Author Archives: Philip Berne

By day, Philip Berne works for a major mobile technology manufacturer. At night, he dons his Batman cape and cowl, pours himself a dram, and sits in a dark room contemplating the intersection of culture and technology. His opinions were originally his own, but have since been digitally enhanced by George Lucas.

Stop the Killing

Stop the Killing

Soon, Microsoft will launch an iPad killer. I know this because Steve Ballmer made some comments about how Microsoft doesn't like to see rival Apple stealing the show with their tablet, and the Microsoft CEO claims the company will have an answer to Apple's product soon. So, CNN emblazons its home page with a declaration that an iPad killer from Microsoft is on the way.

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5 Gadgets That Changed My World, Part 1

5 Gadgets That Changed My World, Part 1

In the spirit of fellow SlashGear columnist Michael Gartenberg, who recently published his own list of "5 Gadgets That Changed The World For Me," I decided to tackle my own version of this list. While Michael's list tended towards gadgets that made a huge impact the gadget world as a whole, these are five gadgets that were not so universally important, but had a significant impact on the way I was shaped as a person, and not just as a gadget fiend.

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My Favorite Dentist

My Favorite Dentist

On the night my son was born, I was a couple hundred miles away, hurtling north on the New Jersey turnpike trying to get home in time. I had my mother next to me, but my wife was alone in Morristown, NJ, where we lived. She wasn't due for another three weeks, and I had been in my hometown of Columbia, Md, for a dental appointment.

Aren't there dentists in New Jersey? I'm sure there are, and probably even good ones. But for most of my life, since I was a very young child, I've had the same dentist: my father. He's actually a very good dentist, and besides our familial relationship, if I were any normal patient I'd probably want to keep him even after I moved away.

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The New Dark Ages

The New Dark Ages

Sometimes I wonder if we're not entering a dark ages. With modern technology and storage techniques, I always assumed that our culture, our artwork, our philosophy would never disappear. It might go out of fashion, but future generations will always be able to turn on Ferris Bueller and say to themselves, "Okay, that's the 1980s. Now where's my Pearl Jam record? I want to experience the Nineties." Recently, I haven't been so sure.

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Avoiding the Social

Avoiding the Social

The range of people I know who have completely ignored Facebook sometimes astonishes me almost as much as its explosive growth. Some of the most important people in my life are social networking luddites, with little to no presence whatsoever on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or any photo sharing sites. But even though they aren't present, they are impossible to ignore. I'm still friends with plenty of people they know, so their social web is still intact, but there's a chunk missing from the middle where they would usually hold it all together.

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Cheating is Institutional

Cheating is Institutional

When I was a High School teacher, I pulled a stunt that went against every gut instinct I had, though I wasn't sure why. I gave my students a quiz, set up a hidden camera, and left the room. It was an Apple iSight camera. Back then, it looked like a tiny telescope from the future.

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Checking In Has Yet to Arrive

Checking In Has Yet to Arrive

I see GPS as the third major player in the triumvirate of mobile technology. First, we put in place a ubiquitous network connection. Second came the cameras, so we could record what we saw. Finally, the GPS chips, so we can track where we've been. Beyond mobile phones, now laptops and tablets are coming with GPS built in, as well as point and shoot cameras, cars and a wide range of other devices. On anything that moves, you could imagine adding GPS.

Location is a subversive technology, at once willfully tracking our moves and broadcasting our position. With a camera, GPS becomes corroborative evidence. In a car, GPS is an escape route.

It's also very, very creepy.

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Reduce, Reuse

Reduce, Reuse

I remember when the first iMac came out in 1998. I was a graduate student then, not a technology journalist, but I still followed tech news enthusiastically. Besides the iconic design of the bondi blue machine, I remember a couple of details stuck out as groundbreaking, both in a good and a bad way. The iMac was the first computer I ever saw that shipped without a floppy drive. I was using a Powerbook back then, and I had a floppy drive in my laptop. But here was a desktop that only used CD-ROM. It didn't even have a CD burner in the first run. I also remember that it was the first Mac to ditch serial ports in favor of USB.

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Smoking a Tweet

Smoking a Tweet

The first time I worked for a Dot-Com (back when websites were called such things), there were certain freebies always available. Not on Google levels of freebies, but there were always bottles of water and Mountain Dew in the fridge. There was pizza every other Wednesday, Krispy Kreme donuts every Friday. But we didn't have a water cooler. The office space was mostly wide open, with a pit for the editors and writers, and offices for the higher-ups. I was segregated with a few graphic designers, but my friends all sat in the pit. In that year, I probably smoked more cigarettes than at any other point since I picked up the habit in college. That was also the year I quit smoking.

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Why I dropped My Best Friend on Facebook

Why I dropped My Best Friend on Facebook

I dropped my best friend from my Facebook friends list. When I say best friend, I really mean it. I've known him longer than anyone I still see regularly, since middle school. I have other friends who I see more, and with whom I'm just as close, but my friend Dave has been my best friend since High School. We live a couple thousand miles apart, so Facebook was a great way for us to stay in touch. Still, I had to cut him.

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