The introduction of paper

A CAVEMAN and a CAVEWOMAN are sitting on stones, huddled around a fire. They are dressed in animal fur clothing. The Caveman is reading a stone slab propped up in front of him.

I'm worried about this new thing that Junior's been using recently.
Oh? Worried about what in particular?
Well, he's been spending a lot of time using it, instead of working on his stone letter carving and his cave painting.
Hmmm, that is concerning. What is this new thing?
It's called "paper". It's made by a bunch of weirdos in the next valley.
"Paper?" Never heard of it. It's not made by that fruity tribe, is it?
Yes, that's the one. They're always thinking different.
(shakes his head)
Why can't people just respect tradition?

Just then Junior walks into the cave. He's wearing a fur hat that flops over behind his head, and elaborate leather sandals. A leather messenger bag is over his shoulder.

Oh, hello, son! We were just talking about you.
Really? What about?
Well, your mother was telling me about this new "paper" stuff you've been using.
(lights up)
Oh yeah! Dad, it's amazing! I love it!
(He strides over to his parents, pulling a few sheets of paper from his messenger bag)
Look! Here's something I've been working on.

The Caveman takes the sheets from his son's hand, a dubious look on his face. He squints down at them.

So this is it, is it? Paper? Not very heavy, is it?
(still enthusiastic)
No, it's light as a feather! It's just brilliant, Dad, I could carry sheets and sheets of it to school, and they would still weigh much less than a slab.
(hand over her mouth)
Oh, you don't use it at school, do you? What do your teachers say?
(turning to her)
Well, they don't really know what to make of it, to be honest. Some of them seem to like it.

The Cavewoman shakes her head and rolls her eyes. Junior looks at her in confusion.

But wait a minute. How do you expect to grow up big and strong if you don't carry slabs of stone around? I have to say I don't like this at all.
Hah! That's the least of your worries. Wait till you see this.
(to her son)
Show your father what you use to write on the paper.

Junior frowns, and takes a thin stick of charcoal out of his messenger bag. He hands it silently to his father.

What? You don't use a hammer and chisel? How on earth do you expect to develop big strong fingers? Why, if you used this to write all the time, I'd be surprised if your fingers didn't wither away and fall off!
God forbid! And another thing, staring at that whiteness can't be good for your eyes. At least stone has a soothing greyness.
(turns to her husband)
And because it's so light and easy to handle, he can switch from one piece of paper to another as easily as you can imagine. Without the discipline of having to move heavy stone slabs around, he can just flit from reading one thing to another in seconds. What it could be doing to his brain I can't imagine.

Junior looks flabbergasted.

But but what you're saying makes no sense!
Don't you talk to your mother like that!
(he gesticulates with the paper in his hand. Unfortunately the paper touches the fire, and promptly bursts into flame)
Oh my God!
(he throws the paper on the floor of the cave)
It burns! Slabs would never do that! This stuff is unbelievably dangerous!
(dashes to rescue the burning paper)
My work! My writing! My drawings!

His father grabs him roughly and drags him off the burning paper.

What are you doing? Are you mad? You'll hurt yourself or worse!
(to his wife)
I think you're right, this awful stuff has driven him insane. I've seen enough. From now on, paper is banned in this cave.

Junior sits weeping on the floor.



The iPad and the other tablets: a parable

As one tablet manufacturer after another spectacularly fails to achieve what they seem to think should be a fairly simple task -- make a competitor for the iPad that takes significant market share -- I am reminded of an old Yiddish folk tale, that goes something like this:

There was once a poor man, who managed to find a job working as a driver for a wealthy merchant. He spent his days driving the merchant in his fine carriage to his appointments around the town. In the evenings, after leaving the carriage at the merchant's opulent mansion, he walked home to his hovel, where his wife had a meagre meal of barley gruel waiting for him; they had not the money for meat.

One evening, however, the driver came home to his wife in a state of great excitement.

