Michael Gartenberg: Apple’s Baghdad Bob

I recently read an opinion piece in Mac World written by Michael Gartenberg; Open versus Closed. There were a few items that made me laugh about how much mis-truth and FUD Apple is trying to spread. Here are a couple of choice quotes from the article with my thoughts after them.

In many ways, iOS devices are probably what the people at Apple had in mind when they created the original Mac. These are appliances that can do magical things without the need for a programmer or computer expert to get involved. The Mac didn’t succeed at that entirely, but today’s iOS devices fulfill that dream.

Say what?

I watched these events as a teenager and I thought Macintosh was about having a computer for everyone. Powerful simple to use computers that would prevent IBM from dominating the personal computer industry and owning the information age. Jobs started out as a computer hobbyist, not a corporate tycoon trying for global domination.

A long time ago, high schools offered shop class. You learned all about cars, how they worked, how they could be repaired. It was necessary information because without it you couldn’t drive.

What? I do not recall any time in history when you could not drive if you did not know how to repair your car. I think Michael might be thinking of one of those Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies.

Open the hood of many of today’s cars and you’ll find vast expanses of plastic, covering parts that are not intended to be user serviceable. Cars have become closed systems.

Really? Certainly they might be more complex, but closed? I can, if I want, replace the factory radio. I can change the spark plugs. It is not closed. No, saying that cars are closed is just down right fiction.

The debate about computers and other tech gadgets — should they be open systems fit for tinkering, or closed that aren’t meant to be cracked open — will no doubt continue for some time come. But I expect it’s a debate that will matter more in the coffee shops of Silicon Valley or in online screeds that few will read and fewer will care about.

The rest of us will be too busy getting work done. We’ll be communicating and collaborating with friends, family and colleagues.

Here is the red herring of his argument.  He implies that those of us who like an open system will get a ‘bad’ system. We will be so busy tinkering that we won’t be able to get work done or communicate with our friends. Wait… I am using an open system. I am using Ubuntu and I am getting work done and communicating with my friends.

Sorry Michael, but just like Baghdad Bob you are practicing mis-information. Could it be because the open system, Android, just knocked off iOS in the smart phone race? Could it be that Apple is afraid of the Android tablets due out in the 4th quarter of this year?

The truth is out there though… people just have to go look.

We can have open, productive, amazing, and magical systems that enable us to do fantastic things with information. All for a lot less than it costs to buy a locked down iToy.

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5 Responses to Michael Gartenberg: Apple’s Baghdad Bob

  1. No one says:

    You don’t work on cars much, do you?

    Cars today are very closed compared to cars then, just like electronics and everything else.
    But for hardware it’s mostly just economics.

    You need to get creative with the placement of things when your engine compartment is tiny compared to what they used to be (this is why sometimes you have to go in through the dash board to get to things).
    With electronics, it’s cheaper to put everything on a single chip, which means there’s very few ‘repairable’ parts on things these days. You can’t replace a tube, or swap out an IC (socketed or not), or even replace a diode that burnt out anymore. These parts simply don’t exist in TVs today. A single, monolithic IC does everything.

    Unfortunately, this means we throw things away instead of fixing them. Which means as a culture we don’t value fixing or tinkering with things anymore.

    This began with hardware (which is easier to tinker with, because it exists on a macroscopic scale), but it affects software the same as well. This is why most people don’t care about how their computer works. They want a magic box that gets them to videos of cats, just like they want a magic box that gets them to and from the grocery store.

    • Charles Profitt says:

      Certainly it has become more difficult to work on cars, but that does not make them closed. You can, if you have the knowledge, tools and desire, make changes. Such changes do not violate a EULA.

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  3. Martin Owens says:

    No one: And this is a problem in my view. To be so unconcerned with the way the world works… it’s inviting nasty things to happen.

    I’m reminded a lot of this attitude of throwing things away when I think about the huge amounts of debt the western nations have. So much misunderstanding about what loans are _for_, because of course what they’re not for is flat-screen TVs.

    But you try and tell a consumer that, all they want to do is consume, they don’t want to work for it. So they borrow or in the case of industry sell the future down the river through fragile, welded-shut products which have been designed to be constructed and not repaired or de-constructed.

    Sometimes I wonder how infantile we really are as a species, we waste so much time and resource on this stuff.

  4. Tobi says:

    The car analogy is actually even worse: If Apple built cars, those cars wouldn’t only have a closed engine compartment (like the battery for the iPhone you can’t change), but they would also only drive on certain roads and only to destinations that have the approval of Cupertino. And if Apple finds out you have changed the radio system inside your car, they would remotely disable your engine…

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