Mac Lab Report

The Yin and Yang of Apple Hardware Flaws

- 2005.11.01

We all know that Steve Jobs has a sort of philosophical approach to developing technology - he used to eat lunch at a Hare Krishna temple, if that has any relevance - and pundits wiser than I have remarked on the rise and fall of a variety of products under his tenure.

My observations of Apple products reveal cycles driven by an almost regular pattern of product hobbling that appears in everything Apple makes. I am revealing these cycles to you now, Constant Reader. They are not accidental, but rather are part and parcel of the entire Apple philosophy of yin and yang, chip and board.

original iBookConsider this (partial) list of products and flaws:

  • all b&w compact Macs - too damn hard to open
  • Newton - overhyped handwriting recognition
  • Performa 5200 - sucks in every conceivable way
  • original iMac - too damn hard to open
  • original iBook - looked like a toilet seat
  • TiBook - poor AirPort reception, paint wears off
  • Cube - too expensive, case sometimes appeared "cracked", no clear audience
  • iBook (dual USB) - power supply port fails if you look at it funny
  • original iPod - poor battery life, expensive to replace battery
  • Original MDD G4 Tower - sounds like a blow dryer
  • PowerBooks - can fry eggs when running hot
  • iPod nano - scratches too easily

Now don't get me wrong. I like Apple products, and if you're a regular reader of this irregular column, you'll know I'm on the edge of being a little bit unstable over the whole topic of monopolistic business practices.

I think Steve Jobs is, too. Consider what Apple could have done if any of these easily fixable problems had been caught before production. Apple could have gone from "really good" to "darn near perfect" at any time, but chose instead to temper its success.

I think that's because Mr. Jobs believes Apple's role is not to dominate computing but merely to provide guidance and leadership and set a high bar to annoy Mr. Gates.

In other words, these flaws are Apple's way of holding itself back.

It makes kind of sense if you think about it. It explains a lot of things on multiple levels - products that suck as a whole vs. products that have their own internal cycle of suckness. Like sunspots on a graph and biorhythms, these little ripples on the sea of quality gradually guide Apple like a raft being guided by gentle ocean currents.

Eventually, they may wind up somewhere or simply become lodged on a desert island with lots of iPod shipping boxes.

That's all for now; I'm off to have lunch with my guru. Enjoy.

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is a longtime Mac user. He was using digital sensors on Apple II computers in the 1980's and has networked computers in his classroom since before the internet existed. In 2006 he was selected at the California Computer Using Educator's teacher of the year. His students have used NASA space probes and regularly participate in piloting new materials for NASA. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and scientific papers. He currently teaches astronomy and physics in California, where he lives with his twin sons, Jony and Ben.< And there's still a Mac G3 in his classroom which finds occasional use.

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