the museum of technology i don’t hate

now playing: canon rock by JerryC

a few weeks ago i declared [in this post] the death of the meaningful message. 

what started as another bitter anti-technology rant turned into another bitter anti-technology rant. and yet. it became clear to me that i don’t hate technology in general. or even modern technology in general. what i hate is shit technology. 

i hate the relentless enshitification of the internet. most modern apps. anpr. i think putting a camera on an internet-connected mobile phone was, in the words of dr ian malcolm, ‘the worst idea in the long, sad history of bad ideas’.

but i am not some anti-technology luddite. and i am not here to rant today. not again. 

i grew up with technology. from my first tv, a fourteen inch sony triniton with integrated vhs, through pcs, portable music players, mobile phones, gaming systems, to the holy grail, my very own laptop – technology has shaped me. moulded me. made me me

this post is a love letter to that technology
to the design classics
the genuinely beautiful
genuinely fun
genuinely useful
technological icons of my life

welcome to the museum of technology i don’t hate

key to exhibits:

  1. sony walkman mp3 player
  2. dreamegg white noise machine
  3. amazon kindle
  4. creative zen nano mp3 player
  5. nintendo game boy color
  6. motorola razr v3 flip-phone
  7. dell inspiron laptop

first, a word (or two) about the word ‘technology’. 

technology has both a general and a specific definition. it is beyond the scope of this post to dispute the merits of agriculture, or electricity, or the things that make up ninety-nine percent of my daily existence – socks, silicone dildoes, sketchbooks, etc. 

the exhibits in this museum do not represent technology in general, but a specific subset of the whole sorry shitheap of applied scientific knowledge – that is, technology that comes with a charging cable (or double-a, or even triple-a batteries). 

exhibit 6
motorola razr v3 flip-phone

my first phone was a nokia 3310, with a silver simpsons case. i was eleven. 

it was a big, clicky, brick with weeks, perhaps months, of battery life. it could survive a schoolbag. it could survive a war. probably it could survive a direct strike from a 500 kilotonne thermonuclear weapon. if you fell into a frozen lake it could be used like a pickaxe to smash your way to safety through a thick layer of ice, then call your mum. it could be used as an alternative to one of those compact red ‘in case of emergency’ hammers they have on buses. it could be used as a cudgel to bludgeon your eleven-year-old enemies to death. more importantly, it had space invaders and snake II.

others came and went. bit players for the most part. a 3510 with backgammon. a 6610 with bounce. 

later, the so-called smartphones. a samsung something, iphone 4, iphone 8. 

but somewhere in the middle, my all time favourite. a black moto razr v3 flip-phone. with tri-peaks solitaire, bluetooth and pornographic gifs. 2.2 inches of 128ppi full colour fantasy. 39720 pixels. a woman fucking a gearstick. it’s the closest a phone of mine has come to pure poetry. 

cold brushed-metal case
perfectly weighted flip screen
blue backlit keypad
big tactile buttons
at home either in your pocket or in your palm
and so perfectly balanced that it was almost impossible to drop

when i finally moved on, for unknown reasons, i dismembered mine and mounted the bits on a brass plate. i’m one of the few phone owners who went to that trouble. and there’s no going back now. all that’s left is this too-good-to-be-true memory, like the life you had with a dead former lover. 

it’s probably the most stylish, well-designed piece of tech i’ve ever owned. 

but it’s not the most fun one
it’s not the one that most manifestly shaped my identity 
it’s not the one that revolutionised my teenage existence
it’s not the one that led me here
it’s not the one that saved my life

so read on

exhibit 5
nintendo game boy color

i once had an xbox. a big black humming thing with wired controllers that my sister’s pet rat quickly chewed through. i played it a normal amount for a normal teenager, that is, a lot. but i didn’t consider it an important part of my identity. not like being a metalhead, or being cleverer than everyone else ever. it wasn’t who i was, just something i did. 

