It’s been ten years since the InterFace changed everything, forever. The simplicity and elegance of design combined with its swiss army knife combination of data and mobile functions has made the InterFace a device we can’t live without. The haptic trinity of muscle, bone, and surface-level mindplants were a giant leap ahead of the iffy skinplants which burned so many early adopters (literally!). Our modern concept of integrated computing has grown so much since its early days being cobbled together in garages and computer labs across the old tech sectors. What we take for granted today as tech chic was once derided as “wearable tech” and was met with open hostility by a confused and less enlightened people. Presented here are the ghosts of tech chic past, thirteen pictures which chronicle the industry’s hovercoaster ride to the present, in a format straight out of the twentytens; the listicle.
The Office Computer For Your Head
One of the very first “gargoyle” setups. Pictured is early tech chic pioneer Edgar Diaz, holding up the software chip for one of his many beach themed virtual chatrooms. Although this rig wasn’t considered cool at the time, more of a novelty, Diaz’s denim betrays a prophetic mind for many of the mainstream trends we hold dear today.
The Luke Skywalker In The Death Star Trenches Look
Later gargoyle rigs favored mobility over power and visuals, made possible by “fannypack processors” as seen on Mark Stipole (second from the left), and could only run the most threadbare of AR programs. Users of these new lighter rigs were sometimes referred to as “Parkgoyles” for their tendency to congregate in parks to finish office work or feel the forbidden allure of watching porn in a public place.
In describing the Nintendo (oops, I mean Nint.) Powerglove I’d like to quote last year’s vibepunk summer hit “Do Us Apart” by The Johns
“Just a little lonely / So I / Phone Phony / Kill Phony / Eat em up like macaroni”
In a way our parents’ generation ate up the phony Powerglove, which has since become a symbol of the irresponsible decadence of the early gaming industry. At the very least you could argue it paved the way for future advances in tech chic, but it’s mostly just something we all want to forget.
The Asian Invasion
Thirty years before the Siege of Seattle the Japanese were already dropping bombs state-side when they introduced their own wearable tech in response to the burgeoning American gargoyle market. The Japanese brought in many innovations focusing on miniaturization and hands free interfacing which were outright stolen by their America counterparts. The Hitachi RD9, seen above, never saw major mainstream success but found its niche among various occupations such as city maintenance workers, cargo container ship crew, freelance investigators, and art house film directors. Today many old RD9’s have been reprogrammed for use with Tokyo’s new mecha-police divisions.
The Pizza Box
If you have an older brother or sister they may stare off wistfully into the distance when recalling the old Pizza Box rig days. Some were so large they couldn’t fit through certain doorways, constraining a fully immersed Virtual-Realitarian to a single room at a time. The inside secret no one wants to say about the ol’ Pizza Boxes is that they were innocent. They were fun. They represented everything about the tech chic biz before it got all serious and corporate. Let it be known this intrepid reporter still sometimes likes to put the InterFace to snooze, dust off the PB from deep within the closet, and troll around some of the old MUD and BBS boards from back in the day.
The Hot Blonde Of 3D Gaming
Now this here was extremely my shit. Mars Rover. Blasterbuds. X-Ray Day. Richard III. Cat Island. All the classics were on the VFX 3D and some of the UI menus are still burned into my retina. Full 60 degree FOV, Dolby Stereo Digital sound, early P6 microarchitecture, haptic head massage, the hits really don’t stop coming with this beast. Optional camera add-ons came later and turned it into a fully AR-capable device but that never really caught on. The first kid to get one in my neighborhood, some little shit named Sam, charged kids two dollars a minute to use it. I must have blown a few weeks worth of allowance over at his place, spacing out to early 3D spaceflight demos. I eventually tossed it into a garbage compactor out of pure jealously but got my own a year later anyway so jokes on you Sam. Outside of gaming the VFX 3D was used in a wide capacity with the military for simulator training and PTSD relief.
More Like Dumbphones
The whole cellphone/smartphone stuff really came into its own around this time, and is tech chic in only the most distant cousin sort of way. We all recognize now the blind craze of mob mentality which fueled the smartphone market and created one of the greatest ecological waste disasters of the modern century, but it was a pandora’s box which drove mobile technology to new heights and spurned the growth of early data networks. Like a bear out of hibernation we slowly came out of our mass hysteria, got fed up with our cracked screens, and moved on to real gadgets which weren’t replaced every other season. The dumbphones as I’ve sworn to call them forever represent the perils of Linear Capitalism and they will continue to tumble into history as the Chicken McNugget of tech.
