Why I love my PSP

by on Jul.24, 2006, under geek culture, portables

In the beginning, it was digital watches. I found them simply riveting. My father’s friend had one, and I’d climb up onto his lap and press the steel divets that activated the display. I’d stare at the “:” between the digits, transfixed as it blinked reliably back at me. This was my first breath of technology, or at least my very own concept of it. And it was good. It was so new!”Dad, why can’t I watch TV on it?” The room breaks into laughter. Dick Tracy grimaces; Douglas Adams snickers.

Growing up, the idea of new technology became somewhat of a faith itself, served by my imagination, and yielding an occasional, gratifying example of the truly new. There was less satisfaction in things I could easily conceive : bigger hard drives, faster processors, better graphics… those were merely products of my inductive instinct, realised time and again in my thoughts long before before they actually appeared. I don’t claim that’s anything special – anyone who’s professed intimacy with the faith shares this mindset. Those are the rules of the game.

Once I learned the fundamentals, digital technology was relegated in my mind to tooldom, a fascination recalibrated into a study of its promise. My imagination tended to span a vast problem space, the gaps hopefully filled in by the clockwork machinery of vapourous technological solutions. This was the fun stuff.

Gadgets rarely impress me, really. “Technological wonders”… rarely are. The love of gadgetry, though hardly a new affliction in the scope of human interest, actually draws my ire. I wonder if disciples of ancient inventors loved products like some of my past acquaintances, who’d adoringly recite a menu of their innards like baseball stats. I always felt that this was like loving a hammer or a screwdriver. Sure, I was smitten at one time, when I was six, but show me something that I didn’t think of, show me a lifestyle change, a problem solved…show me fulfillment. That’s excitement!

The Internet came along, turned into a shopping mall, and was promptly booted into a political sandtrap. Think about that, how political it became in its first decade of mainstream existence. Yet, there exists a huge gleaming promise there. Problem spaces filled, new ones created. I remember that promise, springing into life, as I ran up the stairs and into my university’s graduate comp sci lab, gaping open-mouthed at the world’s very first graphical internet browser. All of those thoughts and possibilities gushed into my brain in an instant…then disappointment as I watched the pace of progress deliberately stunted by the ponderous inefficiencies of well established non-digital industries, all scared, shaken, uncertain. It was a collision on all levels, inevitable, as our capability slowly matched imagination; as technology met lifestyle. To business, this was either promising or threatening, depending on its orientation.

So now, in my 34-year-old hands, I hold both a promise fulfilled and one newly born. A Sony PSP.

It’s well engineered and pretty stylish. A place to which I can retreat. Full of sound and colour and brainiac distraction, enough to ease the tedium of commuter strain. Though well beyond my old Gameboy (which never became anything more than a Tetris machine no matter how hard I tried), it represents the exact same essence.

If I really wanted to, I could ride the train with my old handheld LED Pacman, circa 1981. Yes, the PSP is exactly like these, simply mobile entertainment. But mobile entertainment on serious steroids.

Has it come a little late? Well, it has paced the advance of low-powered LCDs properly and appropriately. So logically, no, the device is right on time. Yet, it seems a happy evolution at best. In itself, it changes nothing. We all know what portable fun is already. We imagined it when we were kids. It is well and truly a mere gadget; an iPod with a bigger screen and a 802.11b transceiver. In the unending tide of techno playthings, it will be a historical footnote. An small inflection point, not a turning point.

Yet I, in spite of myself, love it.

Why? Because of nostalgia. It’s fulfillment of a promise made thirty years ago, while I nestled in the lap of a digital watch. Finally here.

It’s a brand new promise. To me, it shows me a ubiquitous connector. A piece of internetworked fun. Wireless, mobile, graphical, auditory. It may not be exactly so, but it represents the Internet in my hands, an exciting multiplayer game, a movie, my favourite song, a chat with my friends, a videocall with my mother, a meeting place, a map, a social gateway, and a million things that I can’t even imagine. Right now, it does only some of these things. But it, or something like it, most definitely will.

It’s a new verse in the vows of my faith, that yes there is indeed such thing as sooner or later when imagining technology. Even if it’s later, I’ll never doubt again.

7 Comments for this entry

  • supaslash

    that was awesome i hated them but now im about to sprint down to the shops with $300 in my hand to hope i can afford one now :')
  • covert.c.

    Ah, the obligatory PSP post. 🙂

    Takes a while to type, don't it?
  • trevor

    i'm posting this comment with my psp using it's NetFront browser and a wifi infrastructure access point.
  • Kafka

    BTW, Bstyle... thanks for the compliment, man. 🙂
  • Kafka

    Bstyle - why the hell not? I'd love to try that with you even if it sucks. Do you have Wipeout?

    Devil - The DS is pretty cool too. Its got the puzzlegame thing going for it (plus Age of Empire!). And the mic/stylus/ocr stuff has me very curious.

    I commented on your blog about "life with the PSP" if you're not a traveller or a commuter. Its a bit tougher to justify. I do admit that the novelty of watching "Ronin" from the comfort of my blanket was pretty sweet. Its too bad UMDs suck ass and are a price gouge. Check out my PSP post part II...
  • thedeviluno

    Im thinking of getting a DS since the PSP was so complicated and stupid. Sure you guys like it cause your smart but Im not and the PSP only complicated my life exponentially. A ds would be like awesome, easy to use, easy to understand, maybe play some Nintendogs Castlevania, you know good games.
  • b1alpha

    That was a fantastic story, you had me hanging on the end of each point like a great author, thanks covert.c for the refreshing perspective! I wish we could do a net game on the PSP, since we both have wireless, I hope that is next. Mobile Massive Multiuser?

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