The Disposable Society & My MacBook Pro

Posted April 04, 2017
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What is the difference between the machine on the left and the one on the right?

They are both machines for creating documents. 

They both have a keyboard.

The difference is, the one on the right still works.

The one on the left is a worthless paper weight.

Let’s start with the one on the right.

This is an Underwood manual typewriter, built in 1912. My wife gave it to me as a birthday present several years ago. It still works great. I can still buy the ribbons it requires and if it needs servicing, there are still places that will service manual typewriters, even those that are more than 100 years old. 

The one on the left is an Apple MacBook Pro. 

I bought it about 7 years ago. It cost several thousand dollars. It was the top of the line.

About a week ago, the battery in the Macbook blew up. The Underwood does not have a battery. It does have a self- contained printer, however - most convenient.

As you can see from looking at the bottom of the laptop, it underwent what Apple calls ‘battery expansion’. Apparently this happens quite a lot. When I took it into the Fifth Avenue Apple Store, they knew what it as right away.

“Battery expansion”, they said. 

“Happens all the time”.

I was relieved.

“So you can fix this?” I said.




“Why not?”


Vintage is the term that Apple uses for any piece of technology that they have sold you that is more than 5 years old. I wasn’t asking for a warrantee free repair. I was prepared to pay. But they don’t even have the spare parts. They don’t stock them. They don’t fix them. They suggested I go on eBay and see if I could find some spare parts and fix it myself. When I told them that didn’t sound like a great idea, they said they would be happy to dispose of the laptop for me - and sell me one of their brand spanking new MacBook Pros.

Apparently this is Apple standard policy. After 5 years, anything they have sold you before that is, in their minds, dead.

I told them that had I bought a BMW, I would have expected BMW to continue to support their product, have spare parts, and so on, for years. They did not agree.

“You don’t understand,” the ‘genius bar’ guy said to me, talking to me as though I was an idiot. “This is tech. Tech gets old fast.”

“And worthless..” I interjected.

“And worthless,” he agreed.

The funny thing is that my Underwood is also tech. In 1912, it was at the cutting edge of technology. The difference is that my Underwood still works. My MacBook does not.

Is there really a reason we have to keep replacing our laptops every three years, our phones every two years? Is this progress? Or are we missing something here?


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