I am enjoying Household Words, an associative analysis of ‘common-sensical’ words such as Sucker, Bloomers, and Bombshell. In her last chapter, Cyber, Stephanie A. Smith refers to On the road to intimacy, a 1992 whitepaper calling for the development of ‘personal digital assistants’. The authors David Dunham and Scott Shwarts predict that we would one day all carry “a helpful friend in our pocket”. Intimate devices for them, should be like telephones:
The telephone is an intimate device. You don’t have to think about using it, and probably don’t consider yourself to be using high technology when you do. When you talk on the phone, you frequently forget that you are. An intimate computer should be equally transparent. Ideally, you shouldn’t know you’re using a computer until it does something wonderful.
Smith asks herself:
Now really, who can forget they’re on the telephone? More interesting is the syntax of the statement “When you talk on the phone, you frequently forget that you are.” What might it mean that you forget that you are?