Geeks and Fanboys

When I tell my wife I intend to look like this man when I am older, she gets so emotional she starts crying to herself quietly.When I tell my wife I intend to look like this man when I am older, she gets so emotional she starts crying to herself quietly.

I have met a lot of geeks.

I work with some. I socialise with some. I swap e-mails with some. Some of the really intense ones I cross the road to avoid – but I’m experienced enough to spot them coming.

I empathise with them all. After all, I am one.

We come in all sizes, shapes and colours. Mileage may vary; full service history may not be guaranteed (apart from the ones who have blogs, obviously).

For all our differences, geeks share many attributes too. Abundant facial hair, dedication to sartorial inelegance, a passion for Sci-Fi and an encyclopaedic knowledge of Monty Python scripts … these are some of our defining characteristics. Our DNA.

We also seem to share a love of shiny things. Shiny things with buttons and backlit screens and GPS receivers and USB ports, named something like “Doodah X-2000 KZ”.

I got off the bus in town this morning, to walk through Derby’s main shopping centre and then on to my office. As I pass the O2 store, I notice there is something of a crowd. Today is new-iPhone day, and the natives are slavering at the glass doors.

Ah. Apple Fanboys. My geekdar kicks in and warns me that this crowd fall very definitely into the “cross to the other side of the road” category. A mixture of geeks, students who think they’re “alternative” because they own an iPod, and the occasional vacuous yuppy who believes that owning an iPhone will bring meaning to their empty existence. I run the gauntlet of charity-muggers instead; it is a small price to pay.

I find people’s love of Apple to be … curious. This week sees the release of the new iPhone (“just like the old one, but with an ‘S’ added!”) and version 3.0 of the operating system.

The OS update alone has had some of the guys at work get rather excited. A little too excited, in fact. So excited that I hope they’re planning on buying their iPhones dinner at a posh restaurant and a couple of drinks before they attempt to hump it. It seems only right.

But when you look at the details of the “big new features” that apparently make this release so desirable, you may find yourself re-reading it to check you didn’t miss any sarcasm, or that you had read it wrong. For the new features are:

  • MMS support
  • the ability to cut and paste between applications
  • “Spotlight” – the ability to search through your contact details
  • Landscape – hold your iPhone sideways if you want

Yep. That’s about it. They’re the biggies. They’re the headlining bullet-points for next month’s “Pretentious iPhone User Monthly” magazine (big and glossy and only £8.99 at your local newsagent).

If you are even remotely mobile-savvy, some of these features may seem a little familiar to you. They may seem like features that every other “smart” phone has been able to do for the last half-decade. And you would be right.

So about half of the geek conversations at work this week have started with “have you got MMS working on yours yet?”. And anyone foolish enough to ask me that has been treated thusly: I look at them in that patronising way I have practiced so well (its amazing I have any friends left, really), slowly remove my elderly and tatty Windows-mobile phone from my pocket and say “Yes. For the last FIVE YEARS. Where have you been?”.

Sometimes, to be really annoying, I will continue with “Oh, your iPhone supports cut-and-paste now, does it? Shall I show you how that works? I have been able to do that on my phone since you were in Primary School. At last we can all do it! Let’s party like it’s 1997!”.

It is testament to the massive genius at work in Apple’s marketing department. I cannot think of any other mobile phone manufacturer who could have pulled this one off. Imagine if Nokia had announced a phone with all the modern, useful features stripped out, and the price doubled? They’d have been laughed into those second-hand pawnbrokers that specialise in computer games and DVDs. A footnote in the history of bad mobile phone design.

I can’t work out what kind of mentality buys a phone that doesn’t have such basic functionality built in. It seems an excercise comparable to distracting a small child – wave something shiny and hope he forgets about what is right in front of him. I think the sales patter for the original iPhone must have gone something like this:

“Look! New gadget! Can’t do cut and paste. Doesn’t support 3G. Doesn’t do MMS. Can’t do the basic tasks that other phones of this price can do. You might as well hack one of your arms off, it’s so limiting. But look! It’s shiny and and expensive and the icons have rounded corners and it can play MP3s and all your friends will think you’re cool to own one!”

If you are reading this and own an iPhone then you may get offended and believe that I am mocking you.

Yes, yes I am.

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posted in Current Events by Oddbloke

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