Left To My Own Devices

Memoirs of a wired student

1999 Apple has 160 campus reps spread across the country. They are missionaries hoping to convert the uninitiated to the truth of Steven Jobs's vision. U.S. Robotics' PalmPilots move from the boardroom to the classroom in record time. Others hold out for the new Visors from Handspring, which have modular capabilities to accommodate constant tech innovations—such as the superhot MP3s, perfect for music-obsessed college students who have already burned CDs ad infinitum.

In early January iMacs come out in five colors, a peacock flourish for this campus juggernaut. Apple's success lies with its intuitive grasp of cutting-edge appeal without the intimidation factor, whether it's including DVD players within the newest iMacs or introducing stylish flat screens as part of the G4's new look. The combination of technical prowess and sleek design is akin to the melding of VH-1 with the fashion world. Students are wooed and comforted by the prevalence of the brand on campuses and the user-friendly OS. But while students live in the ideological collegiate bubble, they can afford to indulge Apple's Wonka-like confections.

The live Webcam plays on the desire to be the center of attention, however mundane the activity. At WebcamNow.com, college kids can download free software to use with their little image makers. (Meanwhile, 23-year-old Jennifer Ringley, a Web designer in D.C., is raking in paid subscriptions from some of the 4.5 million hits a day her JenniCam site gets.)

Mac attack: Classic rocks.
photo courtesy of Apple Computer, Inc.
Mac attack: Classic rocks.

It all seems to culminate in WebDorm—the first online interactive Webcam environment that allows students to build worldwide communities using live cameras and chat. It's The Real World set to the monotony of college life. In the end, it's somehow appropriate that students, with their hunger for whatever's new, become the very thing they seek. They become technology.

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