No More Folders

Yesterday, I was putting laundry away and changing the bedsheets and catching up on NPR, and I heard this piece about the new Apple iOS.

In case you can’t listen to it right now, here’s the basic idea: the new operating system for iPhones and iPads is releasing very soon, and Apple is finally migrating away from a paradigm rooted in the real world to one that’s entirely digital. Here’s what I mean: for a long, long time now, computers would use icons and ideas lifted from the “analog” world – folders, legal pads, that sort of thing – to tell you what something did. So if you open the voice recorder app on your iPhone right now, you’ll see an old-timey microphone. The calendar app looks a whole lot like a calendar you’d see on your wall.

But Apple’s now releasing the seventh major update to its operating system (the first iPhone, incidentally, was released in 2007) and they’re moving away from this analog-to-digital paradigm and just going digital. That means things look different and act different.

My update hasn’t arrived yet, but I’m eagerly awaiting it. But listening to this radio bit, I felt a little sad (and old). My friends and I – the last generation to clearly remember both the pre- and post-smartphone/tablet era – sometimes joke about how nothing in the movies will make sense to our kids. “Dad, why is it a problem that the phone ran out of batteries? Why didn’t they just hold it in the sun for a couple minutes?” (Good question, son. Let me tell you about the old days . . . )

But this may all mean that – for instance – our kids some day, or our grandkids for sure, won’t really know what a folder is. We’ll have to describe it. We’ll get out a piece of paper (pretty sure we’ll still have that) and demonstrate. I know all this happens in every generation (I couldn’t tell you a single blessed thing about riding tackle), and I’m not one of those people who thinks we’re losing out on our humanity or something in this move, but at the very least, when the weather is feeling autumnal and I get that familiar go-buy-office-supplies urge, I wish I could always count on the things I loved existing and making sense to future generations.

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