Making it safe to touch

Photo Stephen Hackett

One of the most important features on the original iMac was its handle. It gave us permission to touch it at a time when for most people technology felt unfamiliar and daunting. It’s not hard to understand why, just skim through the popular culture of the previous 30 years, look at how machines were represented in films like Terminator. Albeit well meaning, thinkers such as Cameron who wanted to give us a warning sign inadvertently fed in to a fear and instead of working to get the best of human and machine what resulted was a polarisation; we either saw the machine as a tool or a toy.

Jonathan Ive, head product designer at Apple, designed the case for the iMac G3, which allowed us to see the inner workings of the machines and gave us a new found connection with technology. That is despite increasing the cost of each unit by $60, a high price for what many manufacturers would have considered a pointless design aesthetic, Steve Jobs put pressure on the board at Apple insisting that this was how the company was going to make its comeback.

If we’re going to help the over 50s who have thus far been working mainly in the physical realm of existence in to computing; if those laid off in Calais and Dover are to stand any chance of getting jobs in the future we need to learn to think the way Ive did when he conceptualised this iMac.

To understand is to forgive. One of the distinguishing features of humankind has been our ability to go beyond the physical and create a space that exists in a virtual realm. We risk leaving these people behind.