S U C K

"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 16 June 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 
 
 
 

Dwelling Machine, Sweet Dwelling Machine

 

[This is Bill Gates new house.  New Jersey has less Geography.  I think it requires as much power consumption as the entire country of Costa Rica.]

Bill Gates's boxy, bulked-up

bungalow lacks the Jetsonic

streamlining of past Houses of

the Future, but beneath the

exquisite hardwood walls, a

digital nervous system assures

the kind of gracious,

friction-free lifestyle which

makes it the future House of the

Future. Personalized music and

climate control automatically

follow you from room to room,

huge video screens supply a

constant flow of ambient

imagery, and a 21st-century

global positioning system keeps

track of Jim Barksdale and Larry

Ellison's every move. (Actually,

this last feature is only

rumored to exist.)

 

[This is a picture of a Ticketmaster banner with two butts on it.  I always though that the name Ticketmaster has a a sort of S&M quality to it.]

It's how we all want to live now:

remote but wired, over-mediated,

air-conditioned, mood enhanced,

revelling in the excess space of

unused rooms and the giddy pride

of unnecessary possessions.

Gates' tech-nouveau-riche

contemporaries have provided

additional aspirational

examples. With typical,

my-deck-is-bigger-than-your-deck

swagger, they're all battling to

see who can build the hugest

he-mansion these days. (Because

Gates shares his domicile with

his wife and child, his

mogul-per-square-foot ratio

(MPSFR) is actually relatively

low.) Microsoft chief programmer

Charles Simonyi lives alone in a

20,000-square-foot bachelor pad;

Paul Allen has a 74,000

square-foot compound that at

last report he shared only with

his mom. Larry Ellison,

exercising the restraint of a

true California Zen priest, is

in the process of recreating a

samurai village that tops out at

a mere 16,000 square feet. This

leaves him dangerously close to

arch-rival Gates' MPSFR of

16,000, but Ellison's village

will allegedly feature a

sophisticated marriage-proposal

blocking system, designed to

prevent the rash acquisition of

a fourth future-ex-wife.

 

But even though these houses are

lavishly accessorized with the

requisite futuristic

technogadgetry - Simonyi's has

so many dials and switches and

little blinking lights that he

likens it to living in a

submarine - they're actually

quite different from yesterday's

Houses of the Future. In the

past, a strong strain of

egalitarianism served as the

House of the Future's

metaphorical foundation; it was

invariably presented as a

utopiate of the masses, a

revolutionary structure made of

glass, aluminum, inflatable

fabric - almost anything but

wood - that brought efficient,

affordable, maintenance-free

living to everyone.

 

[This photo harkens back to the yester year, with golden hues and odd architecture.]

In the early 1900s, for example,

Thomas Edison developed a way to

pump concrete into house-sized

molds. Retail price for these

just-add-water dwellings was

supposed to be US$300, making

home ownership an option for, in

Edison's words, even the

"poorest man among us." R.

Buckminster Fuller had similar

intentions for the series of

prefabricated metal houses he

designed from the 1920s through

the 1940s. These hamster-cage

habitats had names like the

"Dymaxion Deployment Unit" and

the somewhat homier "Dymaxion

Dwelling Machine"; the latter

consisted entirely of

factory-made metal components

weighing less than 10 pounds

each. It was the ultimate

weekend project, an entire house

that you could build yourself.

For the Amish misanthrope, this

would have been a godsend, but

apparently Fuller missed that

market. Only one Dymaxion house

exists today; it's on display at

the Henry Ford Museum in

Dearborn, Michigan.

 

[This image is the Rand McnAlly of all images.  If you want to know where the kitchen is, just get a broswer that supports images.]

That these Houses of the Future

failed to catch on simply

reinforces the first law of

irrationality - when we dream,

we want to dream big. So what if

the typical Chez Gates bathroom

is larger than any house we're

ever likely to actually own;

that's something we'd rather not

think about. Perhaps this is

why, in recent years, many

mainstream-oriented Houses of

the Future have concentrated on

systems and products, rather

than the actual structure of the

house itself. Case in point: a

recent exhibit in San Francisco

called CyberHome 2000 that was a

"home" in name only - the

display was actually set up in

an art gallery.

 

Sponsored by ComputerLife

magazine and Intel, this

particular House of the Future

looked remarkably like a Good

Guys showroom or a South Park

start-up; there were video

screens in every room. At the

front door, a video doorbell

broadcast your arrival. In the

kitchen, there was a networked

flat-screen display running IBM

HomeCenter software. In the

"family room," there was a PC

Theater unit from Compaq that

combined a 36-inch TV with a 200

MHz Pentium. In the "living

room," there was an $18,999

flat-screen plasma display

TV/data monitor from QFTV. In

the, uh, other "family room,"

there was a prototype unit from

IBM that was being billed as a

"digital hearth."

 

Despite its high-minded goal to

revive the family unit,

Cyberhome 2000 managed to

completely ignore the

housing-for-everyone angle. In

fact, it and other smart homes

are designed to increase housing

prices. By bundling overpriced

computer equipment with their

properties, real estate

developer West Venture Homes in

southern California has been

able to jack up the price of a

$225,000 house by as much as

$26,000.

 

[This is a logo for a homeless org.  It's ironic, beacuse their logo is made up of a drawing of a home.  Makes you think.]

Alas, with a shortage of between

4 and 5 million affordable

housing units throughout the

country, and with poverty

levels and home prices

continuing to increase, some

might argue the house of the

future for many people is likely

to be a rented apartment, or

even worse, one of the boxes

used to ship the mega-gadgets

used by Gates, Ellison, Simonyi,

and the like. Or maybe the

mobile future will translate

into an update on the

Buckminster's metal hot-rod as

the shopping cart becomes the

wheeled habitat for both the

downtrodden and downsized.

 

With company reps on hand to

pitch their various products,

CyberHome 2000 suggested a

hyper-consumerist,

hyper-mediated new world - but

its vision of the future was not

totally devoid of the humanist

aspirations that generally mark

the typical house of the future.

Indeed, in making one's house

more like one's workplace,

CyberHome 2000 may encourage all

those workaholic women and men

who, according to Arlie Russell

Hochschild in her new book The

Time Bind, prefer to spend more

time at the office than they do

at home. With its high-speed

Internet connections, in-wall

wiring, and surplus of networked

PCs, CyberHome 2000 offers a

passable facsimile of the

hard-to-leave workplace:

Families could use IBM

HomeDirector to plan meetings

and coordinate project

schedules; they could exchange

inane email all day long over

the kitchen-net; they could

accuse each other of fucking up

the fax machine. All that's

missing is co-workers; maybe

that's why there's so many

seemingly redundant media rooms

in CyberHome 2000: Mark and

Wendy from accounting need some

space of their own.

 
 
 
courtesy of St. Huck
 
 
 

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