Things Macintosh

The Great Industrial-Design Shift

Rodney O. Lain - 2002.03.25

Their architecture, I knew something about. I'd destroyed acres of it, centuries ago. Felt like yesterday sometimes.
  - Forever Free, Joe Haldeman

I am sitting in a local tavern, sipping on an "adult" beverage, inconspicuously observing the mating rituals of that wild and woolly beast known as the single man.

Look! Two of them have broken off from their pack, closing in on an unsuspecting prey. Uncharacteristically patient, the two animals circle the prey, a fair-formed creature known as "blonde." She was in a pack of four, but the other three broke ranks to involve themselves in a crude ritual called "dancing." Looks dangerous.

In a bold move, one of the beasts approaches the prey, attempting, with guttural utterances, to entice her to follow him into a crudely built trap colloquially known as a bachelor's pad.

In an expected move, she replies to his enticement and resumes drinking from a small glass. He stands still for several seconds, as if stricken with pain. Then, he shakes his head and walks dazedly back to his hunting pack.

Interesting encounter. For the next few weeks, I will research this encounter, especially the words this subhuman spoke to his running mates.

"Man, she 'gave me the Heisman.'"

For years, the younger members of this species has been studied by its elders. The elders in turn spend copious amounts of time attempting to fathom the speech of its younger ones, for youth speech patterns are invented and reinvented at a dizzying pace and with an equally dizzying frequency. Who can keep up with it?

I ask myself this while viewing the single man in his natural habitat. Over time, though, I eventually figure out the speech patterns spoke by my young quarry. For example, giving someone a Heisman means that a man's amorous advances have been rebuffed by the object of his affection, symbolized by the stiff-armed black illustrated in the figure of the Heisman trophy. Next week, the same actions will be described in other, equally descriptive ways.

Such is language. Like time, it marches on, quickly, as exemplified by the Great Vowel Shift of the 15th and 16th centuries.

Other things don't change as fast. Computers, for example.

It's been nigh 15 years, and we still have the basic-beige box encasing our gigahertz processors, multi-gig hard drives, and multimegabyte RAM. Yes, computer makers like Apple The iMacand Sony "get it" and are making computers attractive - attractive enough to be moved out of offices and back rooms, over to more prominent areas of the house and workplace. But this isn't enough for me.

Many complain about the sad state of PC industrial design. I know, I know. Looks aren't important with computers. But, then, why is it important with everything else? Why is it important when we're choosing cars, clothes, PDAs, printers, MP3 players, lamps, homes, and ink pens, but no one seems to mind an ugly computer? For the life of me, I can't figure this one out.

I sometimes wonder if I'm in a Twilight Zone where I am the only one who notices how ugly the tech word is: None of my friends and coworkers seem to care about the aesthetics of their OS or PC. Why do I care so much about looks?

Last year I spent several days trying to find just the right glass desk to match my G4 Cube. Then I decided that I need to remodel my basement office to enhance the look of the table. Then, of course, I needed new furniture.

Will it take purging of the computer industry (as many predict) to force PC makers to begin considering factors other than MHz and RAM to distinguish themselves from the rest of the herd?

Consider this the beginning of a vigil, waiting for the rest of the industry to put to death the notion that style is worthless. Apple has proven time and again that style sells when coupled with the right features and specs.

How long before the rest of the industry admits that Apple has the right idea and joins the move to put form and function on an even keel. LEM

Rodney O. Lain (1968-2002) called himself a fashion victim: He liked wearing socks with his sandals. When he wasn't dispensing fashion advice, Rodney wrote for Low End Mac, The Mac Observer, Applelinks, and many other websites. Rodney lived in Minnesota. His own website was, and we have collected as much of his writing that has since disappeared from the Web as possible in The Rodney O. Lain Archive.

The most widely read Things Macintosh columns:

  1. Apple is a company, 10/4/1999
  2. The main difference between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, 1/17/2000
  3. The $600 iMac, 12/24/1999
  4. Apple will rule the computer world, 11/17/1999
  5. I'm not paying $20 for my OS X upgrade, 2001.07.25.
  6. A Mac is like Prozac, 10/13/1999
  7. I'm a drop the funk bomb on ya: Milking the Macintosh for all it's worth, 2001.03.20.
  8. More links and links to memorial articles in the Things Macintosh index.

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