Reading William Gibson always brings out the ‘postmodern’ in me. Because Spook Country is set in the present day and incorporates existing technologies it was difficult to distinguish between the actual, the possible, and the improbable. This proved particularly disappointing when I learned, from an interview with Gibson on NPR, that “locative art” wasn’t yet a reality. Three dimensional recreations of actual events, such as the death of River Phoenix, located on the street in Los Angeles where it actually happened, broadcast from a server, and accessible only to those wearing the proper headgear, are, alas, still a fiction.
That splash of reality in no way discourages me from indulging in my own technological flights of fancy. Nor do these flights of fancy necessarily have any direct connection to the source. It’s just that Gibson’s writing brings out my childish fascination for ‘whiz bang’ gadgets and my adult sensibilities, tinged as they are with postmodern irony.
And so it was that I conceived the idea to unearth my old Kaypro 2 computer and rebuild it as a symbolic manifestation of the baby boomer generation’s triumph over technological obsolescence . Think of the possibilities. Think of the irony! This clunky, 1980’s metal box, a little gray around the temples, transformed into a state-of-the-art processing wonder. Here is postmodern double-coding at its best.
And yet oft times such high flying ideas will rapidly lose altitude. I am reminded of the iconic Reese’ s Peanut Butter Cup advertising campaign that depicts the clash of chocolate and peanut butter. Hardly a postmodern pairing, the peanut butter and chocolate found themselves in a peaceful, non-ironic coexistence. In the case of the Kaypro however, the clash was between postmodernity and nostalgistic purity.
Each of these concepts has its own moral imperative and its own standard bearers. Unfortunately for me, one of the “champions of nostalgia” is currently in possession of the Kaypro and wishes to honor the memory of its halcyon days by leaving it in its original, primitive, and unusable state. From this traditionalist perspective, my attempts to “give the Kaypro new meaning” only serve to confound the machine’s current function as a memory receptacle. It is a sad day when devotion to old memories interferes with the creation of new ones.