“I am an apteryx, a large flightless bird with hairy feathers.”
An app is a thingie you put on your thingie — er, your smartphone — to get it to do smart things.
As a smartphone is really just a glorified computer, the history of apps must go back to the early days of computing, when the computer was a refrigerator-sized assembly of printed circuit boards, fans to keep it from overheating, and tiny backplane wires soldered on top to try to get it to do the same thing twice in a row.
In those days, the marketeers started asking, "What is the application for this?" — meaning, "How in Hell are we ever going to sell them?" Engineering, on the other hand, had no time for such questions. It was spending all its time trying to devise ways for the machine to finish booting before the read heads wore all the way through the surface of the disk. The way to sell them, surely, was to tell the customer how proud he would feel when he got it to its feet without no console error messages at all.
The first-ever app was keyed in, in less than an hour, on the eighteen toggle switches on the front of the computer. It imparted the earth-shaking delight of seeing clever things happen on the twelve tiny light bulbs just above. However, there was no app storage. If you wanted to run the same app tomorrow, and did not want to key it in again, you kept the computer and its fans running all night. Electricity was expensive in those days but, fortunately, no one knew how expensive.
After all these problems were solved, real apps began to develop. Even the early apps were life-changing:
- Pong let you play table tennis against your computer, by using the light pen to guide the ball. The scientists who wanted to use the computer to "run some numbers" simply had to wait their turn.
- VisiCalc was a pathbreaking app that let a computer display a spreadsheet. Change any number and — groan! — the computer would chug through the entire page and change the other numbers to fit, sometimes in less than a minute.
The success of these apps increased the call for more — perhaps, someday, a typewriter that let you do something other than rip the paper out, ball it up, and throw it in the trash when your typos exceeded the available supply of Tipp-X.® Unfortunately, there was not enough memory to think about processors processing anything but numbers.
Fast forward to the modern era, as one writes when one is pretending one is writing a screenplay rather than an Uncyclopedia article. That refrigerator is now small and light enough to be in a pocket or on a belt clip, the tiny wires soldered onto the outside are gone, and it is not hot to the touch (except when the batteries are defective). However, modern users, like their grandparents, are still wondering, "What can I do with this?"
Through the wonder of apps, that glass piece of flatbread in your pocket can do a multiplicity of different things, so that you don't have to pack so many separate pieces of flatbread that people would think you were really glad to see them. Apps play music, surf the web, do all the things you used to do at the desktop to tune out your spouse, meaning you can now tune out your spouse anywhere.
Apps each come in an
.APX (APteryX) file, which anyone can install in a cellphone even when one doesn't intend to. Apps have access to the myriad powers of the cellphone, such as to determine where you are, where you are headed, and how fast; to make a phone call to their creator; and to use text-to-speech to tell their creator exactly what kind of sales pitch would be most effective on you, and what type of woman would be most likely to make you abandon the day's errands and fail to return home.
Commercial businesses race to get cellphone users to install apps. It is no longer enough to surf the internet to find out what they have to say; you need to let them plant program code inside your cellphone. Then they can use the computer, camera, and microphone to determine what you probably want to hear. In this way, pioneers like Jeff Bezos envisioned building a machine that would "figure out what you want to buy before you realize it" and talk you into it if you resist. They are the modern equivalent of the Rings of Power with which Sauron conquered the Kings of Western Jeunesse.
|“||One app to rule them all,
One app to find them,
One app to bring them all
And in the darkness, bind them.
—The Dark LORD