I am now the not-particularly-proud owner of four Mac computers. Please note that I am a guy who lives alone in a small apartment and works mostly alone in a small office. All I need is two computers. I could get away with only one, if I had to. All I’d need to do is slip a laptop into my briefcase at the end of the day, and slip it back in at the start of the next.
So why four computers, especially when there’s nothing physically wrong with any of them? As best I can tell, they all still work up to the manufacturers original specifications. The problem is, manufacturers specs are moving goal posts these days, and you have to move with ‘em or die. Maybe even literally die.
My old Mac “clamshell” laptop still writes and reads the Microsoft Office and Quark Express programs I installed on them the first day I owned them. But both Mac and Microsoft– and for that matter Quark Express – have had digital behavior changes since I bought those two oldies.
In the case of the Year 2000 Mac clamshell, document written in the latest Microsoft Word, the one that labels all its documents “.docx” instead of “.doc”, will not open with the current operating system. Nor can you buy an electronic update that will let you convert incoming .docs to .docx. Nor can it deal with the oodles of changes to the way the Internet works. Nor will it work with the latest versions of Quark.
So my old nearly $2,000 clamshell is now essentially an expensive old typewriter.
My 2004 machine is not much better. The old Microsoft and new Microsoft office programs still work on it, as does my 2004 version of Quark Express. But Apple has decided it will no longer support the operating system with security upgrades and other fixes, not even if you or I will pay for them.
Which means that, if I turn it on, pirates somewhere out there on the Internet can jump into my wi-fi, board the computer, steal my address book and passwords, and stuff their pockets with my bank and brokerage accounts. For a geezer whose earning capacity and savings capacity is now limited, that’s not even a near-death experience. That is death, unless I can figure out how to live on Social Security.
Mind you, most of the changes don’t make the computer do anything I need it to do., or anything most of us need it to do. Nor is this like the “planned obsolescence” that scandalized the public in the 1950s. That kind of obsolescence was merely psychological. If you wanted to drive an old car, you could still get by with your old Studebaker.
The changes in computer technology today exist, I suspect, almost entirely to make sure that people have to go out and buy the new stuff, or else. And the “upgrades” affect Windows users as well as Mac users.
Apple is now sending out warnings that I need to upgrade my third computer, which used to be my office computer until my old home computer became too dangerous to my financial security to plug in. Meanwhile, to avoid lugging a computer to and from the office each day, I’ve gone out and bought the fourth Mac.
Each time this happens, I pay Apple and Microsoft a combined Right-To-Live-In-The-Modern-World Tax of between $2,300 and $3,000.
If a street thug walked up to you, pointed a gun at your head, and demanded $3,000 to let you live, he’d be guilty of armed robbery. But although corporations are now legally people when it comes to funding multi-million dollar campaigns to support their pet lapdog politicians, they’re not people when it comes to highway robbery.
You see, when Apple and Microsoft demand your money or else – well hey, that’s the way it is sucker. Stand and deliver. Pay up or die.