Why this round of tech optimism feels different
One of my most joyous technology memories concerns Project Origami. The effort from Microsoft, Intel and others launched ultra-mobile PCs, or UMPCs. The devices, akin to squeezing a full Windows machine into something about the size of a midrange iPad, often complete with a physical keyboard, utterly fascinated me back around 2006.
At that time I had roughly zero money, so buying one of the devices was entirely out of the question. But, while visiting an electronics store with my father after the first round of UMPCs came out — we were probably hunting up a piece of gear for his business — I walked down one aisle of computing hardware, and, to my astonishment, I found a promotional endcap of UMPC devices. I could use the devices that I had spent so much time nerding out over. It was a bit like meeting a celebrity to my teenaged self. I was bewitched.
I’ve had other moments of pure tech bliss in my life: Back in high school when my friends and I realized that thanks to Gmail’s generous storage limits and my school’s reasonable internet, we could ditch USB sticks entirely and just email files to one another from across the same table. It felt like magic, to use bits instead of anything that we had to carry in our pocket.
Technology has a simply beautiful way of taking your breath away at times, showing you that there is a new shortcut or new way of thinking that is now before you that was previously entirely occluded. This is how the iPhone launch felt, to highlight a well-known example of the phenomenon.
Not much since then has given me the same jolt. Perhaps when I fell in love with Twitter, realizing in an instant that I just tweet as much as I wanted, and no one could stop me; the first moment I had my own blog on the internet and I was freed from any sort of publishing constraint.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.