Sunday, 13 March 2011

Inherent Failure... Guaranteed.

I really loved my iPOD. As it said on the box, it's a Classic. I downloaded all sorts of music and animation from iTunes, or copied them across from my own DVDs and CDs. It was my constant companion on long journeys. My favourite gadget by far.
And then it failed on me.
It would no longer talk to my laptop, or for that matter to any other laptop in the house. I'd followed all the instructions I could find for de-installing and re-installing iTUNES etc, but all had had no effect, other than to eat into my leasure hours.
As the months passed it became less and less useful to me, and soon found itself at the back of a drawer.
And then I got a job in Manchester and it was suddenly very easy to arrange to get an Apple Expert to look at it, and so I arranged an appointment and then in due course found myself armed with both my iPOD and my laptop, in the Apple store awaiting the expert.
As the minutes ticked away I quickly realised that the Apple Expert was entirely that. He had no idea what way up a laptop went and his first suggestion, after having heard what my problem was, was to reformat the iPOD.
'I suggest we reformat your iPOD'. He said.
'And lose all of my music and cartoons ?' I replied.
'Well, it might fix the problem', he responded as if that would persuade me.
'You don't actually know what the problem is, so that sounds a bit of a longshot to me. At the moment it does have a use as it stores my entire CD collection, and the complete Animated Batman Cartoon series, if you wipe it clean then it'll just be a small, albeit nicely designed, box of glass and plastic', I was not a fan of his suggestion.
To be fair he struggled with the problem for about 20 minutes, until I suggested he try one of the new iPOD Classics, from the shelf. I think he sensed a sales opportunity and so rushed off to get one.
'That doesn't work either !', he said, stating the obvious as I was stood next to him.
'Let's try an iTOUCH', he suggested. He was getting the idea now.
'Hey, that works. Looks like you need to upgrade to an iTOUCH'. He was getting into his stride now, sell stuff, rather than try to fix it.
'No. I think not', I burst that bubble pretty quickly.
One of his supervisors wandered over for an update on the situation.
'How long have you had the iPOD?, he asked, whilst turning it over and over in his hands looking for non-existent signs of misuse.
'Only about 3 years', I informed him.
'Well, that's a long time', he said, 'think of the value you've had in that time, maybe it's time you get a new device, the iTOUCH is lighter, thinner, has less storage ...'
'No', I cut him off. 'I'm not sure I want to invest in another Apple product if they are expected to only last a few years'. I thanked them both for their time and, taking my laptop and frozen-in-time iPOD, left the store.

On the train home my mind wandered back to my youth. We used to have a television that lasted for, well it seemed like forever. It had a nice wooden casing, nice heavy glass screen and stuck out at the back as it housed a whole load of 'valves'.
When it eventually failed, we opended the back and quickly located the 'failed valve' which we replaced with a spare from a big box of spares, closed it all up, plugged it in and... it worked.

We did this for many years but eventually we succumbed to marketing pressure and bought a colour TV, the old one ending up in my room, where I could watch Star Trek without worry of it clashing with my Mum's favourite soap.
I loved it when it broke, which it very rarely did, as it gave me the excuse to open up the back and look at all those wonderfully designed 'valves'. By this time I'd realised that they didn't actually hold the TV programmes, but they were still magical to look at.
Imagine my disappointment when the colour TV failed, after only about 2 years, and upon opening it all we were confronted with were a whole load of two dimensional and drab looking circuit boards. Which we couldn't replace or fix. Technical Advancement had caused the removal of a little bit of the magic that inhabited my world. The magic of TV Sets had gone away.
As I sat there on the train I realised that that had been the change that had moved us from a 're-use and repair' culture to a 'throw it away and buy new' one.
It seems to be cheaper now to do so.
There's no interest in fixing things anymore, and companies seem to go out of their way to make sure we never return to those days, despite my sorting out my plastic, from my glass and from my paper every week.
So to Apple it seems that I should be overjoyed that I got 3 good years from my iPOD.
As a consumer I must say that I'm underwhelmed by this attitude.
But then again, maybe I'm just a dreamer, I used to think I could bend a spoon armed only with the power of my mind...


  1. I can't tell you how much I thought about this exact thing before I bought my iPad. You've depressed the hell out of me. ;)

  2. Nice to know my writing is having an impact... a shame it's such a negative one though :o)

    I'm sure all will be well with the iPad, for a few years at least.

  3. So my X-Box 360 died today, and several people said to me that it has been three years, and most don't last that long. I immediately remembered this post and thought long and hard. I will still end up getting a new 360 in a month or so since it is a source of great enjoyment, but the fail rate just makes me cringe. And it makes me cringe even more that I immediately went and checked out getting a new one when I found out how expensive it is to fix my current one. Grrrrrr