It was at the Cincinnati V-Twin Expo in February of 2006 that I stared straight into the face of the future, though I didn’t know it at the time. What it looked like was an elaborate custom creation from an outfit called Vin Pin Choppers that incorporated discreetly into the build virtually every high-tech gizmo available then, all crowned by an actual touch-screen computer terminal atop the tank that ran the whole show. Included in its repertoire of wizardry were wireless Internet, GPS, XM radio, MP3, television, video player, Bluetooth cell phone, car-cam, radar detector and—for all I know—an ultrasonic fish finder. At the time I found the whole Vin Pin concept outlandish and hilarious. Ha ha, I remember saying. But now I’m beginning to realize my hilarity at the time was that of a Kitty Hawk hayseed guffawing at the Wright brothers’ contraption.
In writing about the Vin Pin bike back then, I snarked, “This ride takes telecommuting to a whole new level—one that’s unrecognizable.” In the years since, though, it’s not only become more recognizable, it’s proven to be downright prescient as I’ve found myself getting ever closer to where Vin Pin was in 2006, only in piecemeal fashion; I’ve found myself through both necessity and seduction to be traveling with an astonishing array of techie gadgetry and all the peripheral cords and chargers and such, so much so that I feel at times like a suicide bomber from the Starbucks insurgency.
Yet it’s not just the slick way all those gizmos are centralized and accessible that makes the Vin Pin creation look so brilliant in hindsight, it’s also the way it actually presaged in its own two-wheeled way the broader breakdown of the interface between man and electron in daily existence, where factual memory has been surrendered to search engines and a sense of direction to satellites, and where connectivity is a near-universal obsession—a brave new world of small talk and ephemera. In the Vin Pin context, the rider himself is just part of the whole seamlessly-integrated technology of the machine even to the extent that the bike’s seat might more descriptively be called the “operator dock,” and the motorcycle itself a “motorcyborg.”
We who are about to tweet
Oddly enough, it wasn’t the helter-skelter state of my gadget collection that got me thinking back to the Vin Pin bike recently, it was the “Social Networking” craze that did it. I was resistant to the deal at first, finding the medium every bit as “social” as anything else you might do while utterly engrossed in your digital device utterly alone or utterly ignoring the actual society around you. (Been to an airport lately? As social networking has grown, so has the percentage of people who self-identify their emotional state as “lonely.” I’m just sayin’.)
Nonetheless, I warmed to the idea quickly enough, not wanting to be cast as a cranky old Luddite shaking my cane at the young’uns, and I got heavy into the Facebook tizzy for awhile until I got hacked and somehow sent erroneous offers for free iPads to all of my “friends” which was embarrassing since I actually know some of those people. I was less enthusiastic about Twitter, though, because I impulsively deemed it the death of meaningful prose, thoughtful introspection, and propr spelng.
Silly me. The more I thought it through, the more I realized I’d been hasty in that assessment and that there was, in fact, real potential in Twitter technology for an edgy new style of motojournalism—but only if I took it to the next level. Instead of just waiting until I was off the bike and ensconced in a motel room or diner booth to tweet tedious crap like: TRo_Tpress: I 8 CZR salad w/NchoVz, I’d send off blasts right from the saddle; pithy kernels of authentic real-time road experience to put my readers right in the “fierce urgency of the moment,” as MLKJr tweeted in ’63. (As you can see, I’ve already pretty much mastered the texting shorthand protocol required for this endeavor, since I don’t think it’s safe to spend more time typing in traffic than absolutely necessary. It was a snap for me since, IMHO, it reduces communication to a series of personalized license pl8s and that’s sumthing we at TP know a thing or 2 about.)
And that’s where the visionary genius of the Vin Pin motorcyborg comes in. The way I envision this exciting new approach working is I’ll duct-tape my laptop to the tank and fire up my mini WiFi server to crudely approximate the Vin Pin setup and commence to “tweet from the seat” (TFTS) as I ride, pecking judiciously at the big keyboard and sharing with you, my Twitter followers, the provocative moment-by-moment details of the adventure. What could possibly go wrong? I can already see how that might look on your smart phone:
TRo_Tpress: On I-5 heading to LA. Luvly hiway…Not! LOL.
TRo_Tpress: Oops, missed my Xit while TFTS.
TRo_Tpress: O gr8, sum (_*_) in an SUV just cut me off.
TRo_Tpress: OMG! Tankslapper! OMFG! Culvert!
TRo_Tpress: R father who art in Hvn, HBTN…
It’s all right here in the diaries.