"Styles make fights — or so goes the boxing cliché. In 2008, they make presidential campaigns, too. ...Yet, according to design experts, the candidates have left a clear blueprint of their personal style — perhaps even a window into their souls — through the Web sites they have created to raise money, recruit volunteers and generally meet-and-greet online. On one thing, the experts seem to agree. The differences between hillaryclinton.com and barackobama.com can be summed up this way: Barack Obama is a Mac, and Hillary Clinton is a PC."—The New York Times, February 19, 2008
Today, I, Adam Baer, announce my candidacy for the Presidency of the United States. But I am not a Mac or a PC. I am a Commodore 64. And I mean business—but in a Donkey Kong kind of way.
Let's start with the obvious. I am bulky and shaped like a breadbox. I'll take up real American space in the Oval Office. And I won't have the capacity for extreme detail, speedy platform changes, or impressive light shows. I'm only eight bits. Which means I'm simple. Which means I won't even know how to deceive you. Or hire people who know how to use me for their own personal gain.
You'll be able to slide old-school floppy disks into my attached drive, perhaps to play one-dimensional games. (I'm fun and by my very nature only able to see one side of things.) But you won't be able to program me to do damn near anything useful in today's world.
I'll be the kind of candidate we need: way behind. You want me to know about something happening in real time? You'll have to plug a dial-up modem into me and pray I actually connect. I'll take our country in the direction we all really want to be headed with all our accusations of plagiarism, speeches vs. action, and number-fudging: backwards.
Sure, there are emulators out there for use on the most innovative of computers. Lots of people have tried to be me, dreamed to be me. But I am the real thing: beige, heavy, slow, and full of glitches. Sometimes I just shut off. Other times, I'm your best friend: your escape into virtual worlds that look nothing like real life--finite, comforting spaces where filling up a pint of beer or swinging ever-so-slowly on a vine over a river filled with pixellated alligators, will take you away from the everyday.
Why care about global warming, education, terrorism, healthcare, the economy, foreign affairs? Pick me and we'll never have to worry again. We just won't have the capacity to do anything--bad or good. Unless you consider procrastinating progress. Because I'm great at procrastinating. I think I would have invented it if I had been given the capacity to process that kind of conceptual stuff.
Just draw the blinds, spin some Supertramp, and we'll have the best time together. Because that's what this country really requires: some 1980s basement fun, right? Hey, I won't even tell if you choose to smoke up a little in front of me or talk dirty to your girlfriend. I have no capacity to speak, except in drones! I keep things BASIC--literally.
Sure, I like music, but I'm not going to offer you catchy campaign orations or songs like the others. I'm just going to blip and bleep. I'm literally going to offer soundbytes and remain proud of them.
Plus, I'm not too portable, so it's going to be hard for me to travel. Which means I'll keep our country out of trouble overseas. I'll just stay put. You may not even see me out and about in your country. I'm used to being alone, it's OK.
What's more, I don't have any special interests. The people who make me are nowhere close to as powerful as those Mac and PC CEOs. I think the people who make me may even be dead. So there you go. I'm an orphan. No important family behind me running their own agenda, no corporate tie-ins. But I could be wrong. I can't think. No possibilities here for artificial intelligence—what, you thought the real kind was available elsewhere?
More impressive, I think, is that I didn't invent the Internet. In fact, I don't even know how to use it—and I don't claim to know anything about that "Web 2.0."
But I am accessible. Want to get in touch with me? Just contact me over your BBS. We'll trade a few words, and you'll have better communication with your commander in chief than you will have ever dreamed.
Most important, however, I….Sorry, DISK ERROR. That's going to happen if you vote for me, I guess.
But wouldn't you rather have a president that can't hide his or her mistakes? With me, there are no secrets. No fancy packaging. No calming fonts or manipulative creative spins. No "thinnovation" or hidden memory card readers. No celebrity endorsements or product placement. No invisible signals permeating my body, connecting me to streams of information sent via WiFi or 3g networks I can use for my own attempt at world domination.
I just don't have an opinion on damn near anything--real, phony, or undeveloped and ever-changing. Feed information to me, and I'll spit out some real (if terribly uncomplicated) results. They might be correct, they might not be. The process might make a lot of noise and take a long time. But it will be pure, honest interfacing.
As for my web site, well, you're lookin' at it. A note sent to some magazine writer's blog. A note I could have just printed out on my dot-matrix friend over there, but that I also thought it would be wise to share with someone a little more advanced, just this one time.
I'm the form-meets-dysfunction autopilot you're secretly looking for with all your gripes about politicians: unreliably safe, eminently limited, unable even to comprehend anything that isn't based in fact or arcane code. Just plug me in and see what happens. You won't regret it. And won't that be a change.