Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Magic

My six-year-old iPod has given up the ghost. I used it to carry my music collection between the three places where I spend my life. An iPod Nano would do the the job fine, but in a moment of wild extravagance I sprang for the new iPod Touch.

A gorgeous little thing, glass and stainless steel, the size of a slightly elogated playing card, a quarter-inch thick. One button. Tom brought it over this past weekend when he came for a holiday, and loaded it up for me off my computer. All my music, classical and oldies, 1300 "songs". More than a 1600 photographs. Address book, calendar, Wi-Fi internet browser, e-mail, calculator (turn the darn thing sideways and it becomes a full-functioned scientific calculator), and a lot of other stuff I haven't explored yet. Do I need this? Probably not.

As someone who was there at the dawn of the computer age, and who used to build simple computers with my students out of 7400-series ICs, the device I hold in my hand seems little short of miraculous. I'm reminded of Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. My grandkids take these things as givens; they haven't a clue what's going on inside. I know enough to know it isn't magic, but as I skate my fingers across the glass and watch things ebb and flow on the screen, I feel like Merlin.