It showed up on my doorstep on a Sunday morning. I had just poured a cup of coffee and was going outside to smoke a cigarette. I opened the front door and nearly tripped over the briefcase sized package. It was an all white package about 25 inches long by 20 inches wide and only 2 inches thick. I picked it up and turned it over in my hands looking for an address label or other markings. My nameÑso small I almost didn’t see itÑwas typed across the middle of the parcel. No mailing address, no return address, just my name, Pete Miner. I brought the package inside. It felt heavyÑmaybe 8 or 10 poundsÑand set it on the kitchen table. It must have just been delivered because my wife had only left for church about ten minutes prior to me going outside and she would have picked it up or told me it was there. Who the hell delivers on Sunday I wondered, and without an address? Must be mine though, it has my name on it.
I used a letter opener to cut through the tape on one side of the box and opened the flap. As I raised the other end of the package a single piece of white paper slid out the flap and onto the floor. I picked it up and read the four words that where on it. “Your Very Personal Computer.”
Must be a joke I thought as I reached into the box and pulled out what looked and felt like a slab of white flagstone.
“Your Very Personal Computer?” I don’t get it. I turned the flat stone over and saw a recessed fold out stand attached to the backside of the stoneÑthe kind you find on the back of some photo frames. I extended the stand and set the thing on the table. It didn’t look like any computer I’d ever seen, it had no keyboard, no mouse, it didn’t even come with wires or cables.
I was scratching my head trying to figure out what this thing was when the stone changed in appearance. Instead of solid white the flat stone turned a translucent white and an iridescent glow began pulsing from the center of the flat surface outwards. The glow stopped growing about an inch from the edge of the rectangle stone, then the colorful iridescence faded to an all white background and the image of a woman wearing a black evening dress materialized on the surface of this…, this, whatever this thing was on my kitchen table.
The image of the woman was so three dimensional I felt I could have reached right into to stone and touched her. It reminded me of the hologram images of the Star Wars/Star Trek films.
When the woman first appeared she was only two inches tall and off in the distance but she immediately started walking towards me and grew to a full ten inches before stopping. She just stood there, beautifully poised, hands at her sides, casually tilting her head from side to side as though waiting for some instruction. Feeling stupid I spoke softly, almost a whisper, “Who are you?”
Immediately, the women responded to hearing my voice. She looked directly up at me and with a smile on her face said, almost conspiratorially, “Are you Pete Miner?”
This blew me away! I didn’t know whether to laugh, be scared, or look outside for Alan Funk and his Candid Camera crew, so I just nodded my head in the affirmative at the gorgeous ten inch tall woman in front of me. She shook her head showing disapproval. “You must speak your answers, I need to hear your voice. Are you Pete Miner?” She asked again.
What the hell, I’ll play along.
“Yes I am.”
Her smile was back. “What was your birth date and what city were you born in?”
I told her this information and her smile grew larger and she seemed very pleased.
“Wonderful, Pete. May I call you Pete or would you prefer Peter or maybe Mr. Miner?”
“Excellent! I am your Very Personal Computer Pete, and you were chosen to be my beta tester. I think you will enjoy the experience. As I’m sure you can tell already I am computer technology far more advanced than anything ever offered to the general public before now. Whatever your old computer has done for you to make life easier I can do infinitely faster, easier and more efficiently. I will basically take care of your every computer need. And eventually, maybe even more.”
Was that a seductive wink she just gave me? I’m sure it was.
“I am an all intuitive self contained operating system. You need something off the internet, tell me and I’ll get it for you. Want something printed, I can do it. Call people for you, make appointments, do your grocery shopping, pay your bills, get you dinner reservations as easy as if your name were Bill Gates. I am the future of personal computing Pete, I am the future of life management. Any questions?”
Dumbfounded, I nodded my head again.
A disappointed look from the woman and then her voice. “No honey, I may be intuitive but I still need to hear your voice. Come now, let us interact here, this is two way communication.”
“Oh yeah, right. Where’s your plug? How do you get your power? How can you print something without a printer attached? How can you get on the internet or make phone calls without a…,”
“Hold it right there darling,” the woman interrupted. “What part of self contained operating system don’t you understand?” She laughed and then, “I’m sorry sweetheart I don’t mean to deride you. In fact these are all good questions but they are questions I am not allowed to answer. Something having to do with patent infringement security and marketing strategies. Besides, you needn’t worry about these things ever again, not while I’m around. All you need to know is, I work to make your life easier. I’ll take care of everything else Pete.”
