While (whilst?) reeling in the wake of the launch of Apple's iPad 2, during Steve Jobs keynote speech at the Apple Special Event, I'm still struggling to find time to give The Demi-Monde a second reading. Meanwhile, with a great deal less hype, this little retro revision of the Apple iPad had it's own launch over on Rod Rees' blog.
A Steampunk iPad 2
Actually, not so much an iPad 2 as an iPad 47 (or so it says over on the Demi-Monde website), this little baby is a 'Polly'. A Bulldog 47 PolyFunctional Digital Device to be precise. So, not an iPad at all then.
Now, I'm going to have to knuckle down to my re-read because I'm pretty sure steampunk iPads don't feature anywhere in "The Demi-Monde: Winter". I've heard of them though, a 'Polly' that is, even imagined what they looked like, although the circular screen was unexpected! They must mention them on the website, so I'll need to give that another trawl too.
There is a more familiar looking device further down the blog entry – more "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" than Captain Nemo – which would appear to be the Demi-Monde's equivalent of the iPad 1 (oh, that sounds a bit dull, maybe Apple would prefer we refer to it as an Original iPad, no... wait... I've got it: Classic iPad, no... iPad Classic!). No brass and rivets here, just a flat sheet of glass touchscreen.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Original iPad Classic
Talking (typing?) of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Ive a feeling (pun intended - and italicised for emphasis - Jonathan*) that folk from all over the computer industry have been working towards making "The Guide" a reality, either consciously or subconsciously, ever since it was fictionally born.
I often wondered whether Douglas Adams' Sub-Ether network was a nod to the Ethernet networking system or the other way round. I am, however, certain that the Sub-Ether-Sens-O-Matic was a device for detecting Wi-Fi about 30 years before there was an app for that.
DOUGLAS ADAMS A GUIDE FOR THE UNINITIATED
DOUGLAS ADAMS WAS THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR OF "THE HITCH-HIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY" (A KIND OF AUTHOR DENT. IT'S A KIND OF PUN, YOU SEE. IVE NEVER BEEN VERY GOOD AT THEM MYSELF, BUT I'M TOLD THEY CAN BE TERRIBLY EFFECTIVE). A FACT I INCLUDE AT THIS POINT IN THE BLOG IN CASE YOU'RE NOT A MEMBER OF ZZ9 PLURAL Z ALPHA (ZZ9 ON DRESS-DOWN FRIDAYS), HAVE NEVER BEEN ON A "SLOUCH" OR, HORROR OF HORRORS, DON'T EVEN KNOW WHERE YOUR TOWEL IS!
Douglas Adams (or Bop Ad as he was occasionally known, on account of his unintelligible signature) was a big technology fan - specifically a big Apple fan, and when I say big... (edited to remove predicatable"...long way down the road to the chemists" etc.).
So, apart from it's appearance, what was The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy? A hand-held audio/visual guide to everything that updates over a wireless network and fits in your (designer) satchel. Douglas Adams got there first! Although my friend Martin did point out that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that Douglas Adams imagined ('imagined' being the key hear) was all there bar the "fiddly inside bits, manufacture, supply and support".
That said, like the relationship between Dark Star and Alien, it does rather look as though the spoof came first, the steampunk iPad came before the real thing. Not the Demi-Monde steampunk iPad (remember that, way back at the beginning of this increasingly rambling post), but the rather bulky, metal block erroneously title "iPad Classic" above. While it may lack the requisite rivets to be truly classed a steampunk iPad, The Guide was definitely built to withstand the rigours of hitch-hiking, maybe not brass, but it's heavy duty metal of some kind. I wouldn't be surprised if someone hasn't made a case like this and just popped their iPhone in the top, as a screen. Play a YouTube clip from the TV series and you could be the new Ford Prefect. Ford Focus? Ford Tippex (remember that, kids?).
It would appear, then, what with everyone having a stab at the tablet PC, Apple decided to stroke it instead. Dropping the stylus for a fingertip made it much easier to chuck in your bag and go and, crucially, get back out of your bag and read - a bit like, I dunno, an electronic book? So, it may be a little bigger than Adam's Guide, but it's no surprise that you can now get "Don't Panic" wallpaper for your iPad.
Another friend of mine is a Research Chemist over in America. He tells me that he regularly listens to Physicists (at parties, no less) banging on about how the science of Star Trek with its transporters and warp drive, etc. is very nearly a reality. It's almost as though Scientists no longer look to discover the truth so much as try to make it fit their TV fuelled idea of what it should be. And being funded to discover certain specific 'truths' doesn't help either. Counterintuitive though it sounds, scientists need to be funded to just 'see what comes up'. Works for nature.
So that brings me neatly round to evolution.
Can't imagine why.
Now, where was I?
Oh, yes. God forbid that the next generation of scientists (assuming we get a next generation of anyone) set out to create a real-life The Demi-Monde.
Successive governments have made a fist of recreating 1984 to the point where, not content with having most of the country covered by CCTV, being able to arrest people because they might be thinking about committing a crime and persuading us that we were friends with the Russians all along (and not supplying arms to Saddam, Gaddafi et al), they won't rest until every household has a flatscreen digital TV. Government sponsored switchover ads? Does selling us crap we don't need not work anymore?
And recent advances in genetic manipulation looks pretty much capable of realising A Brave New World. The irony of defeating the Nazis and still ending up with a world peopled entirely by blue-eyed, blond-haired white people as a result of consumer choice doesn't bear thinking about. Having united Europe and bridging it with Britain we seem to be Nazi-fying by default. Mind you they got that from Napoleon, anyway.
And geostationary satellites were invented by Arthur C. Clarke.
OK. So I've finally broken Godwin's Law and reduced myself to comparing stuff to the Nazis and wheeled out that old chestnut about Arthur C. Clarke geostationary satellite (to which Martin's point also applies) but, Reductio ad Hitlerum aside, what's the possibility of something like the Demi-Monde being devised?
Well, that technology doesn't exist yet, but it is probably a lot nearer reality than you might think. It would undoubtedly come out of game technology (more than enough of that, right) coupled to some total immersion hardware (we got that, right) so all we need to do is create digital duplicates of everyone on Earth, including some historical psychopaths, set it in a steampunk style pseudo-Victorian world, give all the dupes a blood dependency and... why would someone developing the system exclusively for the US Army do it quite like that?
To be honest with you I can't wait to find out.
Having to wait for book two is not an option, I'm afraid, so I'd best get started on that re-read (might even find a reference to that steampunk iPad).
A steampunk iPad, yesterday.
Now, where's my copy of "The Demi-Monde: Winter"?
*Jonathan Ive is Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple Inc.