it was not always thus. a few years earlier, one game became my entire identity. i lived and breathed it. i loved it. that game was pokémon. i was nine years old when pokemon gold/silver was released in the UK. i was basically ash. i was the target market. i was at the exact intersection of the crosshairs of the gun pointed at the wallet of the target market. BLAM! dutifully, suitably advertised at, i saved up for and bought a game boy color with my own presumably-unearned money. it came with a game of course, and of course that game was pokémon. the only decisions i had to make that day were what colour color, and what colour cartridge. i went for translucent ‘atomic’ purple, and gold. 

i remember my first pokémon gold run more vividly than my actual childhood. i can remember specific gym battles, not just that they happened, but how exactly, which pokémon and which moves. i remember getting jumped by my dickhead rival ???? (i was clearly a very colour-inside-the-lines sort of kid) directly after kicking bugsy’s scyther’s butt, before i even had the chance to visit the azelia town pokémon centre. i remember in goldenrod city getting hammered by whitney’s rollouting miltank. i remember the joy of waterfalling up and around tohjo falls and finding out, holy shit! that there was a whole other map, and that i was only half done. and i remember finally, triumphantly, stopping red’s unstoppable snorlax. 

eventually i upgraded to a game boy advance sp. another seriously good flip device. apart from its ability to play gba games like pokémon ruby, pokémon leaf-green, and sonic advance 2, it had two main advantages over the color – rechargeable batteries, and a backlit screen. still, despite its clear technological superiority, it never had that first-love feel, that baby-bird imprint that i got with my color, and so has to settle for second place in my personal fun-pantheon. 

exhibit 4
creative zen nano mp3 player

music, perhaps more than anything, helped me form an identity as a teenager. my music, and my identity. it helped me become me. properly, recognisably me. an asshole sure, but asshole me. and the watershed, watergate moment came when i got my first mp3 player. 

mp3s were nothing new, by that point. even when i got my very own creative zen nano, it was considered basic. now it’s quaint. it had a black plastic case and ran off a single triple-a battery. there were things about this piece of tech that appealed to me. its size. its simplicity. i particularly liked the skip track bi-directional toggle, and the minimalist blue, backlit display. but most of all it was about the playlist. 

its 128mb memory was good for two hours and twenty-seven minutes of audio at 128kbps. since half of my audio was ripped off youtube at about 1kbps, i managed to fit a bit more than that on. 

this was my first proper mixtape. this playlist defined my early to mid teens. linkin park, korn, slipknot, rammstein and above all, system of a down. for years afterwards, whenever i heard any song from that playlist, i’d be able to hum the start of whatever came next. 

i upped to 4gb with its successor, a sony walkman mp3 [exhibit 1]. now i could store entire albums. this was the time of trivium, avenged sevenfold, HIM. sometimes i shuffled but mostly i just attempted to figure out what my current vibe was and then hammered that thing on repeat. loudly. 

loudly was usually my vibe. 

exhibit 7
dell inspiron laptop

at fifteen or sixteen i came into possession of my first laptop. a portal into a whole world of non-face-to-face interpersonal interaction, miniclip, and jerking off. 

Life has new meaning

Dunkelheit – Burzum

it was not a well-designed piece of tech. i once partially dismantled it and pulled out a solid strip of fluff from inside the main vent, like a mummified dead rat trapped behind a fridge, or one of those disgusting socks you inevitably find when you finally clean under the bed on the week you’re about to move out of your rented apartment. that you’ve rented for a long time. that isn’t yours. years and years of accumulated hair and dust and unidentified, unidentifiable shit. no wonder the fan was fucked. 

it was not a beautiful piece of tech either, and i say that as someone who loved that laptop like the nonexistent lover i desperately yearned for. 

it was not even a particularly good piece of tech. hardware or software. a dell inspiron with a plasticky peacock blue shell and silver trimmings, running the regrettable windows vista. what mattered was that it was mine. 

