Blue Box

The co-founders of Apple’s first, erm, “collaboration” with AT&T went a little differently. Like the iPhone, it made calls on AT&T’s network. Unlike the iPhone, there was only one calling plan. It involved you calling as much as you wanted, and AT&T getting nothing. This collaboration proved short-lived.

You know I’m often (well, sometimes, anyway) a reasonable, rational, measured person. And you can probably guess that, as a fan of design and elegance, I really appreciate the iPhone’s elegant design, the fact that it pays attention to user experience. I think it’s a major innovation, one that will have far-reaching effects. Yet, something about walking out the door of my apartment building and seeing a hundred people waiting in line just because there’s an AT&T Wireless store on the block — one of many here in Manhattan — is setting me off.

I miss computers. Remember computers? Remember the Apple II, which came pre-installed with BASIC so you could start programming it out of the box (in stark contrast to the closed nature of iPhone)? Remember the Newton, which you could turn into a drum machine if you wanted? Remember how Steve Jobs’ first product, with Steve Wozniak, was a device that actually ripped off AT&T? That sounds like fun. It’s just sort of hard to see the iPhone being the landmark 50 years from now, even if Steve Jobs told Apple employees they’ll tell their grandchildren about the iPhone launch. (I have a feeling their grandchildren will respond, you used THAT?)

I like devices that can make music, not just listen to it. Mac? Check. iPod? Nope. iPhone? Not so much. That’s the reason so many readers here still get creative with old Nintendo game systems and Commodore 64s and 1960s modular synths — music doesn’t age, and neither does music technology. Sure, I might even get an iPhone at some point … but for now, the best gadget I’ve ever met is still the Mac. And June 29 for me is a Pixar release date more than an iPhone release date, a reminder that, despite the name of this site, art made on computers can be more than “digital” — it can ultimately be just music and art. Eventually, the technology doesn’t matter. And creativity is still the best killer app of the digital age.

It’s not that I don’t understand the appeal. Tycho on Penny Arcade puts it best: “I just think I’m ready to use a device where each application was designed by people who seem to talk to one another on occasion.” Wow, the wonders of modern technology. That would explain why people are lining up for this thing like it’s a Depression-era soup line: most phones really are that bad.

But here’s my suggestion: Let’s talk about anything. Anything. Worth $500 or less. (Heck, two years of service … say $1500.) Anything that’s not an iPhone. (Newton totally counts.) I mean, either you’re going to go get an iPhone and you probably need someone to take your mind off of it for a few minutes while you wait in line, or you’re like the rest of us, surrounded by a swamp of hype. Meditation time … Moooooooooooooog. Moooooooooooooog. (Hint: if you just sounded like a cow, you’re saying it wrong. Think Ohm. Or Ohms.) What technology do you get excited about that’s not an iPhone?

  • http://www.milezero.org Thomas

    Guitar Center near my house has a Roland SH-201 for $450.

    It's kind of driving me nuts. I don't have my end-of-fiscal-year bonus yet, so I can't technically afford it, but that's a pretty sweet deal.

  • http://toilville.com Peter

    i just got a raise and I want to get a semi diy midi interface. Looking at the doepfer kits over something like miditron. Anybody want to talk me out of it?

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    For a straight-up MIDI device, Doepfer I think is probably a better bet than MidiTron, actually. MidiTron is great for doing oddball things like Eric's fun Slime-o-Tron. But, you know, with either I think you'll have fun and learn something.

    $450 for an SH-201 is a great deal!

    Needless to say, I'm not terribly good at talking people out of things. Should've been in sales. ;)

  • http://jasonrkramer.com Kramer

    i got one for you – the monome kits are shipping next week

  • http://www.keithhandy.com Keith Handy

    "Remember computers? Remember the Apple II, which came pre-installed with BASIC so you could start programming it out of the box…?"

    I was almost shocked when I found and looked through my old Commodore 64 manual (have you done C64-related stories on this site? I'll have to do a search and find out), and saw that the first 95% of the manual was how to program it in BASIC, and then loading commercial software was practically a footnote/afterthought. It was almost quaint to imagine a company expecting its consumers to have a brain.

  • http://www.keithhandy.com Keith Handy

    Funnily, I hadn't finished reading the whole post when I made my comment, but it's actually a suitable response to your final paragraph. :)

  • Roy

    Peter:

    Thank you for some sanity on iPhone fRiday. I think I'll go drag out my MessagePad 2100 (I've got a 100, but I digress) and marvel over it while I bemoan "what could have been if not for the whole Jobs/Scully catfight". Then I'll spend the rest of my compute/relax evening making music on my MBP, marveling over the lunacy of the iPhone BS.

  • dead_red_eyes

    $599 PLUS extra charge PLUS you have to use AT&T?

    Screw that.

    Let's not forget AT&T and the whole warrantless wiretapping thing. I really don't see why in the hell Apple would want to work with them, based on that and many other terrible things they've done.

  • bliss

    Yep, there's quite a few tales about AT&T on conspiracy blogs and logs.

  • NineTailedFox

    Can we work on a mod to add cellphone functionality to the 40h? That, plus a lanyard holder… hell, yes.

    The monome might be the iPhone of the music blog, though…

  • _object.session

    i was just thinking that it's sort of sad that computers don't come with BASIC staring you in the face. but mac's come bundled with garageband, maybe that's this generation (of 12 year olds)'s version of BASIC. and of course the whole internet thing is probably pretty neat for a geeky kid.

