When the PC is programmed to tell jokes, Apple has to do the exact opposite — like kick-start a silent revolution

It’s official — man goes into sleep mode without a computer in his life. From doing his work for him, playing him music and keeping him entertained, to helping him with his shopping, his finances, his banking and his social life, the device has become indispensable to man. And it was this realisation that set the stage for a milestone event.

Contrary to popular belief, the first digital revolution happened when the computer replaced the dog as man’s best friend. It could do everything that its canine rival could do — it could roll over with a mouse over and play dead. It could spin circles around him, get into an endless loop and drive him mad. It could get totally bug-infected and yet not allow him to clean it up. It could even fetch the e-newspaper every morning. And to top it all, there were the unbelievable brownie points that it scored over the mutt. It didn’t have to be let out every morning to do its thing. And it didn’t have to be neutered for fear of little tablets running around the place.

But dogs can’t tell jokes, while a computer can. To prove this, a team of scientists from the University of Edinburgh decided to programme a computer and make it a complete companion. (This is further proof that man and his computer are mutually compatible — think back to the 90s when there was this famous ‘Made for each other’ campaign featuring a couple where the lady was reading out from the Official Polish Joke Book and regaling her partner. Now, replace the duo with a man and his computer — there would no longer be any need for the joke book. QED.)

So the team wrote some cutting-edge software that made the computer come up with funny one-liners, thus establishing the fact that computers not only had a memory, but also a sense of humour. (It’s a different matter that the jokes were not appreciated by the target groups on which they were tested, but it’s just a matter of time before the project gets bought over by Google and is revamped and launched as Giggle, the joke finder.)

Interestingly, a major chunk of those who didn’t enjoy the jokes were Apple fans. It’s difficult to find out if the Apple brigade didn’t find the jokes funny because they came from a PC or because they found them tasteless. (“Offensive jokes from a PC? Why are we not surprised? It’s been a long while since Windows shut the door on aesthetics.”) So, inspired by their fans, Apple came up with the perfect response — total silence. While the PC was making a noise about its new-found ability to create jokes, Apple quietly came up with the silent disco app.

‘Silent disco’ works by synchronising music and songs amongst a group of people who can listen to it on headphones or through their personal devices. But Apple’s new technology, referred to as the roving DJ, uses the digital information of a song and matches it with all songs similar to it, so each person can dance to his favourite song playing from his device instead of everyone listening to the same song. There’s more — the digital network created amongst users can be accessed by Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, so a party can happen across the city, with people listening in from wherever they are. It would also be possible for people to take turns as DJs, just to ensure that the same person does not end up choosing the songs to be played.

And now, the battle lines are drawn and the jury is still out on which of the two people would fancy more — walking their computer on a leash or taking an apple to the disco.

sureshl.india@gmail.com

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