In 1988 I upgraded my inky manual typewriter to the throbbing power of the Commodore 64 home computer, and since then I’ve known that my future as a writer lay in the world of high technology. For a few years I assumed this meant that I would eventually buy a computer so smart it could extract stories directly from my brain, but I eventually downgraded my expectations to owning a machine that would both correct my spelling and allow me to play Spy Hunter.
I’ve always wanted to try technology journalism, a permanently excited sub-genre of the writer’s craft that is written mostly by whooping man-children who get stiffys over any device just because it’s 2mm slimmer and can play Temple Run with a higher framerate. When I skim through those mags that have busty, iPad toting models on their covers, I envy those excited nerds, getting all the cool stuff for free despite not knowing what deodorant does or why black bedsheets are a bad idea.
Technology has been around for ages (at least as far back as Noah’s Ark) so I wondered if the noble calling of technology journalism has been around that long too. Did the ancient Babylonians need a book from WH Smith to tell them what to install in their hanging gardens? Did Pythagorus do a keynote speech to launch the invention of the triangle? Did the first wheel come accompanied by a withering review from the stone age equivalent of Jeremy Clarkson?
Obviously the last one was a trick question, as Jeremy Clarkson is as stone age as his jeans are stone wash, but I was able to answer the other two after the editor borrowed me one of the time machines from Napoleon Dynamite. I hope you enjoy this compendium of vintage technology writing from a time when cutting edge meant swords and knives rather than Mars robots and the Xbox 720, because my crotch feels like it got rammed by an angry hippo.
Samsung Papertrans 250: $30,000
You’re a CEO, a fast mover, sharp suit wearer. When you need to get something done, you click your fingers and it happens like that: smooth. You’ve got a colour TV, an automatic Volvo and a fridge full of Perrier water. What you don’t have is time to waste, which is why you don’t have time to wait for the postman. Because time is money.
By the time that merger contract hits Tokyo, some other guy could have got there fast, leaving you looking like yesterday’s news. Only losers lose, which is why today’s executive won’t be seen without the new piece of miracle technology from the far East: the fax machine. It’s sleek, grey and is smaller than an exercise bike, but what it does is as sophisticated as the MTV satellite. It takes your documents, and sends them to anywhere in the world in the blink of an eye. Whoosh. Like that.
The fax machine. Get one, or get lost. Hear that, postman? Your days are numbered.
Mr Bell’s fantastical and singular patented device for the sending of voices down wires
The golden era of the future utopia was ushered one step closer last week as mercurial inventor Alexander Graham Bell unveiled his latest creation to an exhilarated crowd of London gentlemen. A letter received this morning assured your correspondent that the entire city is abuzz with talk of the new device, which allows a man to shout at his wife or servants without the inconvenience of leaving his chair. Mr Bell reportedly speculated that the device could one day be utilised to shout at Prussians, uncouth colonials or even space-men upon the surface of the moon, though this was loudly dismissed as hogwash by harrumphing gentlemen from the semaphore industry. When asked if the device could perchance serve functions of essential commerce, Mr Bell was reticent, but did concede that it could one day be useful in order to conduct lewd conversation with house-wives and buxom serving-girls from Sweden and Denmark, many of whom are eager to converse with gentlemen from your area for a paltry remuneration of only six shillings per minute. Pray tell us, Sir, do you have need of secondary glazing or legal advice over mis-sold insurance on your pocketbook? I await your answer by return of post.
I must report a weapon most deadly, sire
Hear ye noblemen, squires and knaves alike, for the Duke hath proclaimed that news be spoken far and wide of a most impressive contraption that he has caused to be assembled by his men at arms, with the assistance of bold wizzards and the most cunning blacksmiths of his domain. The warriors of fair England are justly renowned and most particular is the praise given to our archers, but his grace the Duke hath become vexed with the great demands of wages from these men of skill and honour, so hath resolved to replace them with a shooting weapon which is fully deadly yet simple enough that it can be operated by a pox-ridden stable lad. Behold the cross-bow, which will bury an arrow in a Frenchman with the accuracy of a master bowsman, but which does not demand of the Duke somewhere to sleep and a portion of boiled turnips for its dinner.
So proud is the Duke of this wondrous shooting device, that he will parade before you this evening, whereupon he will demand tribute from the newly jobless master bowsmen of this land, wearing naught but a comedy headpiece shaped like a giant apple, so confident is he of his dominance of the land. Prithee sire, do not be late for this wondrous occasion, for the bards shall tell of it for generations hence.
Magic hot burn thing
Gurruk from sun-end of island walk here with great story, as Gurruk see great man strong Moggo bring new thing to island. This thing is like hot thing when skyflash burn dry grass but does not kill Moggo because he have great magic. Moggo keep burn thing in pile of sticks near his cave and sleep warm at night time. Other men now fear strong Moggo and all least hairy ladies from south of island have make themselves smell nice for Moggo. He make them stand in line and bring him tusk beast and fish to eat which Moggo make good with new hot burn magic thing. Gurruk would like ladies and tusk beast also, but does not understand magic of strong Moggo. Gurruk afraid of hot thing, so will make own new thing – round rock with hole in the middle that will make men tell story of Gurruk also and ladies smell nice for Gurruk. Round rock is not magic, but Gurruk can get round rock to top of hill because rock is round and smooth. Gurruk will wait til midnight, and drop round rock on Moggo whilst he asleep with ladies, and then smash magic hot burn thing. Gurruk very smart. Moggo soon be very dead.