  • NineTailedFox

    This is not an iPhone:

    http://www.cnet.com.au/desktops/accessories/0,239
    (n.b. those are Aussie dollars)

    I find a stylus much more precise and intuitive than a mouse for a lot of purposes. I'm starting to play around with assigning mouse gestures to keyboard shortcuts using Nuonsoft ShellEnhancer, as well, which is looking quite promising.

  • _object.session

    omg. i just finished scrolling through my gizmodo rss feed for the day. that's ridiculous. should i unsubscribe for a few days? is there a "not iphone" option?

  • NineTailedFox
  • http://www.myspace.com/combatdave Combat Dave

    how about making a few robots, getting them to interact with each other, then strapping some symbols to the top of them and letting them make music?

    http://mtg.upf.edu/reactable/?software

    that could be my plan for the summer, who knows. group behaviour is my thing, so… could be nice.

  • SpinPapi

    Bhajis Loops on a Treo 700p. Nuff said!

    http://www.chocopoolp.com/bj_index.php

  • http://www.melodiefabriek.nl/ Marco Raaphorst

    great marketing, great design. for the rest: not interesting to me. closed box (you can't install anything Apple doesn't alow you to do, no Flash, no Java, no good camera. maybe under Linux the iPhone will be better. free WIKI-phone: yes please!

  • http://www.melodiefabriek.nl/ Marco Raaphorst

    ha, WIKI-phone… no WIFI-phone :)

  • http://www.simonsound.co.uk simonsound

    Well it seems like Apple have come full circle.

    If you wanna hear a radio feature all about Steve Wozniaks device (bluebox) that helped people (phonephreakers) rip off AT&T and also helped to fund the startup of Apple computers, go here http://www.simonsound.co.uk/connecting.html

    It also features a soundtrack made up of original 70's phone network sounds manipulated in Reaktor session.

    I made it a few years back for BBC Radio 3 and they only ever aired it once (which is the norm) but its a bit of waste so I made it available on my site. Hope you like it.

    Simon

  • http://www.myspace.com/obeliskmusik Oblsk

    Great post! I think I may head over to an Apple store with my bandmates with our free Zune t-shirts we got at CMJ just to see if we get lots of evil-eyes! I'm with you though… long live creativity.. c64.. laptop… ableton.. moog.. etc..!!

  • Simon B

    The F/C Neo1973 looks like it has alot more potential ;)

  • http://sidechainmusic.com Dave Dri

    Well im excited about flight cases! Our live act played a gig last night that went well as any other except for for things…

    1) We wore space suits because, erm, no reason. Its not really the norm to wear space suits in progressive house i assure you but, erm, again, no reason. Cost: $80 AUD

    2) It was the last gig where it takes us half an hour to set up all the gear. That might not seem a lot but we have been doing this for a long time and would win some kind of medal at the "Setting up an electronic live act with routing complexity and midi chains in the dark" olympics. Finally the flight cases come by the next gig end of this coming week so we can turn up, take the lids off, plug in two things and erm…. hmmm… havent thought that far. Now im a little scared. Cost: Under $500 each band member for large custom fitted case.

    Any ideas what we should do with our spare time

    Peter, or anyone else? Maybe berate (CDM contributor and Segue's VJ) Jaymis for not coding any Jitter for us yet??? Maybe go out and get in line for the new Apple iPh… erm.

  • dead_red_eyes

    Hey Dave Dri … where did you get those cases from?

  • http://www.adamwolinsky.com Adam

    <blockquote cite="And creativity is still the best killer app of the digital age.">

    Amen brother! I felt a wave of relief wash over me as I read this.

    The tools are not the thing.

  • http://www.adamwolinsky.com Adam

    "And creativity is still the best killer app of the digital age."

  • http://www.myspace.com/markhannesson Mark

    GP2X Gaming System under $200.

    It plays movies and games (optionally over your TV) and a version of pd!!

    http://mccormick.cx/projects/gp2xPd/page/install

    quote from ConsoleSource:

    * PC Programming:

    Basic Programming: Linux

    Windows: Programmable by installing Cygwin

    * Open SDK and SDL:

    Supports software development library : SDL(Simple Direct Library)

    Basic Library

    Graphic library (Sound library)

    Hardware I/O library

    Now I just have to talk my wife into believing that its for music and not for the games.

  • http://sidechainmusic.com Dave Dri

    Dead_Red_Eyes…. from these guys: http://www.roadcase.com.au

    By chance the day i had set for us to finally commit to a size and format and put the order in had us sitting on the floor with cardboard cutouts of the footprint of our live rig gear. Its hard juggling the real gear around so the cutouts worked well. Had a laugh when Jaymis called to see whats up and i told him we were playing the sizing game and he was on his way over to pick up a flightcase anyway, so it worked out well. Given the gigs we do it soooo overdue. If all goes to plan, i will have some pics of everything and a story of the full process for CDM so everyone can share in our "messy cables to hard shell robotwars" journey. Minus the robot wars… that bit is just because im about to see Transformers and am excited.

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  • TJ

    I used to have so much fun *programming* my own computer to do MIDI … whatever I wanted it to do with MIDI.

    Not once I got my Mac IIsi. Suddenly all the tech was secret.

    Now, every time I sit in front of an "up-to-date" sequencer I think, I could get so much more *cool* stuff done if I didn't have to sit behind a one-size-fits-all console.