The flash drive exposes the great lie of technological progress, which is the idea that things are ever really left behind. It’s not just that an obsolete technology from the year of Saturday Night Fever still lurks unseen in the dank corners of a shiny new MacBook; it’s that it’s something that is relied upon regularly. The technology historian Thomas Hughes calls these types of devices “reverse salients”—those things that interrupt and disturb the forward movement of technology. They reveal the ugly truth that lies behind each slick new presentation from Google, Apple, or Microsoft: Technical systems are cobbled together from left-over pieces, digital Frankenstein’s monsters in which spare parts and leftovers are awkwardly sutured together and pressed into service. It turns out that the emblems of the technological future are much more awkwardly bound to the past than it’s comfortable to admit.
Read the full story at The Atlantic.