Thursday, June 29, 2017

Book Review: 'The Geek's Chihuahua: Living with Apple' by Ian Bogost

The Geek's Chihuahua: Living with Apple
By Ian Bogost

Review by David Wineberg

I open these mini-books with trepidation because they are usually incomplete thoughts, unresearched theories, or halfbaked editorials. The Geek’s Chihuahua is the opposite. It is a complete history, a thoughtful analysis and a tidy encapsulation. It is a time capsule for what we lived through when something called Apple ruled.

Starting with the Apple II, Bogost and I had the same experiences, and this was nostalgic for me. I also remember my 150 baud modem, which I hooked up to the hotel room telephone by removing its cover and physically attaching wires to the phone’s terminals. It bypassed the hotel’s Centrex system because the receiver never left the hookswitch, so my hourlong e-mail and chat sessions never got billed. My point is that it is not so different today than it was 35 years ago; hyperemployment is not a 21st century phenomenon caused by the iphone. Underemployment is however, and the time wasted on iphones is a disease worth remarking on. And Bogost does so.

The most memorable finding is that Apple is no longer about pushing the bounds of technology; it is all about pushing the bounds of fashion. New iterations focus on the showy rather than the functionality. Must have means must be seen to have. Planned obsolescence isn’t even necessary, though it it there in all its ugliness.

I’m a little surprised Bogost didn’t mention the old fashioned corporate beast Apple has become. It hoards vast piles of money, bigger than the currency reserves of most countries, yet refuses to pay its store employees more than minimum wage, insisting they should be thrilled to live The Apple Experience instead. Apple refuses to even consider unions. Apple wants Europe to authorize freezing women’s eggs so they can work longer when they’re young, and not bother coming back to work when they’re more expensive to employ. And of course, Apple is all about the walled garden and its own proprietary standards, the very opposite of the open systems of the idealistic good guys.

Bogost swiftly summarizes the rise of various Apple products and the societal fallout from them, making the company the poster child for the technology slaves many have become. He does it with pinpoint perceptions and accurate reflection, often of himself. The Geek’s Chihuahua is a little gem.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of David Wineberg. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right. 

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