Let’s Get Small

February 8, 2008

So I heard on the news the other day that Swedish scientists have created a cell phone the size of two business cards. This raises an important question: since when did Swedes become scientists? I’m not saying that people from Sweden aren’t smart, but for a long time they seem to have been happy to give out awards to other smart people. Basically Sweden is famous for three things: Stockholm Syndrome, some kind of meatball, and ABBA. Maybe they’ve started becoming scientists because they were feeling a little insecure. Everybody comes to their country to pick up their Nobel Prizes and then they leave and Sweden gets stuck with the check. Heck, even the Danish have the Vikings, those pastries, and museums where you can smoke a bong, pick up a prostitute, and see some of Van Gogh’s best work.

But I digress. Remember the old days when technology was about making things really, really big instead of really small? I was born in the Cretaceous period so I remember when it was a status symbol to have a stereo system that took up your entire living room wall and several of my friends were crushed to death trying to carry really huge boom boxes. If you were really cool you had speakers the size of small apartment buildings. Now if you’re really cool you have speakers that are the size of a small coffee mug but can produce a shockwave of sound that will knock out all the windows of small apartment buildings. I almost said the speakers were smaller than a breadbox, but then I realized that I have no clue how big a breadbox is. When I was a kid people were always describing things as being either bigger or smaller than a breadbox, but I can’t remember ever actually seeing a breadbox. If they’d said a matchbox I might have gotten it, but then I’d have to wonder if it was one of the small matchboxes or one of the big ones. If they’d said a Matchbox car then I would have understood because I had a ton of those things. I’m not sure they are even still around, but that’s okay because most new hybrid cars are about the size of a Matchbox car.

But I digress. Now there’s even a laptop that’s so thin it will fit into an inter-office envelope, which raises the question, what bonehead would put a computer inside an inter-office envelope? If I spend a couple of thousand dollars on a computer the last thing I want to do is put it in something that will guarantee it will get tossed, dropped, folded, bent, spindled, mutilated, and trampled on by a rhinoceros. Send your new laptop via inter-office envelope to the guy in the cubicle next to you and you’ll discover a whole new meaning to the expression "some assembly required". Besides, why would I want a computer that small when I can already get a cell phone the size of two business cards? And I could probably watch movies on it, because there’s no better way to watch a movie than on a screen smaller than my hand. In a few years phones that can play movies will probably be so small that I could walk around with one hand over my eye. People will ask me, "Is there something wrong with your eye?" And I’ll say, "No, I’m just watching Forbidden Planet." Actually they won’t ask because they’ll be walking around with one hand over their eye too.

It’s amazing how quickly we get used to changes like that. It was only a few years ago that I first saw someone using a hands-free cell phone. She was a few feet away from me in an airport and for several minutes I thought she was crazy. You know the saying: talking to yourself is healthy; answering back is insane. Then she turned her head and I could see a little cord dangling from her ear, so I realized it was some newfangled kind of phone. Of course she was talking so much the person on the other end couldn’t possibly have a chance to answer back; they probably had the phone off the hook and were out mowing their yard while she talked. That’s when I realized that your actual importance and your need for that kind of technology are inversely proportional.

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