Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Technology "Cool" Gap

For me, not all technology is equally cool. What do I mean by that? In this case, “cool” is all about whether I want to know more about the technology and find it interesting to learn about. And some things are simply cooler than others.

For example, on a “cool” scale from 1 to 10, my smartphone would get a 6 and my refrigerator probably a 2 or 3. (Which doesn't mean I appreciate the fridge any less seeing as I would rather go without my phone for a week than without my fridge.) In my head, technology has a whole range of cool.

In thinking about that I started comparing technologies I think of as cool versus those I don't. So I decided to do a rough graph of average technology cool factor by era:

Clearly time period plays a huge role. Ancient Baghdad Battery? Totally cool! Modern batteries? Eh. On the other hand, the average for modern technology is probably around 5 to 7, but for future tech? Well, I only have two words: flying cars!

But you can see that the least cool time period, for me, is the Industrial Revolution. Now why is that? Is it a gender conditioning thing? Girls aren't supposed to like trains and gears and pistons and all that? Is it brainwashing from reading Lord of the Rings at an early age? Trees good! Factories bad! Is it the fact that we always studied that time period at the end of the school year when all I wanted was to be out for the summer? Or is it just the idea of all that dirt and smoke and grease? Ick, ick, ick!

Whatever the reason, that time period has a clear “cool” gap. And it has a major effect on my literary preferences. Because of the cool gap, I prefer reading science fiction set in the ancient past or far future. Because of the cool gap, I'm not a big fan of steampunk. Give me some well-designed ancient tech or future tech, though, and you have my full attention. Because of the cool gap, my next book will be set on a clipper ship instead of a steamship.

Does anybody else have a cool gap? Where is yours? What technology do you find interesting or boring?


  1. It seems rather ironic that you chose the refrigerator to be "not cool."

  2. I never thought of it this way, but I think my cool gap is pretty much the same as yours. Ancient past, or future - way cool. ;) The whole steam punk thing holds no appeal for me at all.

  3. Interesting... I wonder how many people would say the same thing.