For reasons I cannot explain, I thought it was cool. I didn’t have a science background, I wasn’t an engineer, and I have always hated math. A few years later, the company wanted to sell the Altair, and I almost bought it. But in 1980, I bought this thing instead – a Sinclair ZX80:
It had one kilobyte of RAM, an awkwardly tiny membrane keypad (I’ve placed a quarter on the case as an indicator of size), and you had to hook it up to a black-and-white TV set which functioned as the monitor. If you wrote a program, you had to store it on a cassette tape player. It wasn’t properly grounded, so every time I touched it after walking across the carpet, it would get zapped by the static discharge and reset. I loved it.
A few years ago, BMW bought the British company that made the Mini Cooper and introduced it to the American market. It was a squat, boxy little car that had about as much curb appeal as a motor scooter. A guy I know who has a normal supply of testosterone confused me when he told me that he thought they were cool.
I now realize that the concept of coolness is irrational and totally subjective. Throughout my life, I’ve met numerous people with irrational fears. One woman I know used to be an Israeli tank commander, but she will run screaming if she sees a snake. It seems that desire and fear are somehow related, and dwell comfortably in the irrational zone of our limbic system.
This would explain a lot of things, actually. For example, it would help to explain why some women date abusive men. Or why some men engage in risky, thrill-seeking activities.
But now that I understand this strange relationship, I’ve developed a new fear: The fear of the next thing that I think is cool.