Monday, April 11, 2016

Is a phone a “mythical device”?

In the documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (dir. Alex GIbney, 2015), the New York Times writer Joe Nocera attempts to demystify Apple and its iPhone:

“The real magic of it is that these myths are surrounding a company that makes phones. A phone is not a mythical device. And it sort of makes you wonder less about Apple than about us.”
Once when we move beyond shields and swords, I’m not sure that anything can rightly be called a “mythical device.” But what about “magical”? Marcel Proust thought there was something extraordinary about the telephone (as did modernists more generally). The unnamed narrator of In Search of Lost Time calls the telephone a “miracle” and a “supernatural instrument.” Beverly Cleary’s character Jane Purdy backs him up: in Fifteen , she thinks of the telephone as “a miracle, a real miracle.” Jane, now Jane Crandall, seventy-five, does FaceTime with her grandchildren these days. And Stan Crandall, seventy-six, is finally using an iPhone. Another miracle, says Jane.

[Joe Nocera has some history with Apple and Steve Jobs. Beverly Cleary celebrates her hundredth birthday tomorrow.]

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