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Breaking Bad: Apple's rotten idea

Gene Weingarten on

NOTE: This column was adapted from a recent online chat.

WASHINGTON -- Did you know that Oldsmobile pioneered the automatic transmission in 1940, but then shortly afterwards discontinued it because they thought people preferred the authenticity of clutches, and were proud of having the skills to use them?

Did you know that in 1928, a bakery in Chillicothe, Missouri, invented pre-sliced loaves of bread, but then decided it made things too easy, and Americans love to use knives, so they threw away their slicing machine?

Did you know that the makers of the first pocket watches, in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1505, stopped making them almost immediately because they figured people would prefer to carry around 80-pound pendulum clocks?

No, you didn't know any of those things, because they are preposterous, and untrue. I made them up. No corporations would be that stupid, once they have pioneered something so obviously popular and practical.

So what explains Apple computers?

As I wrote a few weeks ago, I had to bury my old computer and buy a new one. I was really happy with the old one -- it served me heroically -- so I got the newer model of the same laptop, the MacBook Pro.

When I got it home, I was appalled to discover that Apple had unsliced the bread, re-clutched the automobile, reinstated the pendulum.

I had bought my first MacBook for one reason only: The breakaway power cord, which they called the MagSafe and which only was available on Macs. It wasn't inserted into the laptop so much as it was attached by magnetism. That is so the computer would not fly off a table if, like me, you tended to arise from your desk with the power cord accidentally wound around your foot. I had lost not one but two computers to that idiocy, and apparently I wasn't the only clumsy chucklehead who did this ... hence, the invention. Never happened to me again. The MagSafe Mac more than paid for its higher price with nearly indestructible machines.

 

It's gone, replaced by a more conventional plug that, yes, can yank your computer off a table. I've owned this only a week and have managed to commit this stupidity once already. Caught the thing a foot from the ground.

I spoke to an Apple person who could not adequately explain why the company had done this, except to note, feebly, that they must have had a good reason; literature suggests there were some problems with excessive physical wear from the power cord, something I had never experienced, doubt was true, and even if it was: Fix the problem, don't scrap the design.

I contacted a computer repair expert, who said: "My man, you could not be more right! We get countless computers in for the 'non-MagSafe foot cable' issue! Apple need their heads examined!"

I await Apple's next improvement. Perhaps they'll replace the computer with an abacus.

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Gene Weingarten can be reached at weingarten@washpost.com. Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon Eastern at www.washingtonpost.com.

(c) 2019, The Washington Post Writers Group

 

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