Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Grace

My daughter and granddaughter have been visiting with us on the island for Christmas week. They both have MacBook Airs.

This is one sweet machine, an iconic artifact of our time. My granddaughter takes it as a given -- after all, she grew up wireless. For me, holding the Air in my hands is breathtaking.

In graduate school, I worked on an IBM 1620 and a Univac, computers that had whole rooms to themselves, sucked up huge amounts of power, and were "down" as often as they were "up." A contemporary laptop is a vastly more powerful machine. And the Air, with its flash memory and sleek, minimalist beauty, silently humming away flawlessly day in and day out, well --

I said to my gals, "This is to the Computer Age what the Iron Bridge at Coalbrookdale was to the Industrial Revolution."

Huh?

"You were there," I said to my daughter. "I took you there when you were ten years old."


The bridge was built in 1779-81 by the grandson of Abraham Darby, the man who perfected the smelting of iron with coke. Lithe and graceful, it arches the gorge of the River Severn in Shropshire, England, a stunning demonstration of the potential of iron.

The MacBook Air will surely end up in the Museum of Modern Art, if it's not there already. The Iron Bridge is an outdoor museum by itself. The Iron Bridge and the Air -- technological wonders, each a perfect marriage of form and function.