You’d be forgiven for thinking that the designs of William Morris – his trellises and willows and honeysuckles – are a little out-of-date and irrelevant. Popular designs like Strawberry Thief adorn cushions and mugs, but do they really fit the modern interior? Surprisingly, not only have these botanical themes made a massive comeback, but Morris himself has been enjoying a new wave of popularity – as an environmental prophet and anarchist.
Nobody uses the word computerized anymore. Its disappearance owes not to the end of computerization itself, but to the process’ near-completeness. Now that we all walk around with computers in our pockets (see also the fate of the word portable), we expect every aspect of life to involve computers in one way or another. But in 1967, the very idea of computers got people dreaming of the far-flung future, not least because most of them had never been near one, let alone brought one into their home.
In 1979, when Sony introduced the Walkman—a 14-ounce cassette player, blue and silver with buttons that made a satisfying chunk when pushed—even the engineers inside Sony weren’t impressed. It wasn’t particularly innovative; cassette players already existed, and so did headphones. Plus, the Walkman could only play back—it couldn’t record. Who was going to want a device like that?
In times of deep distress I’ve often found the brutal, unsparing candor of Friedrich Nietzsche a strange comfort. While wholly enamored of the aristocratic, Hellenistic past of literary invention, the often bilious German philosopher nonetheless had no illusions about the nature of power, which does as it will and is not held in check by what we take for common values.