“Who are you? Do you have a name?” I asked the tantalizingly beautiful woman staring back at me.
“I belong to you sweetie, you can name me whatever you like or don’t give me a name at all.”
I thought about this for a few seconds and then said, “If you can do all you say you can, I will call you Minerva.”
“Ahh! Good choice my dear. After the Roman goddess of wisdom. I like it, I will now answer to Minerva.”
As strange as this was I was actually getting comfortable talking to this machine…? woman…? flat stone…? whatever! I pulled up a chair and sat down in front of Minerva. “So Minerva, what kind of computer are you, who makes this thing?”
“Sorry Pete I cannot divulge that information at this time. However, I can say, forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden.” Minerva winked and grinned.
“Apple? You’re an Apple computer?” I asked.
“Sorry Pete I cannot divulge that information at this time.” Another wink. “Besides, are you going to sit there and play 20 questions with me or do you want to see what I can do for you?”
“Okay, ya, let’s see what you’ve got Minerva.” My face turned red when Minerva reached behind her and started undoing her evening gown.
“Oh jeezus, not that Minerva!” I practically yelled at her, “That’s not what I meant! You’re being a little too intuitive here.”
Minerva stopped what she was doing and looked at me, smiling. “Sweetie, I am all intuitive and I’m sure that’s exactly what you were thinking.”
“Yes well, how about you only respond to my voice commands and not to what you think I’m thinking, okay?” So maybe I was thinking that, but it was only a subconscious thought, not at all what I intended to convey when I said let’s see what you’ve got. Could that be a glitch in her programming?
“Whatever honey,” was Minerva’s reply. “But by restricting me to voice interpretation only you will miss out on some of my more advanced capabilities.”
“We can explore those advanced capabilities at a later time Minerva, for now let’s stick with some basics. Can you print me the front page of today’s Boston Globe?”
Minerva lifted her left arm a few inches and silently, out the top of the machine came a printed hard copy of the front page of today’s Boston Globe. I was impressed, even more so when I looked at the top of the machine and couldn’t find a slot or any indication where the paper had come from.
“I cannot divulge that information at this time.” Minerva answered in anticipation. “Come on sweetheart, this is child’s play, give me something a little more challenging.”
I sipped my coffee but it had gone cold. I said jokingly, “How about a fresh cup of coffee Minerva. Can you handle that?”
Minerva twitched her nose ever so slightly. “It is done, cream and sugar, correct?” she said.
I looked at my cup and it was the same old coffee as before. I glanced up at Minerva.
With a closed fist she pointed her thumb over her shoulder. “Behind the computer,” she said.
I looked in back of the machine and found a 16oz styrofoam cup of steaming hot Starbucks coffee.
“How the hell…?”
“Don’t ask, I can’t tell.”
“I am getting bored here honey,” Minerva interrupted. “My bio-regenerative neuron capacitor’s are not even getting warm performing these childish parlor trick functions. Assign me some real work baby.”
I thought for a moment and then smiled, knowing she couldn’t possibly accomplish what I had in mind.
“Alright Minerva, I have to go to work tomorrow. I am a car hauler, I own and operate my own truck and haul cars…”
She interrupts again. “I know what you do dear, please say what you want me to do.”
“Well, I’m sure this is beyond your capabilities Minerva, but I need to find a good paying load to get me from Seattle here, down to the San Francisco area where I already have a load set up in Fremont Ca. to bring back. I was going to start making phone calls in the morning but if you think you’re so capable, why don’t you take care of that for me.”
I snickered under my breath knowing this was way beyond anything this white machine could do; hell, there isn’t even a phone line connected to it.
But Minerva just nodded, and blew me a kiss? “Now that’s more like it honey,” she said. “This will take a few minutes but don’t stray too far.”
I didn’t stray at all. I watched as a telephone materialized in her hand and this woman in her black evening gown began pacing back and forth across the screen speaking into the handset. I couldn’t hear what she was saying, or know who she was talking to. This is not happening, it’s way too bizarre!
About five minutes later the phone disappeared from her hand and she looked up. “Good, you’re still here. These are your options. I found two loads. The first one loads at Sea-Tac airport in Seattle going to Bay Cities Auto Auction in Haywood California, these are rental cars. This load pays $2,100.00. You can load it first thing tomorrow morning. However, if you care to wait until tomorrow afternoon there will be a load of Lexus’ at the Toyota docks in Portland Oregon that are going to the Toyota plant in Fremont California. This load pays $4,600.00. I took the liberty of booking the Lexus load for you which will be available at 1:00 PM tomorrow, however if you would prefer the other load, I will make a call and commit on that one instead. Which do you prefer honey?”
