Apple product launch announcements aren’t the must-watch events they once were for me. I’ve scaled back my purchasing of new electronic toys to a much slower pace. No more new Mac to replace a perfectly good one every 12–18 months. I keep my phones well past the two years I’m obligated to keep them without having to pay to upgrade.
Mostly this is because the pace of technology has changed, at least for now. Those big leaps in design, function, and software we saw in the ‘00s has slowed way down. There just isn’t as huge of a difference in a 2016 Mac and your 2011 Mac as there was between that ’11 Mac and an ’07 one. Plus, as we spend more-and-more time on the web, as long as you have a modern browser and a decent Internet connection, you can do about everything you need to do just fine.
I did pay attention to most of yesterday’s Apple event, though. It’s been over a year since the rumors started circulating that Apple wanted to eliminate the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone. Sure enough, they did it, moving folks who buy the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus to using either a lightning cable or Bluetooth to connect their headphones.
The gnashing of teeth had been around almost as long as the rumors of the elimination of the 3.5mm connection. Once that change became reality, the complaints just got louder.
In general, I don’t care about the change. Philosophically, I’m down with the move. We do need to move toward easier, more accurate wireless connections with greater range for our mobile devices. Bluetooth kind of sucks, but nothing has forced either that protocol, or any competing one, to improve enough to make most people want to use it. Maybe this is the first step in making that happen.
However, Apple’s language in promoting this switch was pretty much garbage. “Courage” was the word Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller used when explaining why Apple decided to scrap the legacy connector. Which is straight up bullshit. If you strip out that horrible choice of word and go with the rest of Apple’s argument, I can get onboard with them. They are constantly struggling to squeeze more-and-more technology into their phone case. Yanking out a single-use connector that will allow them to include a better camera, more battery, or the next technological advance is a reasonable argument. The transition might be difficult, but I can understand that reasoning.
But saying it’s “courageous”? You lost me there.
The other thing I thought of while watching the presentation was how long the 3.5mm plug has been around. I’ve owned a few pairs of headphones with ¼” ends over the years. But the overwhelming majority of audio cables I’ve used in my life have been the venerable 3.5mm one. My first transistor radio used a single earphone that connected with a 3.5mm plug. I connected tape recorders to other devices with a 3.5mm cord. Walkmen and Diskmen. Vehicles had 3.5mm AUX inputs to connect portable devices. Computers sent their audio out via a 3.5mm jack. And, obviously, every Apple device I’ve owned so far has exported sound via a 3.5mm connecting point.
The standard has traveled from the analog to the digital age without missing a beat, which is pretty remarkable. Odds are the cables you used to connect your VCR to your TV in 1985, or your computer to your printer in 1995, no longer work on modern devices. But the dozens of audio cords with 3.5mm connectors on each end that are knotted on my shelf of random tech gear still have hundreds of uses in them.
I’m pleased that we’re taking another step toward getting rid of cables. But that 3.5mm standard has served me well, and will continue to a little while longer.
- Somewhat balanced by my purchasing of photography gear. ↩
- Not to mention driving manufacturers to make better wireless headphones, speakers, etc. ↩
- I remember hooking up a tape recorder to our TV via the headphone jack to record the Miami Vice theme in mono before the soundtrack hit record stores. ↩