EMP's Museum-Grade Technology


I really didn't think much of it until I got comfortable before the keynote situation. But, when I asked the fellow to my left what he thought about the panel discussion we'd just experienced, he hit the nail right on the head: What is going on with the technology around here?

This gentleman, who had already presented his own paper earlier at EMPSFM's Pop Conference, said that problems with technology -- namely juggling presenters' laptops -- had been many. It's true, three of the four presenters we'd just sat through had to stop traffic and call in support. Alright, to be fair (for the first time), it must be a pain to have been founded by the co-creator of Microsoft. People must expect all the computers and technology-related gadgets to work great all the time, just like Microsoft's.

But, it got worse.

During the evening's finale, Seattle-native and former EMP curator, Ann Powers, now the chief pop-music critic for the LA Times, interviewed Diane Warren, the woman who penned Aerosmith's biggest hit, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." During the interview, Powers played several of Warren's hits on an iPod. OK, she tried to play them through an iPod. "Lemme see if I can figure out this iPod." Um, really? The whip-smart music critic for the LA Times can't work an iPod? Isn't that like Einstein not being able to tie his shoe? She wasn't kidding. Several times she had to summon help to switch and select tracks. She even suggested that an EMP staffer join her on stage to man the iPod. And at one point Powers quipped, "I hope no one from, like, Apple is here." Damn, Paul Allen must be rolling over in his artificial grass!

Alright, so it probably wasn't Powers' iPod. She's probably the Zune user. I sure as shit am not hip to what the kids are up to now. (After a disappointing MySpace experience, I passed on Facebook, but embrace Twitter with all fours.)

But, EMP's always had a technology problem. It just hasn't always been on their end.

When the joint opened in the summer of 2000 (you remember the Kid Rock/Eminem/Metallica concert) I was one of the early employees (that is to say I started a few days before the place opened), working as a customer service rep. Once the place opened (you remember Papa Allen smashed a Chihuly), my chums and I passed out and instructed visitors on the MEGs. I don't remember what MEG stood for, but she was beautiful. She was also a bit on the heavy side. But, in this case that literally meant there was more of her to love. And the skinny bitch who replaced her just ain't the same. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

MEG was a computer developed by, who else, Vulcan. You wore her like a colonoscopy bag. When you pointed the remote control at one of the guitar picks in the displays, it played information on the item through your headphones. It was sweet. Whenever people whined about EMP not being worth it, inevitably they hadn't used their MEG. MEG's problems were many: she froze up constantly, she was heavy, and did I mention she froze up constantly. But, it was soooo cool and useful, it really was ahead of its time (and technology).

Later, MEG was sold to customers as an add-on. And last year, sadly, MEG was put out to pasture, replaced by iPod minis, which don't have as much information and aren't nearly as much fun or convenient. Kind of a bummer. EMP's still worth the $15, or whatever. It's just not the same without old MEG.

Plus, if your guide is an iPod, how's the LA Times' music critic gonna find her way around?

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