If you find yourself with nothing to do one day, take a little fiber optic field to trip over to ebay and do a search for Commodore 64 computers. Some of you might not even know what a Commodore is, because by the time you were able to suck your thumb, they were stashed away in your family’s garage or attic, like some heirloom, sharing space with wedding dresses and photo albums. It’s also quite possible that your parents don’t even know what a Commodore 64 is, since it’s been 35 years when they first appeared on store shelves, being one of the first affordable home computers of their time at around $600. The 64 doesn’t stand for bit or gigs by the way, it stands for kilobyte. To put that in perspective for all the Glee kids out there, it would take over 120 of them to have enough RAM to store an average song from iTunes, or 256,000 of them to have the same memory as a pathetic 16GB iPhone. Like OMG WTF? Like, who buys a 16GB iPhone anymore, like whatever. Yet the most interesting fact about these 35 year old machines with lots of moving buttons and springs on their keyboards, is they still work as good as the day your family brought one home. Which is why you can still buy one and they’re pretty popular as collectibles.
Around the end of the millennia (holy fuck I’m old), I was attending a training class in Melbourne, a racist part of Florida otherwise known as the Space Coast, for a new content management solution we were deploying at work. During my initial visit I learned that many people there were connected with the aerospace industry in some way or another, which made perfect sense considering their proximity to Kennedy Space Center. After all, that’s where most of the Space Shuttle missions were launched. I also learned that Taco Bell in Melbourne closed at 9 PM on a Saturday night and that yes, I do look Latino, so much so that the very smiley and very nice lady at the Deli counter in Winn-Dixie stopped being so nice when she turned and looked at me, angrily asking “can I help you?” When I took my purchases prepared by racist white lady to the young cashier, I was told in a creepy horror movie sort of way “you’re not from around here are you?” Okay so I’m losing myself here… where was I before this took a Stephen King turn… oh yes… I also learned that NASA was buying old IBM PC computers on our friend ebay, because they needed the chips for the fleet of aging Space Shuttles. Yup, they needed spare parts and turns out, computer chips last a pretty darn long time.
Maybe you’re starting to understand what I’m getting at here, maybe you’re starting to see the pattern. Or maybe not because you’re texting like five of your friends at the same time, having the typical attention span of anyone born in the last 20 years. So here’s the deal, your iPhone is made mostly of solid state chips and components, far more advanced than what was made 35 years ago, it’s water and dust resistant, and it should last forever. Plain and simple. Yet this morning my two year old iPhone 7s started doing something interesting, adding to a growing list of symptoms that have slowly started to manifest. The screen goes dark if I’m playing video, turn the phone sideways and touch the screen. Just one more behavior in a long list of weird shit such as music skipping like an old record player when I’m receiving data or text messages (I wonder which Apple engineer thought of that one), my phone suddenly locking up or not recording audio half the time, or keyboards suddenly going away when I want to input text. Since we know by my previous examples that chips last forever and technology and devices are only getting better and sturdier, then all of these issues point to software and how the code is being deployed. Interestingly enough, code doesn’t go bad either…unless intentionally messed with.
Almost a year ago Apple announced that it was intentionally slowing down phones and that’s the part they actually told us. They even offered up a wonderful excuse, because of battery life and how they were trying to preserve the phone’s resources. Yes, they were actually trying to help all of us and we were being such ingrates! Gasp! And millions of you fell for this lie, accepted it, and continue to line up in front of Apple stores every day… no doubt why they’ve just become the world’s first trillion dollar company. Yes a trillion dollars, not even an oil company has done that. And yet we continue to say “More please, more! When’s the new phone coming out?!? Please I want more digital crack!” Interestingly enough, according to the International Data Corporation, a market research firm, Android based phones take up over 85 percent of the market. Wait a second here, how can Apple and iOS be a minority in the market and at the same time be so damn wealthy? Because we wait in line for hours and pay through the nose for the opportunity to be lied to, and do it again and again and again. We buy their phones with planned obsolescence as part of their business model, we buy their music, we accept their repeated privacy violations, all because we want to show everyone else we have one. And that’s all they need to succeed… our vanity and our desire to belong. You’re not even paying for quality in this case as you would with some other major purchases, such as a car. Don’t even get me started on their completely overpriced laptops, tablets and desktops.
It’s not a stretch to see this bleed over into everything else we see nowadays. We accept lies all the time, we make it okay somehow because we want something more… we’re willing to sacrifice truth for power, status, or simply to feel like a part of something bigger. Our political and religious structure is based on lies and untruths, we make exceptions all the time when it’s convenient for us. We point fingers at gays and lesbians and say they’re destroying the values of love and marriage, yet when a priest molests a boy or a pastor steals from his church, we’re told to show love and compassion… because Jesus did. The same love and compassion that’s not being demonstrated to others. iphones teach us that as a culture, we can be bought, manipulated and lied to without consequence, provided we keep getting what we want, even when the overwhelming facts might tell us otherwise. Yeah, like a cult. iphones tell us something about ourselves, a canary of sorts, an indicator of how far we’ll let the truth be twisted and the facts ignored, even when associated with great cost and effort. It really is an amazing hand held device, telling a much larger story about the person that’s holding it and the culture they belong to.