Author, most recently, of Zero History; his debut novel, Neuromancer, popularized "cyberspace," a term he coined in 1982
I recently dug my Apple G4 Cube out from beneath the workbench in the basement. I was looking for otherwise forgotten bits of my published nonfiction for a forthcoming collection and had reason to believe there might be some on the Cube's drive. I don't usually keep my old computers, but I've kept the Cube because the "cube" itself is one of the best-looking pieces of hardware I've ever seen. The coolest thing about it, though, isn't even visible, ordinarily.
When you flip it upside-down, you see a flat bar of solid matte aluminum, recessed in a sheet of perforated matte aluminum. When you press this, it rises an inch or so, smoothly, of its own accord, becoming a handle, while unlocking whatever holds the actual guts of the computer within its housing of transparent plastic and aluminum. This is such a magical touch, yet so modestly hidden, that I loved it immediately on first discovering it.
I didn't find what I was looking for on that drive, but I was on the Cube's desktop long enough to note how relatively slow it is and to remember how annoyingly audible its fan is. But then I'm currently most accustomed to an iPad.
I have never owned any computers other than Apple, having started with an Apple IIc, marked sharply down to make way for the first Macs. I was never interested in getting any more intimate with whatever made my computer work. I wanted the most transparent interface possible; that is, the one that least required my personal attention. I wanted my personal attention to be elsewhere, focused on things other than my computer. Design at that level kept me at Apple, but also design at the level of that pop-up handle and the pop-out core it reveals. I never had any practical reason to use that handle, but it delighted me. It's a really splendid piece of engineering and design.
It didn't, though, as much of our experience of the world of manufactured objects teaches us, have to be that exceptionally good—but was, because Steve Jobs cared about coherent design. About, as he said, the back of the dresser.
Photographer: Elisabetta A. Villa/WireImage