by coelomic

The Story of the World’s Most Coveted tablet and the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused

The term Origamania is used metaphorically to refer to any large economic bubble. The term originally came from Tulipomania, the period in the history of the Netherlands during which demand for tulip bulbs reached such a peak that enormous prices were charged for a single bulb. Whereas Tulipomania took place in the first part of the 17th century, especially in 1636-37. Origamania is a disease of  Circa 2006, also called The Blog Plague, spreading swiftly it personified the deadly sin of greed for all things tablet like. 

The tulip, introduced to Europe in the middle of the 16th century, experienced a strong growth in popularity in the United Provinces (now the Netherlands), boosted by competition between members of the upper classes for possession of the rarest tulips. Competition escalated until prices reached unsustainable levels. Comparisons may be made to the ridiculous levels of expectation with regards the little known but often speculated upon, portable device from The Evil Empire. Many a  countryman considered it his birthright to spread the word, lest the  Empire deny him his daily bread.

The flower rapidly became a coveted luxury item and a status symbol. Special breeds were given exotic names or named after Dutch naval admirals. The most spectacular and highly sought-after tulips had vivid colors, lines, and flames on the petals. On similar lines, women swooned and men cried, for this one, by the name of Origami, was to be the deliverer of them all, forever freeing them from the clutches of shackled computing. With a screen on one side and the Ten Commandments on the other, it was said to be the path to computing nirvana.

By 1623, Europe was in the grip of Tulipomania. A single bulb of a famous tulip variety could cost as much as a thousand Dutch florins (the average yearly income at the time was 150 florins). Tulips were also exchanged for land, valuable livestock, and houses. Allegedly, a good trader could earn sixty thousand florins a month. Circa 2006, people even bet their livelihoods on Origami. Devoting entire pages of blogs to this so called device, little detail of which was known to the world.

By 1635, a sale of 40 bulbs for 100,000 florins was recorded. By way of comparison, a ton of butter cost around 100 florins and “eight fat swine” 240 florins. A record was the sale of the most famous bulb, the Semper Augustus, for 6,000 florins in Haarlem.
By 1636, tulips were traded on the stock exchanges of numerous Dutch towns and cities. This encouraged trading in tulips by all members of society, with many people selling or trading their other possessions in order to speculate in the tulip market. Some speculators made large profits as a result.

Alas, all good things have to come to an end. But it not so dramatic a fashion as the Origamania!

In February 1637 tulip traders could no longer get inflated prices for their bulbs, and they began to sell. The bubble burst. People began to suspect that the demand for tulips could not last, and as this spread a panic developed. Some were left holding contracts to purchase tulips at prices now ten times greater than those on the open market, while others found themselves in possession of bulbs now worth a fraction of the price they had paid. Thousands of Dutch, including businessmen and dignitaries, were financially ruined.

The death of Origamania was dramatic. First it was a trickle. Few words on pages here and there, lamenting the failure of the tablet to live up to expectations. And then it would be a flood. Yet another epithet on a portable computing device.
Even the hardiest of traders had to  admit that this one Tulip was a dud.

At the end of Tulipomania, attempts were made to resolve the situation to the satisfaction of all parties, but these were unsuccessful. Ultimately, individuals were stuck with the bulbs they held at the end of the crash—no court would enforce payment of a contract, since judges regarded the debts as contracted through gambling, and thus not enforceable in law. Hope Origami from Microsoft does not suffer such a fate.

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