Rest in Peace, VCR

An elegy for the machine that let people travel through time—but only by a little

The video store, as it is nostalgically remembered, looks like a record shop, or a hookah parlor. Staffed by scruffy burners or neo-hippies who “really know their stuff,” splayed with shelves at all angles, plastered in posters, encrusted with knick-knacks. Some such stores might have existed, but the earliest video stores were nothing like them. They were modernist celebrations of… read more

The Tragedy of Pokémon Go

What it takes for good ideas to attract money.

Summer, 2001. Players install the boxed, retail software for an Electronic Arts game called Majestic. After signing up, the game sends players messages by phone, email, AIM, BlackBerry, and even fax—shards of a paranoia fiction story that plays out in real-time. The title goes on hiatus after the September 11 attacks—this was not the year for fourth-wall-breaking paranoia fiction entertainment. It… read more

Who Needs Convertible Slippers?

Designers obsess over “revolutionizing” products, but not everything has to be reinvented.

“Hang on, I just have to put my soles on,” I call after the kids, who are racing out the door for a trip to the market. The soles in question are two dove-gray, rubber flaps that snap to the bottoms of my slippers, which I have just imported from London. A slipper-transformer that will transition me from scruffy writer-dad… read more

Will Robocars Kick Humans Off City Streets?

Self-driving cars could encourage policies that end public access to America’s roads.

Whenever people go from one place to another, they don’t think much about the roads and sidewalks that pass beneath them. But this infrastructure, known as the public right-of-way, doesn’t work by magic. It is managed and regulated by specific laws. People don’t own the roads they travel on, but streets and sidewalks provide an easement—a right of use or… read more

Ulysses and the Lie of Technological Progress

How a broken Twitter adaption of James Joyce’s novel reveals the secret of Bloomsday

Today is Bloomsday, a folk holiday adopted to celebrate the life and work of the Irish writer James Joyce, in particular his 1922 novel Ulysses. The name derives from the book’s protagonist, Leopold Bloom, one of the Dubliners the book follows through the day of June 16, 1904. First celebrated mere years after the novel’s publication, Bloomsday festivities have been… read more

Daniel Tiger is Secretly Teaching Kids to Love Uber

The Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood Trolley introduced a generation to public transit. Now it’s gone off the rails.

As a kid growing up in a car-centric American city, my first introduction to public transit came from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred Rogers’ bright-red Trolley conveyed me and all my fellow television neighbors from the rug in front of the living room console television to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. It was just a model train, but even as a very… read more

I’m Retweeting Her

What a Twitter fight between Clinton and Trump says about politics and politicking on the internet.

There’s politics, and there’s politicking. Politics relates to the process of governing and making policy. Politicking refers to the tactics needed to acquire or retain the power of politics itself. Politics is an esteemed term, while politicking is usually used in a derogatory way. And the two exist in tension. Today, Hillary Clinton posted a good tweet, responding to Donald… read more

Elegy for the Capital-I Internet

It’s silly to capitalize it, but doing so gave the global network a needed sense of awe and terror

We’ve long stopped referring to the Internet as “the information superhighway,” but there was a reason for the metaphor. Back in the 1990s, when the phrase gained popularity, it worked because a highway is fast, and online life offered access to information—and later shopping, services, and socialization—at previously unthinkable levels of speed and convenience. The irony of “information superhighway” as… read more

Peter Thiel vs. Gawker: The Flame War’s Logical Conclusion

What the billionaire’s financing of lawsuits against the gossip rag says about Internet culture

What could be stranger than a former professional wrestler winning an eight-figure jury award in a lawsuit against an online gossip site that distributed his sex tape? If the lawsuit also had been secretly funded by a technology billionaire. It sounds like something out of a pulpy television script, but, nope, apparently it’s the sort of thing that really happens… read more

The Future of Writing Looks Like the Past

The Freewrite, a “smart typewriter,” wants to liberate writers from their computers.

These days, I write with my fingertips. We all do. And so, anything that changes that sensation stands out. Today, instead of chiclet keys on an Apple laptop, I am clacking at the white, mechanical keys of the Freewrite, a “smart typewriter” made by Astrohaus. It’s the latest and most extreme entry in the distraction-free writing wars. The idea: by… read more