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The iPhone as multi-purpose gadget

Self-Reliance 2008 – The Atlantic (November 2008):

“The postmillennial version of a Leather­man is the Apple iPhone. Like all digital technologies, the iPhone has yet to achieve the hard-grained, Spartan elegancies of the steely Leatherman. It makes up for this with its cannibal appetite for other tools. Leathermans will disappear—I commonly give mine away—but iPhones devour other tools, digesting them into virtualized application services: phone, camera, e-mail, Web browser, text-messaging, music and video players, whole planet-girdling sets of urban Google maps, house keys, pedometer, TV remote, seismometer, Breathalyzer, alarm clock, video games, radio, bar-code scanner … the target list grows by the day”

It’s worth remembering that the iPhone represents the best embodiment yet made of what will be an entirely new technological platform, the first designed to be connected all the time. The PC, and its luggable cousin the laptop, are direct descendants of room-sized computers which stood on their own, connected only to dumb terminals, and which did “processing” – crunching massive amounts of data, which was then churned back out.

Phones are something very different – they are designed from the start to be communication devices, rather than processing devices. The assumptions and roles which machines like the iPhone will take will also be about communications: who you are, what you want, how you want to do it.

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