First of all, I am in a bad bad mood after yesterday’s elections. Voters returned some profoundly evil men to office (I’m looking at you, Kansas, Michigan, Maine, and Florida) and where evil was not an issue, venality and stupidity certainly were.
So I have an open tab in my browser with this on in the background. It helps. (I have it on the Content setting.)
In order not to go sit in the sun and play solitaire on the iPad all day, I’m making myself blog. You might very well ask why I don’t make myself compose, but then I would have to direct a withering stare in your direction.
A couple of months ago I was trying to put together the ceremony for The Child’s wedding, and it occurred to me that I could use a poem I wrote several many years ago, “Epithalamium.”
(This is going to be a long and rambling post.)
Barbara Petzen is a former student who went off to a glorious academic career at Columbia and then Harvard, with a stint at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar somewhere in there. At some point in the early 90s she got married and asked me to be her matron of honor. Barbara is a free spirit—which should be obvious—and so I made sure to call her before flying to Boston to see what I should wear. “Whatever you like” was her unacceptable answer; finally I got her to tell me that Tom would be wearing a tux, and so I brought mine along.
So I was more than a little surprised as she drove me to my hotel that she told me that she and Tom wanted me to read a poem at the ceremony. What poem? I asked, hoping against hope that she would hand me a piece of paper, which of course she didn’t because it’s Barbara why would you even think that? No, she wanted me to pick one out.
I pointed out to her that I worked in a library and that if she had mentioned this to me even two days previously, I would have been able to pull together something really nice. She was unconcerned.
I spent the next day stumbling around Harvard trying to find a library—they have lots—which was a) open (they were on winter break); and b) accessible to the hoi polloi. Needless to say, I was unsuccessful, and so I retreated to my hotel room and wrote a sonnet for the occasion. It went over very well, to the extent that I was asked at the reception where I had found the poem because it was so very very nice.
So for The Child’s wedding, I thought I might reprise my performance.
The problem was, I didn’t have a copy of the poem. It was not on my laptop, nor was it in any folder or notebook that I could find. Nor could Barbara find a copy in any of her stuff. She even had two old hard drives resurrected in the attempt, to no avail. I took in my old blue-and-white G3 to see if its hard drive could be resurrected, but it was gone.
Finally, I was forced to conclude that “Epithalamium” was a lost work. Such a pity.
But here’s the point of this post:
On the left we have my iPad with its stand and keyboard. On the left is a PowerBook 190, still viable, and still running OS 7 (!). It would have been the computer I was using back when Barbara got married, at least the one I toted back and forth from home to school, so I had hopes the poem would be on it. (It wasn’t.)
Look at the difference twenty years makes! Both are representative of the top of the class of portable computing at the time of their release, but mercy, how far we’ve come. Yes, an Apple Macbook Air would be a more direct comparison, but how would that even be fair to my little PowerBook? The iPad is bad enough: in every way it’s smaller, faster, more powerful. It’s wireless. It syncs itself. Its screen is bigger. It has color.
The poor little PowerBook would not have the memory—or the hard drive space—to run any of the major apps on the iPad, and the iPad is chock full of them.
The idea that I would use my laptop to play my entire music library would have floored me. In the early 90s, my collection was just beginning the shift from LPs to CDs—the LPs (more than 300) were recently tossed from a closet at Newnan Crossing; the CDs still clutter a corner of my study and I increasingly wonder why. Now it’s all on my current laptop, and most of it is on my iPad. And that’s not counting the music services like Pandora or Songza available to me on both. (Or randomly generated cat purrs…)
I can watch freakin’ movies on the iPad. I can take photos on the iPad. I can create videos on the iPad. I can take my finger or stylus and handwrite music which will play back for me, or use GarageBand to create whole pieces.
The iPad will show me satellite views of anywhere I want to go, and then get me there, all the while keeping me informed about traffic. I can control my TV, my wireless sound system, even start my car with the iPad.
All the fonts on the PowerBook were bitmap; you’d have to be insane to use a bitmap font today, assuming you could even find one. (Of course you can find one. What was I thinking?)
That’s not even considering the ecosystem that each exists in—I can’t think of a way to compare them. (And that’s not even mentioning that I can do all of this stuff on my phone in my pocket. For a similar post to this one, see here.)
And even so, the PowerBook was just as magickal as the iPad. I could send email, chat in chat rooms, set up and run a network, produce documents on laser printers, electronically catalog 10,000 books in my new media center—none of which I could do even ten years before that, and as for twenty years before that: no.
Let me clear: I am not one given to oohing and aahing over where we might be in another twenty years. What with yesterday’s elections, I’d say we’ll be lucky still to have fire and the wheel, and so I will content myself with looking back and marveling how far we have come from the past. It’s all perfectly cromulent magick.