mine to minesweep on. mine to while away the uncountable hours on. msn messenger and 4chan and 8 ball pool and bloons tower defence. back then it was fun to have an online persona. you could be someone else, if you wanted to. you could be anyone.

it died, after a while, as laptops do. i replaced it with another just like it, a newer model obviously, but it wasn’t the same. i never did warm to it. perhaps it was the cold, brushed-metal case. perhaps it was because it kept randomly shutting down. however, i did manage to write up a 500 page thesis on it, perhaps the high point in our relationship. not using the shockingly bad ms word obviously. by then it was already superannuated, and i never expected it to make it all the way to the end, though i desperately hoped it would. it helped that my inherited uni desktop pc was so temperamental and slow that my (by that point) eight-year-old laptop was not significantly shitter.  

and next was this one. quackfuck prayer. this screen and these keys. perhaps it’s too soon to say something so forward, i don’t want to get gushy, but so far – so far – i don’t hate it. 

exhibit 3
amazon kindle e-reader

i’ve always been a reader. books. shampoo bottles. the care instructions on your mum’s crotchless bodysuits.

as much as i hate jeffrey bezos and amazon and everything it stands for, one good thing has been born from that withered, diabolical womb (two if you include bo burnham’s bezos quadrilogy) – the kindle. the combination of this idiot- and bullet-proof device with internet access and online shadow library databases created, for the chosen few, a sort of divine alchemy. free books forever. 


yes, as a writer i should support other writers. 
no, i’m not going to start any time soon. 
why? because writers are cunts. every single one. 

the kindle, and the hundreds of books i’ve read on it, is the reason i’m here writing this, and not doing some other thing. i’m on my third. paperwhite. touchscreen. my first one had buttons, like in the picture. i sat on that one. the second suffered some unidentified terminal malfunction. when this one goes, i’ll get another. fucking jeffrey bezos. 

exhibit 2
dreamegg white noise machine

finally, something different. 

this is the one item here that i can say has saved my actual life. i don’t intend to go into details here, that’s for another post, another time. suffice to say that this thing is important to me. it’s my dialysis machine. my iron lung. i can’t watch films on it, or tv, or porn. i can’t play games on it, or music. it offers precisely zero entertainment value. it’s a machine that makes white noise. that’s it. 

and that’s why it works. via big clicky buttons, which most of the time i operate in the pitch dark, half asleep, by muscle memory and feel. on, off. volume up, volume down. it’s by some margin the simplest piece of technology in this exhibit. yet it works because of, not in spite of, its simplicity. it works because it just works


this post is not an advert. 
this post is not an endorsement, of anything. 
i denounce the current status quo of techno-fetishistic free-market capitalism. 

if i ever post an amazon affiliate link on this website, i hope jeffrey bezos finds me, and fucks me up

allow me, though, to reiterate. this is not another anti-technology rant. sure, most technology these days sucks. that’s just how it is. the last time i was excited about a new piece of tech, and not say, mildly concerned, outright disturbed, or at best, indifferent, was over a decade ago. the result of which, when i thought about what tech i didn’t straight up hate, was this list of museum pieces. 

was this old-school tech special in some way? maybe. in some cases i think so. but mostly, i suspect, they were just the right thing at the right time. like right now. i’m typing this on a laptop that i’m really starting to like. it works. in a way my last one, well, didn’t. and by luck or by design we happened to meet just in time to work together chucking shit onto this weird and wonderful dumpster fire of a website. 

and with that in mind, here’s a final, positive thought. 

people mythologise the pre-social media internet as some sort of utopia, as though it was perfect, like how the sixties were perfect. you know, unless you were not-white, or a woman, or poor, or seriously ill. it wasn’t perfect. it was far from perfect. but it was imperfect in a hopeful sort of way, like it might one day be improved. now, it’s just shit. it’s shit and it’s not getting better anytime soon. 

at least it wasn’t until pseudoliterary dot com came along.