As you are probably aware, Apple recently decided earphone jacks are for fogies and left them out of the iPhone7 — a gift to wireless headphone manufacturers and a slap in the face to owners of pricey wired ones.
Let me preface my defence of wires with a fogie-ish anecdote from way-back in the last century.
My parents bought their first TV, a 26-inch Fairbanks-Morse black-and-white, the year I was born — making me literally a child of television.
Over the 14 years we had it, the thing broke down several times. When I was eight, my dad taught me to put the vacuum tubes in an egg carton, take them to the drugstore, use the tube-tester to find the bum one, buy a replacement for 79 cents, and — voila! — glorious BW restored!
(We would later get a Quasar colour TV, which like most colour sets in the ‘70s, made everybody look green).
As a kid, I loved electronics, and smoothly made the transition to transistors, creating loudspeakers and such from the instructions in Popular Electronics.
All of this makes me sound like Dustin Hoffman as the centenarian recounting the Battle of Little Big Horn in Little Big Man (and THAT film reference makes me sound even older).
But the point is, wires and me, we go way back.
When home entertainment evolved, I was still the go-to guy. I knew my RCA cables from the RBGs from the S-Video and the (current standard) HDMI.
My backyard movie screenings took a leap forward this year when we upgraded our Wi-Fi and were able to live-stream and project the Tragically Hip’s televised final tour date for a bunch of friends.
But the sound – which everybody loved – came courtesy of 5.1 Surround Sound speakers, the wires for which even the drunkest reveller managed to avoid tripping over.
But my Millennial sons have recently pointed out that the presence of wires in a house is a sure sign an old person lives there. You never heard of Bluetooth, old man?
Yeah, well get off my lawn! The tangle behind the TV has always been a Gordian Knot only I could make sense of. A source of pride for me (and annoyance for my wife).
And they’re hypocrites when wires prove useful to them. Years ago, before we had Wi-Fi, I ran Ethernet cables into various rooms for Internet. To this day, my sons prefer the cables to Wi-Fi for their video games. They provide better bandwidth than even current high-speed.
But mainly, what frosts me about Apple’s unilateral decision that we should all move on from wired earphones is that it is a crass move to turn millions of dollars worth of people’s home electronics into useless doorstops.
We tend to think of the 20th Century as a time of dizzying inventions and technological change. But going back to that bulky old TV, its cathode-ray kin would remain the standard from the ‘50s to the ‘00s. Now even the Salvation Army won’t take them for free.
And if you were to time-travel someone from the ‘50s to today, that person would (A) be shocked we don’t have flying cars yet, and (B) be even more shocked that most of us are still using cars with internal combustion engines.
So things don’t necessarily change all that quickly.
Oftentimes, they get a corporate push. Apple used to make products that were compatible with earlier products. My Clarisworks documents from the ‘90s were automatically upgraded on Appleworks, until they stopped making that in 2007. I bought the first generation iPod in 2001, and it worked for years.
But even if the logic board hadn’t eventually fried, it would be useless today because it connected by Firewire, which Apple stopped including in most of its devices a few years back.
(That iPod now sits as a kind of museum piece, in the front window of an unlicensed Apple repair shop).
It’s a paradigm shift that sees us where we are today — in a culture that tells us a three-year-old smartphone is a dinosaur that should end up in a Chinese landfill sooner rather than later.
As for me, I’m not ready to end my love affair with wires just yet.
And unless they’re planning to change their name to Wireless, I just might get the editorial board of Wired magazine to agree with me.