Foundation and the iPhone

 A few weeks ago I replaced my pretty-much-dead Palm OS handheld with an iPod Touch (which is basically just an iPhone except without the phone part). I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. (I’ve actually been having a lot of good serious productive time with it; well-designed applications that track things I want to keep track and display the information in accessible, appealing formats are improving my life on several fronts.) And as I did when I got my first Palm OS unit, I feel like I’m following in a path blazed back when World War II was still a going concern. It’s just that where the Palm OS is a step toward the goal, the iPhone OS is largely there except for the holography.

It’s Isaac Asimov’s world; Apple just sells it.

From Foundation, Chapter 4:

Seldon removed his calculator pad from the pouch at his belt. Men said he kept one beneath his pillow for use in moments of wakefulness. Its gray, glossy finish was slightly worn by use. Seldon’s nimble fingers, spotted now with age, played along the files and rows of buttons that filled its surface. Red symbols glowed out from the upper tier.

He said, “That represents the condition of the Empire at present.”

He waited.

Gaal said finally, “Surely that is not a complete representation.”

“No, not complete,” said Seldon. “I am glad you do not accept my word blindly. However, this is an approximation which will serve to demonstrate the proposition. Will you accept that?”

“Subject to my later verification of the derivation of the function, yes.” Gaal was carefully avoiding a possible trap.

“Good. Add to this the known probability of Imperial assassination, viceregal revolt, the contemporary recurrence of periods of economic depression, the declining rate of planetary explorations, the…”

He proceeded. As each item was mentioned, new symbols sprang to life at his touch, and melted into the basic function which expanded and changed.

On my unit:

Graphical tabulation of food safety!

Immediate access to global repositories of information, as predicted by Ted Nelson! (Who is not Ted Holden the Usenet crank of yore, and I really need to stop spelling “Nelson” as “Holden.” Thank goodness for last-minute proofreading.) Some data subject to manipulation by agents of competing agendas, as predicted by John Brunner!

Ingenious subversion of the lack of persistent background connections with the help of electronic mail for the instant transmission of messages to users of the global network! And more transmission of more messages to other users!

Monitoring of the performance of my avatars in a continental-scale world simulation!

Asynchronous aggregation of disparate information sources in a personalized matrix!

So. Yeah. Now to find out why Star’s End isn’t coming up in Google Earth.

Oh, and as for “Men said he kept one beneath his pillow for use in moments of wakefulness,” I do keep mine at hand—on the bedside table rather than under the pillow, admittedly. But yes, if I wake up in the middle of the night, I will read a little and also poke at Twitter and NetNewsWire. Just because I can. Not sure if this makes me part of the problem, or of the solution, or both.


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