I have just finished reading Super Sad True Love Story
, and I found it quite good; one of the best, indeed, I've read lately. However, I understand that diehard sci-fi fans will find it quite unsatisfactory, mainly in the lack of detail of artifacts, like the aforementioned äppärät. This post is an attempt to clarify, or rather ask more questions, about it
At first glance, they're basically a glorified Blackberry, a personal communication device you use to chat, email, look up stuff, and also transmit information via streaming. Noah, one of the Media character, and his girlfriend Amy, have a stream
in which they transmit 24/7 their thoughts and what's happening in from of them. It's also a phone you can use to verbal
(talk via voice) with your friends, synchronously.
It's clear, then, what they do, but not so clear how
they do it; in one of the first chapters of the book, Lenny, the main character (although I think that the real main character is Eunice, his partner, but that's another story) receives a new one in the shape of a pendant. We don't know how big is that, but, well, it's hanging from the neck, so it shouldn't be too big. Hence the questions: what's used for input/output?
My first hunch is that it would be something similar to the Sixth Sense created by the Fluid Interfaces group at MIT
. That is, something you wear
, that uses any surface for projection, and gestures for input. However, that doesn't leave much privacy. Not that the characters in the novel care too much about privacy (except when they do), but nothing in it allows us to think that they are watching over what others are doing, or using a wall or a table for projecting.
What kind of network it uses is not clear either. It works everywhere, most of the time, and seems to be free; nobody is paying for the bandwidth, since at one particular moment refugees are given old äppärätti regardless of how much connection might cost. Roaming is not a concern, either: they work in Italy, in the USA, wherever. No problem.
So, no solution here, and the device remains as fuzzy as the author has wanted it to be. At the end of the day, an äppärät is just a plot device. You shouldn't delve too deep into it; if it's plausible, that's enough for the purposes of the plot. The name also serves that purpose: it sounds Finnish, that is, non-American, which showcases the technological dependence of America on the rest of the world which is one of the themes of the book.