Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Flying Car at the End of the Double Rainbow

I'm just going to come right out with it: there will never be a flying car. Bookmark this page for reference when that next movie timeline with flying cars comes around (Back to the Future II, set in 2015, I'm looking at you).

"But, Skipper, there are already flying cars! lol"

I know. And stop using "lol" to simply end your sentences, like some kind of retarded Morse Code. Seriously, just ***  -  **-*  **-.

For instance, Moller came out with a Skycar several years ago (2007), which for some reason had pilots from the 70s:

Sweet whip, Mr. Furley!

There's also another, less retro (and, hence, less awesome) model that doesn't look quite like it's about to swoop down into Arkansas and start with the backwoods anal probin':

I take it back: this thing is pretty awesome.

They even have a vapid, company slogan in poem format:
"New Technology goes through three stages:
First it is ridiculed by those ignorant of its potential
Next, it is subverted by those threatened by its potential
Finally, it is considered self-evident."

Let me rephrase that:
"Ridiculous New Technology goes through three stages:
First it is ridiculed by those smart enough to see it's going nowhere
Next, it is subverted by lack of funding and investors
Finally, it is featured for twenty seconds on a James Bond film, and we go back to burger flipping."

You're welcome. I expect my consultant check in the mail.

Seriously, though, they have some cool concepts (check 'em out, including the 70s disco disc, here), but they're never going to get off the ground . . .

OK, that was cheesy. I meant, they're never going to fly.

Let's just say they'll never hold water (that one's only punny if you picture two-out-of-Three's-Company up there plunging to a cold, watery death in the Caspian Sea, you psycho).

Another flying car is this little gem:

Dubbed the Terrafugia Transition, it's just about as ugly as it's name.

Glad we can have a flying car that not only looks like a bobo airplane, but also a bobo car. Plus, it doesn't even have laser beams. A future with laser beam-less flying cars isn't one I want to be a part of.

This is actually the only flying car I'll roll in.

Even though there are far radder flying car concepts out there, they're still destined for failure (unless they run on protoculture, of course).

Half video game, half apocalypse, all radical.

Let me throw a little wet blanket on your Jetsons-fest tirade you were about to sling forth on me: it's a little snag called reality. The fact of the matter is, flying cars will never be put into common use because people can't responsibly pilot them. Think of your average commute: picture the handful of vehicles on the side of the road due to breakdowns. Think of the vehicle collisions that cause those nasty backups (and make you think, "man, I sure could use a flying car with some laser beams right about now"). Now picture those same, mundane occurrences happening at 500 ft AGL.

Good, but it needs to be hitting the house.

Better, but maybe with some eerie backlighting and smoke from the inevitable fire.

Now that's what I'm talking about!

The thing is, people will always ram into each other, fail to perform maintenance, drive drunk, and talk with their hands too much while driving. It's annoying enough (and, truth be told, deadly enough) at ground level; to let these folks take to the air in their thousand pound projectiles filled with flammable liquids practically begs for our society to get that one, last kick that sends us over the edge and back to growing our own food and riding horses.

You dis' my horse and I'll so build a barn on your face!

Don't believe me? I have proof! What if I told you that we've had a flying car available for decades? It can take off from a concrete slab out front of your house, land right at your office, and anyone who can afford one can have one. It runs on readily available fuel, and has proven to be both safe, comfortable, and reliable (when maintained, of course).

Still can't think of what it is?

I'll give you a hint: you freakin' know what it is! 


How mundanely exotic . . .

That's right, folks; we've had "flying cars" all around us for some time, and we're still not living in a futuristic dreamland filled with lightsabers and alien cage fights. The reason we don't all own flying cars is the same reason we don't all own helicopters: they're expensive and people would crash them all over your neighborhood (though it might enable you to use those sweet Missile Command skills you've been honing since 1981).

Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but the best we can hope for are hovercraft. Those have the coolness of repulsorlift technology, but without the pesky side effects of thousand pound balls of metal and jet fuel surging down on kindergartens. Come to think of it, when I put it that way, they're like a flying car that doesn't fly.

Never mind; now I'm not even looking forward to hovercraft. Reality is lame.

Though, this is probably what we'd do with hovering cars.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Why Apple Can't Have my Money

OK, I'll admit it. After playing with an iPad, I now want a tablet. I really, really want a tablet.

And he saw that the tablets were good.

I know what you're thinking: what's the appeal? (Unless, of course, you're one of the several million strong owners of an iPad.) I thought the same thing before using one. It's certainly pretty, portable, nicely accessorized, and a great conversation piece; but I've always been of a far more practical bent when it comes to gadgetry. All show and little to no go does not earn a spot on my Christmas list.

But I still want one.
Tablets are highly illogical.

Here's the thing: the iPad both wins and loses me in the category of "potential." Apple's uber slate conjures up images of a device that can be so many things at once. It's a portable computer, a portable media player, an internet window, and a communications device sandwiched in sexy aluminum. It's slick, compact, and actually kind of fun to use; you know, like the first time you used a mouse. Wait, that's really dating myself. I mean, like the first time you used a Game Boy. Never mind, go back to mouse.

Anyway, it's the iPad's potential to be all things that grabs me. When I first used one, I had visions of composing articles, reading online newspapers, and checking emails all while talking to a friend over Skype. The clouds would part as a unicorn dances down a double-rainbow so he could use my magical tablet to update his Twitter feed to "@Unicorn: lol, my poop cures teh cancer!"

This is how I normally picture unicorns, by the way.

This is when the dream starts to fall apart and the bleary eyed, grumpy-bear reality shuffles in. As much as I want the iPad to do everything, it won't. It's not supposed to. Apple CEO Steve Jobs is quite clear about the nature of his company's products; they're meant to be part of an ecosystem, not a single tool solution (this is why he claimed, in introducing the new Apple TV, that people don't want the internet on their TVs since they already have computers for that). You have your iPad for mobile media consumption, browsing, and light data processing. Your iPhone suffices for calls, texts, music playing, and light web browsing. Your iMac serves for main computing and storage. Then there's Apple TV for (semi) HD viewing and rentals, AirPort for wireless, and all the rest of the gang for their various purposes. They all integrate seamlessly via iTunes, and each fulfills its niche with aplomb.

If I want to experience the full glory and splendor of the Apple Kingdom (and it is, admittedly, rather glorious and splendid), I need to invest in an iMac, iPad, iPhone, MacBook, Apple TV, and a handful of other products with the pretty fruit stamp on the back (and, possibly, stop shaving and start shopping at Salvation Army for that oh-so-vintage look). Going along with this, I'll need a mobile phone plan with data package, a separate data package for my iPad, and home internet service. Then I get to pay for media to stream over the paid lines to my paid devices. You can see where I'm going, here.

I really want a tablet, but I don't want an iPad. I want something that pairs down rather than augments my device list. I want a something that can fill in as a laptop, media player (a for-realsies one that can stream HD content to my TV), internet connection, data processor, e-reader, and so on. I don't game on my computer, so I don't need a powerhouse tower. I don't want to invest in movie discs I'm only going to watch once, so I don't need a blu-ray player. I don't want to carry around a dedicated music player. I don't want a separate device for phone calls and texting (if I'm already slinging a man-purse for my tablet, it doesn't matter to me that the tablet won't fit in my pocket; that's why God made bluetooth headsets).

Who says man-purses make you look stupid?

Where does that leave me? Gadget purgatory, that's where. I now get to sit around burning off the device-lust sin of wanting one gadget to rule them all. I could have gone my entire life in ignorant bliss if I'd never picked up a tablet in the first place. Stupid iPad.

Why must you taunt me, vaporware?!