Scanorama: Part man, part machine

And here’s a column that runs in the November ’08 issue of Scanorama. After the jump, that is.

My friend

Old friends
A good friend of mine once wrote a short story about how people talk to machines. How we try to make the toaster to hurry up with the bread in the morning, how we beg for the car to just start up when it’s freezing, and how we cheer on the mobile phone to hang in there and give us the last remaining seconds (and beyond) of the battery.

It was a funny story. It was funny because it’s true.

Maybe it’s hardwired in our brain, maybe we haven’t come too far from the stories of the tribal chiefs who refused to be photographed because they thought the machine would capture their soul. We still imagine a connection to the machine, and maybe even more now that they seem to be getting so much smarter.

The gadgets become our friends. We know that they’re really not our friends, but they’re still a part of the new friend continuum where we have friends, Facebook friends, and others. Sure, my friend may say that he’s got a drawer full of old mobile phones because “the recycling system is too complicated”, but I think he’s just too attached to his old buddies to throw them away. Every one of them is a part of his history, every single one a step forward in his life.

It’s like the Toshiba laptop in our basement. Sure, the recycling system is way too complicated, but that’s also the same laptop I chatted with my then-girlfriend, now wife with, back in 1999.

And now, with me holding onto my new 3G iPhone, with a goofy smile on my face, like in 1999 when I was chatting with my then-girlfriend, now wife, I can’t help but feel a little sad for my iPod Touch, standing hopefully on the kitchen counter, ready to tag along with me to the gym.

So, I take him. I tell people I use it at the gym because I don’t want to be disturbed by a phone call there, but it’s really because I don’t want to leave a buddy behind.

We go back a long way.

How does that make you feel?