In December, the president boasted he knew technology "better than anyone" but told TIME in 2017, "What is digital? ... It’s very complicated"
Stacks of printouts ready to be marked up with a Sharpie. Aides at the ready to Google and tweet for him. A conspicuous lack of a computer at his desk.
These and other details have epitomized President Donald Trump‘s bizarre relationship with technology over the years, which was chronicled anew in a New York Times article on Wednesday.
According to numerous reports dating back to before Trump launched his campaign, he has long preferred less high-tech methods of communication — including having articles printed out and brought to him for markup to then be mailed off.
Paradoxically, Trump has mastered social media (or at least Twitter) to broadcast his message to the world. Since becoming president — where he must preside over an increasingly technocratic country home to companies like Apple, Facebook and Google — Trump’s views have evolved, though he retains a skepticism of some cutting-edge advancements.
In December, he boasted he knew technology “better than anyone” and advocated for simpler, “old-fashioned” structures to improve border security.
“The Democrats are trying to belittle the concept of a Wall, calling it old fashioned. The fact is there is nothing else’s that will work, and that has been true for thousands of years,” he tweeted. “It’s like the wheel, there is nothing better.”
Trump’s views on technology returned to the headlines this week when he tweeted on Tuesday about the devastating Ethiopian Airlines plane crash that killed all 157 of its passengers last weekend.
“Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly,” he wrote. “Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better.”
Earlier this month, as the Times noted on Wednesday, Trump mocked the idea of wind power while railing against the proposed Green New Deal, a progressive proposal to fight climate change. Trump seemed to believe wind power was literally as simple as it sounded.
“When the wind stops blowing, that’s the end of your electric,” he said during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
In 2017, Trump told TIME that he told the Navy they should return to steam technology instead of using digital technology for a new aircraft carrier.
“They have digital,” he said. “What is digital? And it’s very complicated, you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out.”
Trump told the magazine that when the Navy said they were “staying with digital,” he responded, “‘No you’re not. You’re going to goddamned steam, the digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it’s no good.’ “
While Politico reported in 2016 that the president didn’t often use his computer (an Apple), reporters who visited his office before he was elected said there was no computer in sight.
After Trump tweeted last year about Googling news stories about himself, Times correspondent Maggie Haberman said, “He doesn’t use a computer. Someone is doing the googling but not him.”
ABC White House reporter Tara Palmeri added to that: “Sometimes Trump reads things on a iPad that he calls ‘the flat one.’ ”
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Though Trump may not mention technology nearly as often as other topics, his administration has made major tech policy moves, according to Wired. For example the White House supported the repeal of net neutrality rules which would have, supporters said, preserved equal access to the Internet.
On Twitter, he recently advocated for better and better wireless cellular technology such as 5G. “American companies must step up their efforts, or get left behind,” he wrote.
But in a characteristic slip, Trump also referred to 6G — which does not yet exist.