Monday, March 10, 2008

"It has no drive..."

One of Arthur C. Clarke's "laws of prediction" is that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

For some reason, it's the opening scenes of Clarke and Kubrick's 2001:A Space Odyssey that first come to mind reading this account of stumped TSA agents hassling a traveler because they could not grasp the existence of a MacBook Air:

"There's no drive," one says. "And no ports on the back. It has a couple of lines where the drive should be," she continues.

A younger agent, joins the crew. I must now be occupying ten, perhaps twenty, percent of the security force. At this checkpoint anyway. There are three score more at the other five checkpoints. The new arrival looks at the printouts from x-ray, looks at my laptop sitting small and alone. He tells the others that it is a real laptop, not a "device". That it has a solid-state drive instead of a hard disc. They don't know what he means. He tries again, "Instead of a spinning disc, it keeps everything in flash memory." Still no good. "Like the memory card in a digital camera." He points to the x-ray, "Here. That's what it uses instead of a hard drive."

The senior agent hasn't been trained for technological change. New products on the market? They haven't been TSA approved. Probably shouldn't be permitted. He requires me to open the "device" and run a program. I do, and despite his inclination, the lead agent decides to release me and my troublesome laptop. My flight is long gone now, so I head for the service center to get rebooked.

Here's the tragic part. The author of this post has surrendered so much of his humanity, having to deal with TSA (and hotels and other trappings of frequent travel) so often, that he titled his post "Steve Jobs made me miss my flight."

How is the appalling behavior of TSA goons (or do I repeat myself) Steve Jobs' fault? Did Apple force this traveler to purchase their product? Is it somehow their responsibility to educate government troglodytes that computers don't need a hard drive any more? Or could it be, just possibly, that the real problem here are the TSA agents who enjoy near-absolute power over the helpless travelers? Just a thought, there.

(hat tip to Manuel Lora at the LRC Blog)

1 comment:

Peter said...

This is terrible. Going to the airport is like going to the dry cleaners; you lose everything.