The Transmigration of Circuits

Joshua Quittner and Michelle Slatalla

The Transmigration of Circuits

Joshua Quittner and Michelle Slatalla

The Transmigration of Circuits
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Nov. 4 1999 10:32 AM

Joshua Quittner and Michelle Slatalla

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Are you sure Jim Barksdale isn't running for president? If he reconsiders, I would probably vote for him. Unless you run. I would always vote for you. But I hope your platform would be broader than Mr. Ventura's. Don't limit your reincarnation goals to returning as a brassiere. You could be any piece of underwear you want. Really. All you have to do is dream.

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I myself am planning to return to life as the new computer printer that you bought and installed yesterday. (I use the word "installed" rather loosely, considering that the damn thing crashes every time you try to print a Word document and will not allow you to print anything in "best mode"--a euphemism for the really really slow mode that you have to invoke if you actually will need to subsequently read whatever you printed out.) See, if I were a computer printer--or any other piece of electronic equipment, actually--then I wouldn't really have to do what I was supposed to do. I could "conflict" with other "devices" constantly and it wouldn't be my responsibility to reconcile the problem. It would be yours. I could arrive without "USB cable" and it would be up to you to run out to the store to get some to fix me. (While you're there, pick up a pint of Haagen Dazs, as well.) I could look really cheesy and cheap and have the phrase "Professional Series" written across my front in a font that was perhaps modern looking back in the early 1970s. In short, if I were reincarnated as our new computer printer, I could take comfort in knowing that I was state-of-the-art technology.

How much did we pay for that printer? I notice from today's paper that our printer manufacturer's stock went up 1 and an eighth yesterday. We should stop buying the printers, just buy the stock.

I know, I know, the printer nightmare is all just a glitch, and you'll fix it over the weekend and it will only take 20 hours of your time and as a result of the printer all the computers and appliances in the house will crash and have to be rebooted and reinstalled and reconfigured and one or two of the cats who are too close to the power source will get electrocuted, but then by Monday ... we'll be able to print out a Word document.

How much did we pay for that printer?

Joshua Quittner is Time's technology columnist and editor of Time Digital. Michelle Slatalla writes a weekly column about online shopping for the New York Times "Circuits" section. They are the authors of Masters of Deception: The Gang That Ruled Cyberspace (click here to buy it).