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The day my tablet took flight ... and my wife’s smartphone ended up in the drink

Illustration by Denis Shifrin

A couple of years ago I was given a little device that very soon became as indispensable to me as my spectacles. It contained my whole life: my contacts, my diary, my notes and reminders, my family photos, my favorite music and videos, my mail and all the wonders of the World Wide Web - the iPad.

A couple of years ago my wife acquired an even smaller device that did just about the same. The Smartphone.

The latest technology, however amazing it may seem at first, does not remain the latest for long. Within a year or two the manufacturer of your miraculous little wonder announces with much fanfare a new model with vastly improved features. All of a sudden, you are in possession of an obsolete object that screams mediocrity, is just about unsalable, and barely qualifies as a free gift to a homeless unfortunate. Worse is to come. At just about the same time, your device starts acting up. It develops annoying habits, rather like a three-year old child. It refuses to connect to the web when you most need it, it crashes exactly when you reach the climax of the video, book or symphony, it disconnects in the middle of an important conversation, it slips from your hand and is injured on impact with the floor, and your relationship with your once-beloved gizmo starts to go downhill.

I think there must be a deliberate, preplanned connection between these two syndromes: obsolescence and malfunction. The manufacturers of the latest device were probably perfectly capable of including all those advanced, improved features ages ago. However, they deliberately produced and marketed Version A, figuring that once hooked you will be an easy customer for Version B. They then reinforced their hold on you by ensuring that the little problems with your device first started to appear just when they were ready to dazzle you with their newest and best ever. Not only are you tempted to upgrade, you are almost compelled to do so.

There are those like myself and my wife who think we are capable of putting up some resistance to this sophisticated marketing. We are not such technology freaks that we cannot manage without the latest and best, and we are able to put up with minor malfunctioning inconvenience without rushing out to spend more of our hard-earned cash. However, for people like us, the Apples and Samsungs of this world have devised an absolutely ingenious, devilish and almost infallible counter-strategy. Here is our story.

My iPad was the original Version A, lacking a camera and with relatively primitive picture resolution. It had also developed several of the annoying habits mentioned above. My wife's Smartphone had taken ages for her to master, and was driving her mad by cutting off her interminable conversations with her girlfriends in mid-sentence. We recently travelled to New York. Although aware that electronic devices are less expensive in the great US of A, the thought of visiting an Apple store was furthest from my mind.

As I disembarked from the aircraft, I was distracted by my seat companion, who, I now realize, was an Apple employee in disguise, and I did something the like of which I have never ever done before; I left my iPad on the floor of the cabin next to my seat. An hour - panic. Frantic calls to the airline, to no avail. A less than honest passenger or member of the airline staff - clearly another agent of Apple Corporation - had ensured that my flawed but still beloved companion had gone from my life forever.

The following day my wife took a boat ride to view the recently reopened Statue of Liberty. As she stood on deck taking pictures of Lady Liberty with her Smartphone, a fellow passenger who, I now realize, was also an agent of her Smartphone manufacturer in disguise, nudged her 'accidentally' and her imperfect but still treasured telephone now rests on the bottom of the Hudson River.

I do not believe that this was all coincidence. My admiration for the genius, technical ability, cunning, and operational prowess of Apple and its competitors knows no bounds. Obviously all these companies are closely coordinated. What brilliance it took for them to know the exact status of our two devices, to know that we are not exactly impulse buyers, to be aware of our precise movements and of our travel plans to a city where the prices could tempt even the most uncommitted customer.

I am sure that there is a detailed plan for us, already programmed into that great computer in the sky (otherwise known as iCloud), which will ensure that in a year or two, when Versions C or D or E are ready to hit the market, we will remain addicted to our daily dose of instantaneous, continuous contact with the rest of mankind. 



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Thursday, 25 April 2024

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