The Yawn-culus Rift
Boring. The Oculus Rift was supposed to be the Second Coming of VR and herald a new age of beach chatrooms and virtual nightclubs. It ended up creating more neck injuries, broken china, and piles of vomit than any other device on this list. Besides looking like an advanced toilet plunger attached to your face, the Oculus Rift couldn’t even meet the challenge of its own design. The biggest advancement it brought was looking around during gameplay, not a very handy feature when enemies tend to be in front of you. I can’t tell you how many times I got owned in a recreation of Renaissance-era Rome by some snarky eight y.o Puerto Rican because I stopped to observe the intricate, in-your-face detail of a marble statue. You know who wore this junk? Lonely nerds, that’s who.
The Oogle Lass
Everyone remembers the memes, but no one remembers the real bits of counter-culture the Google Glass introduced. It did more than most on this list to push the boundaries of the discussion and acceptance of “wearable tech”, and was a big part of the advent of the “tech chic” movement we take for granted. It didn’t really help that you could crush the things in your hand like some sad, wet origami crane, nor that the constant flicker of a friend’s eye skyward was the sort of thing that got people killed, accidental or not. It was the thought that counted. The two years Google was able to sell these were a real blast if you were an insurance claims adjuster.
“It’s Like A Dumbphone But Smaller And More Annoying”
That’s how I imagine the original VC pitch went when the first thong sandal-wearin’, khaki short-sportin’, polo shirt collar-poppin’ motherfucker pitched the idea of “smartwatches”. I mean, every Golden Age Sci-fi paperback you find in the trash predicted some kind of wacky watch that did stuff other than tell time, and that alone should have been reason not to invent one. We don’t need to conform to some previous, handed-down-by-our-fathers’ vision of the future, we have to invent our own. In that way the Sony “wAtch.”, as seen above, was a clear betrayal of everything the tech chic movement was pushing for at the time. It was only by the good grace of our God, Moore’s Law, that new and better touch interfaces were invented and completely shoved the smartwatch into the Sun-bound waste rockets where they belonged.
The Meek Chic
Like Google Glass but with style, the Axim series of tech chic glasses really seemed to hit an even point between integrated computing and conservative fashion. One could wear the Axims in public without the same kind of stigma earlier devices received while still get some porn watching done. Due to their low cost and sturdy framework, Axims made lots of headway in various civil services, such as recording the actions of librarians and archivists to reduce document fraud and black market sales. Probably their most famous appearance was in the 2019 remake of The Graduate, where Sonya Murphy, playing the role of Mrs. Robinson, wore the glasses for the entirety of the famous seduction scene, adding a layer of predatory voyeurism which critics applauded.
The Idiot Designator
No one wore the eJacks. Okay correction: No one wore the eJacks unironically. I’ve seen plenty of these around, but every face wearing one, sticking out like a white eraser on a particularly bad mechanical pencil, is the kind of face you want to introduce to a fist. It’s a face that says “I can store up to a terabyte of music in my armpit” OR “My arms are a slideshow of my cycling adventure in northern Greenland”. Like anyone cares. It was real unfortunate these things were waterproof, as nailing some techster with a supersoaker full of ionized water and having their jacket short out into sparks and flames would have at least produced some entertaining benefit to society. Barring that, I’ve had to settle with nudging these goobers as we pass on the sidewalk, activating their hoodie-speaker and blasting whatever ridiculous bottom 40 drivel they call noize these days.
Which brings us to skinplants. Itchy, flacky, bloody, burny skinplants. The first time you play a game of Shooty Bird on your forearm, or display the lyrics of your favorite BeatDoun track on your back at the club, is really something special. But the magic wears off once you discover that simple acts like showering become a game of “Don’t Format Your Data” with every scrub. I don’t regret getting my skinplant, but they should have thought ahead when it came to removing them once they’re there. I’ve heard all sorts of different acid washes and skin-peeling techniques you can do, but frankly I’ll wait for something a bit more first-party proprietary and less liable to cause permanent damage. When among the hipper tech circles I’ve been running with a cover story saying my skinplant is actually just an ironic homage tattoo, not the real thing, and I haven’t been called out on it yet. If you’re really not the social engineering type like moi, just wear some thick wool sweaters with long sleeves and keep to your InterFace. For your credibility it would be best not to look weird or out of place.