Today a marketing research video showed a respondent talking about her laptop. Her affection was so palpable that, as the analysis pointed out, it looked like she was ready to embrace it.
And for good reason. It truly is not just a unit for computing. It’s the place where she keep so much that is important by any fair measure — probably all the pictures of who she loves and where she’s been, all the music she listens to, all the phone numbers she calls. It’s got all the letters she’s written, and most of the answers. It’s where she stores her ideas, if she has any. It projects her movies. It’s got the basic tools she uses for running her life. It’s liable to be full of jokes, things to see and tasks to do.
What’s amazing isn’t that the computer matters to her, it’s that she sees it at all. This is a brief historic moment when the technology is good enough to bring all that stuff together, but new enough that anyone notices. In another few years the laptop — or the device that replaces it — will just be a machine, just so much junk, the way the desktop PC or the Walkman are just things we use, amazing as they were in their time.
The firm that did the research really should preserve the clip for a future museum of technical progress. It’s always striking to see how the things that are utterly normal to us today meant something totally different in another context.
I should admit that I sometimes get a flash of that same feeling about my laptop, as wheezy a solution as it is for holding much of what I treasure. While it still matters, I suppose I should get myself one that I too can treasure, if only for a few moments before it fades into the routines of just so much stuff.