Forward or Backward: Which Way Does Technology Point You?


Earlier last week North Korea released a few photographs of their new leader, Kim Jong Un, as part of a publicity campaign. One of those photographs showed the young leader sitting at a computer surrounded by a handful of military personnel, generals and such, during a visit to the 1501 Unit of the Korean People’s Army. It looks like they were going over contents on a screen, maybe a GIF? Although it may seem as if the center of the photo is 30 year old Un, or even the steel box in which the monitors are mounted, the star here is actually Logitech.


Hardware monster Logitech, known most notably for their specialization in computer mice, has been the king of the industry for over a quarter century as the number one maker of "personal" peripherals like headsets, controllers, keyboards, speakers, and webcams. Starting with the orb-like P4 Mouse in 1982 and, more recently, releasing the slightly over designed and slightly TRON inspired G series of gaming peripherals, they are definitely successful in many respects. However, nothing marks success like the unintended long-term positive performance of a product. Logitech's Trackman Marble is just such a product, at least, that's how I see it. Originally hitting the market in 1995 with its optical tracking top-mounted roller ball, the uniquely styled ambidextrous GUI pointer screams pre-millenium ergonomics. The two-tone patina grey color scheme is even more telling of its age. And the hideous pattern on the ball doesn't help one bit. I remember my mom having one, long before I ever even knew computers did much more than play the Oregon trail or Number Munchers. So, when I first saw this, I thought the worst about the regime's tech knowledge. Well, after a little digging, it turns out that reality might actually be quite the opposite. I mean, the fact that the mouse is still a top rated product available on major sites around the globe, including the Apple Store, definitely says something. The question is, what?

Also, why the fuck was this mouse in a North Korean war...I'm dad's garage? Is it that they are aware of the benefits of empathetic ergonomics and have a true concern for long-term damage associated with high usage of computer mice? Do they just trust the product reviews across the web and actually bought this off of Amazon or eBay? Did they send some guy out to the equivalent of Fry's electronics over a decade ago and this is what he came back with? Or, are they just straight up Logitech fanboys (is that a Logitech keyboard, idk)? Shit. There's a chance they don't even know what it is; they could be using Windows 8 on touchscreens.


Sure, there are probably more interesting questions running through your mind than those of a seemingly outdated computer mouse, like wtf are those toggle switches for? Or, who is that guy way in the back and why is he there? But I am interested in knowing what, if anything, this mouse can tell us about the state of North Korea, specifically regarding their outlook on technology. Are they moving along slightly misguided or are they simply just stuck in the past?