"I know how he does it!" he exclaimed.

His wife looked up from the stove. "What do you mean, Yakov? How who does it?"

"Goldstein," said the driver. "When I drove him to his last appointment today, with Shlomo the tailor, instead of waiting in the carriage like I usually do, I went to the window and watched what he did!"

"You foolish man," said his wife crossly. "If he had seen you, Goldstein would have fired you! And then how would we eat?"

"Pah!" replied the driver. "Now that I know Goldstein's secret, I don't need to work any more. Soon we will be as rich as he is!"

"But how?" asked his wife, frowning. "How does Goldstein make so much money?"

"It's so simple! He has a little book, and I saw him open it, and show it to Shlomo the tailor. In it were little pieces of cloth, of all different types, each bound into the book. Shlomo leafed through all the cloth pieces, and then he pointed at a certain one. Goldstein made a note in his diary, and Shlomo gave him a bag of gold coins!"

His wife looked baffled. "Are you certain that is what you saw?"

"As certain as I am that my name is Yakov!"

She nodded. "Well, I have some scraps of cloth here and there, and we could cut some pieces out of the curtains. I could make you a little book like Goldstein's," she said.

So she sat up half the night making a little book out of all the scrap pieces of cloth that she could find around the hovel, and the next morning, just after dawn, Yakov ran eagerly with it to the house of the tailor Shlomo.

"Who are you?" asked Shlomo blearily.

"I am Goldstein's driver!" said Yakov eagerly.

"Oh. Well, in that case, you had better come in," said Shlomo, thinking that Goldstein had sent him with a message or a parcel.

Once in the parlour, Shlomo turned to Yakov. "So what do you have for me?"

With trembling hands, Yakov handed over the little book. Shlomo looked at it, a trifle perplexed, and then started to leaf through the swatches. He shook his head.

"If Goldstein thinks -- "

Yakov interrupted him. "This is
my book. Nothing to do with Goldstein."

Shlomo looked even more perplexed. "
Your book? So what do you want from me?"

Yakov clasped his hands together. "A bag of gold, like the one you gave Goldstein yesterday."

Shlomo threw back his head and laughed out loud. "A bag of gold? For these
shmattas? You must be joking!"

Yakov shook his head angrily. "No, I am not joking. I want a bag of gold! For showing you this little book, just like Goldstein did!"

When Shlomo saw that Yakov was serious, he sat him down at the dining room table. "My dear fellow. You clearly do not understand. Goldstein's little book is his book of samples. He shows it to me so that I can see the quality of the cloth that he has in his warehouse! All of it is much finer stuff than the scraps in your little book, but even so, I would not pay him a copper for his samples. I gave him a bag of gold so that his warehouseman will deliver five hundred bolts of the finest silk to my shop this morning! No other reason. Do you understand?"

But Yakov did not understand. He became even more angry, shouting, accusing Shlomo of treating him unfairly. Shlomo tried to reason with him, but eventually he lost patience, and had his servants throw Yakov out onto the street, where Yakov continued to rage about how stupid and irrational Shlomo was to anyone who would listen. Few would.

The experience of Yakov the driver is similar to that of the other tablet manufacturers. They see Apple reaping great riches from their little iPad, so they decide to create their own tablet computer. They cobble it together from bits of technology that they have lying around, and they show it, hopefully, to the buying public.

"Look!" they say. "It has all the same things as the iPad! A touch screen, an app store, this Android operating system which is just as good as IOS. It's thin and light. It's just the same! So give us bags of gold!"

But unfortunately they do not truly understand the iPad. They are offering, cargo-cult-like, a set of technical specifications to people who want the finest, most beautifully crafted user experience. They think that they can simply cobble together something that looks like an iPad, and they will instantly reap the rewards of Apple's years and years of painstaking product design and development. They really do not have a clue about the true nature of the transactions between Apple and their customers. And they show no inclination to learn.