Waking Ideas Publishing - Technology & Space
Written By Danny Nicolas
Much ink was spent last month arguing about the 2012 update to Apple's Macbook line. Despite the incredible update to the screen, the RAM is now soldered into the motherboard and the screen is completely glued together, making the device pretty much completely non-user serviceable. One step forward, two steps back. I've made RAM upgrades to nearly every computer I've owned - the 2003 era eMac, the 2005 ppppowerbook, the 2008 iMac, the 2008 Macbook, and pretty much every desktop tower (back in the pre-OSX era when DOS and Windows were easier to deal with than MacOS).
My upgrade cycle usually follows the progress of software. When a new piece of 'Must Have' software is released that has the potential to change my workflow - and requires more computer than I currently have - I start looking at my options. Up until this point, my options have been spend roughly $100 or $200 on internal upgrades to the computer I have, or buy something new altogether if necessary. This usually translates into a roughly 3 to 5 year upgrade cycle. For nearly 10 years I've been using computers sold by Apple as my primary machines. While I'll probably continue using OS X, it might not be on Apple sanctioned hardware next time I upgrade to an entirely new machine.
Khoi Vinh wrote (and followed up to criticism) about his disappointment in the direction (not only Apple, but most electronics manufacturers today) are headed in terms of product decay:
To me, the most disappointing thing about this is that, as beautiful as objects in this mode can be, over time they inevitably begin to look worse than they did on the day they were purchased. Some objects look better when you use them more, but not Apple stuff. Every scratch, scuff, ding and crack serves to alienate us a little bit further from the hardware we own, and to make us yearn a bit more for the newer, more pristine hardware we have yet to buy. (I wrote about this concept back in 2007.) That’s a great business strategy but it’s not a great design legacy, to say nothing of its sustainability. Apple gets a lot of kudos for how beautiful its hardware looks today, but in the long run, it may be judged as much for how ephemeral it is too.
It’s true, there’s not necessarily a business case to do this, but that is not the only thing Apple will be judged on in the decades to come. And that’s what I’m talking about here: how will future generations look back at Apple, and by extension its customers? Did we all live our lives by more than just the bottom line? Or were the late twentieth and early twenty-first century the decades in which we irrevocably decided that everything should be disposable (or even recyclable) after just two or three years?
It may sound like I’m picking on Apple, but I think that’s a specious criticism, too. Apple regularly claims exceptionalism in the kinds of products they build; it’s fair game then to at least raise the issue of doing things their peers clearly won’t. This is the brand they built: a company that makes truly great products, products that make a dent in the universe. To me, doing even a little bit to counter the notion that everything is disposable is right in line with that.
Published on Monday, July 9th, 2012 at 10:15 am | Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.