Welcome to Election Purgatory

Welcome to Election Purgatory

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Approximately infinity years ago, in a 2006 TED talk, the computer scientist Jeff Han demonstrated a new kind of touch-driven display. First he wiggled all 10 fingertips against a big screen attached to a drafting desk, and then the display responded to all of them at once, as if he were scratching the belly of a puppy instead of operating a computer. During the 10 minutes that followed, Han demoed then-futuristic uses for the device: Heating and sculpting a molten ore model, zooming and moving photographs as if on a light table, typing on a virtual keyboard, controlling a hand-drawn puppet. “I really think this is going to change the way we interact with machines from this point on,” Han said.

Two years later, in 2008, CNN’s John King manipulated a version of Han’s screen on election night. Dubbed the “Magic Wall,” King tapped and zoomed in and out of U.S. states, narrating a historic outcome: As county after county’s results filled in the blanks of previously Republican states such as Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and North Carolina, John McCain had no path to victory. Barack Obama would become the 44th president of the United States.

Something monumental had happened between these two events. After Han’s 2006 demo and before King’s 2008 broadcast, Steve Jobs introduced a similar multi-touch technology in a much smaller package. He called it the iPhone.