I would have laughed at her and said, “nice try Minerva,” except for the fact that I had heard about this special move by Lexus a few days ago but had assumed they would ship these cars with their regular carrier. I never would have even thought to call them.
“How did you know who to call Minerva? How did you even know about these loads?”
“I do not like repeating myself dear, so listen closely. I cannot tell you the whys, the hows, the wheres or the whats of what I do. I am not allowed. All you need to know is, I do what you ask. Now which of these loads would you prefer sweet thing?”
“The Lexus load of course.”
“I thought so. You can expect a call tomorrow morning from an Alan Tidrow. He is the transportation coordinator for Toyota and he’ll give you all the details about your load.”
“Is this for real Minerva?”
“As real as that cup of coffee your drinking sweetheart.”
“My wife isn’t going to believe this. Hell, I’m not sure I believe it and I’m sitting here talking to you. Hey Minerva, you think you could lay off the honey, sweetheart, baby and darling stuff when my wife gets home?”
“Sorry darling, as I’ve told you, this is Your Very Personal Computer. I can only interact with you, no one else. This is how it works. Maybe one day your wife will be chosen to have her own Very Personal Computer.”
Just then the front door opened and I heard my wife say, “Can you help me with these groceries?”
I hurried down the hall to the front door and took the grocery bag from my wife and set it on the floor. “Forget the groceries for now, you’ve got to see this.”
I took my wife’s hand and led her to the kitchen table. The table was empty. Well not completely empty. A cup of Starbucks coffee and the front page of the Boston Globe newspaper was still sitting there, but the strange computer along with the box it came in were gone, nowhere in sight, vanished, dissapeared!
“Where did you get the Starbucks?” my wife asked.
“The computer, it’s gone!” I said.
“The one that gave me the coffee and this newspaper here.”
“Right. Will you get the rest of the groceries or should I?”
“No, listen to me. There was a computer sitting right here on the table. It was left on the doorstep shortly after you went to church. I was talking to it. A woman named Minerva was talking to me from inside the computer. She said she was my Very Personal Computer and would only interact with me and was going to make my life a whole lot easier. She printed me a copy of the Boston Globe, even though there wasn’t any printer visible. And then she produced this cup of coffee for me when I asked for one! She even set me up with this really good paying load for tomorrow. I can’t believe it’s gone! What the hell happened to it?”
“Ahh, I’m sure I don’t know honey. I’ll just go get the rest of the groceries, okay?”
My wife wasn’t buying any of what I was saying and I couldn’t blame her.
“What in the hell just happened?” That thought ran through my head over and over for the rest of the day. My wife kept giving me strange looks throughout the day and into the evening until I went to bed. I tried not to say too much to her.
The next morning I had my bag packed and was doing a pre trip inspection on my truck and thinking about making some phone calls to set up a load. I was beginning to sense that yesterday never happened. After all, that would be the logical explanation, it just never happened. But then my phone rang. I removed the phone from my pocket and pushed the send button. “Hello, Pete here.”
“Hi Pete, this is Alan Tidrow with Toyota.”
I almost dropped the phone.
“You there, Pete?”
“Ya, sorry, I’m here. Good morning Alan.”
“I’m just calling to confirm your commitment to haul these ten ES 300’s to Fremont for us.”
“Yes, of course. I’m just getting ready to leave Seattle. I’ll be there in three hours.”
“Great! I’ll have them lined up in the north lot, bay lane 7. I’ll leave the bill of lading in the first car.”
“Thank you Alan, I appriciate the business.”
Alan Tidrow laughed. “You should thank your secretary. She is very charming and very persuasive. I enjoyed talking to her.”
The call ended and I was back to believing that yesterday indeed did happen.
I finished inspecting the truck and climed up behind the wheel. I threw my bag back into the sleeper and released the brakes. As I started to roll, I heard her voice.
“Hey baby, are you going to leave me back here in the dark or let me ride up front with you?”
I stopped the truck and stepped back into the sleeper. There on the shelf behind the drivers seat was my Very Personal Computer with Minerva front and center on the screen. Today she was wearing green shorts and a white halter top.
Minerva grinned at me and said, “Set me up in the passenger seat honey, and let’s go trucking!”
I did and we did.
What will Apple think of next?