
But now technology is all skeuomorphism and big colorful images. It’s all geared towards people who don’t know what they’re doing and it’s really hard now to get under the hood. Even as things become more open source, it all just seems a lot less exciting and a lot more ‘safe’. Like we’ve got our safety wheels on…
Someone make something that’s scarily different, with a keyboard, that you can program on and that’s far too big to go in your pocket but still claims it’s a phone. THEN I’ll be excited for technology again.