Killing Old Tech? Apple has a Record (and that's a good thing)

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 3 min read

In 1998 Apple introduced the iMac which suddenly didn't have a 3.5 inch floppy drive. Apple first had a 3.5 inch floppy disk drive in their 1984 Macintosh and it was then in basically every single computer (Apple and otherwise) for the next 14 years. A lot of people freaked out, but all was fine, the floppy was dead.

In 2008 Apple released the MacBook Air. It was a computer that was insanely thin and lacked a CD drive. CD drives had been in Macs since 1992, they were going to kill those after just 16 years? The gal! Then again, walk into any Best Buy today and you're options for a laptop with a disk drive are pretty damn limited.

In 2012 Apple released the iPhone 5 with a Lightning port, replacing the 11 year old 30-pin connector1. Never mind that the old connector was massive and simply would not fit in modern phones. We're 4 years into Lightning's life and everything is fine.

In 2015 Apple introduced a laptop that was so thin a regular USB plug didn't fit on the side and they adopted USB Type C as the one and only connector. Reactions varied from love to "why can't I have regular USB, ethernet, MagSafe, and an SD card reader too?

In 2016 there's an awful lot of smoke suggesting that Apple may be removing the 138 year old 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7 we expect them to release this fall. And like clockwork, people are freaking the fuck out.

What's notable about all of these changes is that Apple was the first to do all of these things2, but the entire industry follows suit soon after. I'd suggest that Apple is not wrong in removing these old components from their products, they are just the ones who have the backbone to do it first and push the rest of the industry forward with them.

It gets brought up sometimes that Apple is too controlling and that they make decisions for their users. Other companies are lauded for letting their customers choose. Most people bow down at the ever-powerful word: choice. Choice always wins! Choice is better for everyone! Choice isn't inherently a bad thing, it's often great, but sometimes you need someone to step up and say "we're going this way, and we're going because it's better."

Apple steps up and makes these decisions to move tech forward by ditching the old stuff and I'm glad they do. If you didn't phase out old tech until everyone was cool with it, nothing would ever go away. There are always people who think they need that old thing around for just a little longer. There are always people who say that the devices we have are thin enough and we're just getting silly with how small our devices are.

But here we are in 2016 and our laptops are insanely light, and insanely better than they've ever been. Our smartphones are super thin and get ripped in the press if they don't get thinner year over year (and yet they still get faster every year). Our data has managed to survive the loss of the 3.5 inch floppy, CD/DVD drives, and even USB flash drives through the cloud, and we're better at data redundancy and access than ever. The world of computing is getting better all the time, and it's getting better by embracing the future and achieving new things by abandoning the past.

If Apple does indeed remove the headphone jack, I do think it will be painful for a while, but we'll be fine. You might have to get an adapter for your current headphones3, not be a able to use the $5 headphones you get at Walmart, and not use selfie sticks or credit card swipers. But then you think about the rise of respectable sub-$20 Bluetooth headphones and EMV readers going wireless, as well as the fact that removing the jack will help make future phones thinner and lighter, maybe it's actually not that bad a time to abandon this old standby.

  1. I had a family member say that they were done with Apple when they stopped using the 30-pin dock connector for no reason other than making more money. I was a good family member and didn't make a scene, but man did I want to. 
  2. Not than anyone else could have abandoned the 30-pin connector. 
  3. Of course most people use the Apple earbuds, which will surely be updated to a Lightning version and be in the box.