I'll be working today on selecting and "featuring" a few of the many, many comments now awaiting moderation for the previous post, so check back if you're interested in other TOP readers' recommendations of favorite iPhone apps. I must say it's interesting even if I don't envision myself becoming an enthusiastic iPhone photographer.
The curious thing about the iPhone that struck me this morning (as I was putting on my watch) is that it adds a further dimension to the trend or tendency among camera manufacturers in the digital era (as well as, really, the end of the film era). It's a trend I've been putting up a fight against every step of the way: the tendency to design devices to do everything. I've always advocated simplicty, directness, and dedicated functionality in cameras, simply because I've experienced, and been impressed by, the sense of "flow" that accompanies unconscious mastery of one's equipment and the concentration on the task of seeing photographically that it promotes. My biggest disappointment with the Fuji X-100, for instance, is that it does too much—it shouldn't have a flash, it shouldn't do video. Excessive functionality betrays the promise of simplicity that its retro physical design implies.
Imagine...it used to offend me that an electronical Nikon had 36 controls. Little did I know that those were the days, and that the control flexibility of cameras would increase tenfold if not a hundredfold from there. Our most feature-laden cameras today are now similar to computer programs such as Photoshop: they're so complex that no one person can reasonably master every single thing they can do, or every single way they can achieve every thing they can do. I continue to see this as a net loss. (Or rather, I continue to see the total absence of simple cameras on the market as a loss. I'm not against some cameras being feature-laden to an extreme; I'm just against all cameras having to be that way. Although the Olympus Pen Mini and the Leica S2 are both fairly simple in the way I appreciate, at opposite ends of the market.)
And you'll have to forgive some of the following, realizing that I'm not a techie. I don't like electronic devices and I don't use them because they're "neat" or fun. I am, rather, the kind of guy who has lived without a TV at times, and whose idea of a coffeemaker is a quart saucepan to boil water in and a filter holder. I've never had cable TV or owned a camcorder. Much of the "convergence" of modern devices is so old hat to some people that they will hardly be able to imagine anyone being impressed by it enough to even remark on it.
Still, what most strikes me about the iPhone is how many things it replaces. I mentioned that I thought about this when I was about to put on my watch this morning. The iPhone is a pocketwatch like my great-grandfather's—when I need to tell time I'll just take it out of my pocket and flip open its case. No more need to wear a watch (see, this is really so not new that just saying it might offend some people.) It replaces the personal music player, which I first encountered as the "Walkman," a portable tape player (I never owned one, but lots of people did). My son keeps all his music on an iPod Nano—or at least he did up until yesterday. I can't see him needing that any more. The iPhone includes, of course, a point-and-shoot camera, as we were discussing. It replaces the calendar on my wall. It replaces the weather broadcast on TV (which replaced the weather report in the newspaper, which replaced folk predictions of the weather based on observation and familiarity with local conditions). It can replace the morning paper, and even printed paper books if you don't mind reading on such a small screen. It replaces the maps in my glove compartment (again, I'm not a gadgety type of guy—my newest car is a 2007 model and I've never had a car with Sat Nav). In a sense it replaces the Post Office, since I can send short written messages to people on it. (Letter-writing must have become a literary form simply because, if you were going to going to go to all the trouble of delivering a letter-packet at great cost of time, effort, and expense in, say, the Colonial era, it must have seemed natural to put some effort into what was being delivered, and write at some length. It would hardly make sense to carefully carry a letter by overland coach and then seagoing sailing vessel if all it said was "what r u doing 2nite?")
(Incidentally, the march of technology overtakes us all: Zander, age 18, lived through the era when talking on cellphones was replaced by texting on cellphones. I remember when it happened: I stopped being able to eavesdrop on one end of his conversations with his friends when I was driving him places in the car. [This was a real loss for parents trying to keep in touch with their kids' lives, by the way.] He had to get unlimited texting on his iPhone yesterday, because, he assured me, 1000 texts a month was not nearly enough).
Curiously, I can see that for some people, it even replaces some of the functions of the home computer. That means I'm not only a Luddite, I have layers of Luddism...it makes me go "harumph" to think of doing photo-editing functions on the phone instead of properly, in ACR and Photoshop CS5.
Of course, the iPhone functions as a phone, too. (I almost forgot that.) I suppose you know people who have given up their land lines.
And all of the above only touches on all the things it can replace.
It still doesn't make coffee or feed the dog, but, as I've said before, the cellphone is, for me, the #1 indicator that the future is here. Dick Tracy was before my time—it started in 1931—but I do recall that when I was a kid, the convention of certain comic-book heroes wearing walkie-talkies on their wrists like wristwatches was a commonplace. That was no doubt deliciously futuristic to Chester Gould (1900–1985) and his readers. Little could they have imagined the smartphone circa 2012 and all the things it replaces. An actual iPhone simply wouldn't have worked as futurism in the 1960s when I was a kid: it would have been far too outlandish. No one would have believed it, even if someone could have imagined it. And that seems unlikely: I don't think anyone could have imagined an iPhone in 1990, if we're being honest. At least not in detail. Maybe not even 1999. Assuming continuing progress, it makes you curious about 2025, doesn't it?
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Kalli: "We didn't get jetpacks or flying cars. We got something so much cooler and better: the iPhone."
Featured Comment by Ron Preedy: "I read somewhere that people are too optimistic about technological advances in the short term, 2–3 years. But they are too pessimistic (or not imaginative enough) about the long term ( >10 years). I like the simplicity of my X100: After I set it up I never go into the menus except for formatting the card, and simply ignore features I don't use. What I do use is all controlled by dials and switches, and there aren't many of those. But I'm a selective Luddite: I'm typing this on my Android smartphone :-) ."
Featured Comment by Seth Glassman: "One of the beauties of the iPhone design, and the genius of Jobs and Co., is that you can delve as deeply into the phone as you're comfortable without a million buttons reminding you what you don't know or care about. Use it for what's useful to you and ignore the rest. If the sheer number of apps is visually irritating, take them off. It's as simple or complex as you want it to be, and you don't need to feel guilty about what you could be doing if you cared...."
Featured Comment by Sandro Siragusa: "I for one enjoyed this guest-post from Grandpa Simpson."