By Dan Moren
June 30, 2016 1:03 PM PT
The Back Page: A minimum of futzing
There’s a lot of fuss right now over a rumor that Apple may remove the good old headphone jack on the upcoming iPhone.
I say, friends, you’re lucky you’ve got any ports left on your Apple devices. This is a company that hates ports with the passion of that guy in The Jerk who hates cans. If Apple can be claimed to have any sort of singular focus over the last two decades, it is bent upon the single-minded goal of eliminating all ports on our devices.
It started in the earliest days of Steve Jobs’s return to the company and the release of the original iMac, which eliminated not only the floppy drive but most ports that weren’t those newfangled USB jobbies. (Well, okay, there was still a headphone port. And a mic port. And one of those Ethernet ports—but only because Wi-Fi wasn’t really a thing yet.)
Then there was the original iPod, which had only a headphone jack and a FireWire 400 port. (Ah, remember FireWire? The good old days!) That trend has continued more or less unabated through the iPod line to the iPhone line, leaving only a headphone jack and one other port, which transmuted from FireWire to the 30-pin dock connector, and eventually to the Lightning port that we still have. And make no mistake, as soon as it’s convenient to ditch that one, Apple will probably be doing so. A perfect oblong of glass and aluminum unmarked by any sort of ingress? This is what Jony Ive dreams of at night in his perfectly white room.
The Mac has taken a similar journey, culminating in the latest revision of the MacBook, which—to the fevered outcries of many—has done away with everything except a single, solitary USB-C port. Some hope that the next version would at least offer a second port to compliment the first, but I say don’t hold your breath: that single port is not a limitation but a choice and, more than that, a promise. A promise that those dastardly ports will eventually all be exterminated from Apple’s devices.
It’s not hard to see: look at the Apple Watch. Aside from small holes for its mic and speakers, the Watch is a totally sealed-off, port-less technological marvel. Even the third-generation iPod Shuffle in its near-buttonless glory can not match it.
We have some time yet ahead of us before we see what a port-less iPhone will look like, though if Apple does remove the headphone jack in the next iteration, that timeline becomes more likely, and perhaps even more imminent.
I am, personally, not yet convinced that a port-less future is one that we should hope for, though these messes of wiring behind my TV stand and my desk suggest that eliminating some of these wires could be for the best. But ports, jacks, and wires are still often the best tools for a given job—in many cases because they still mean a minimum of futzing. And when you get right down to it, that’s what technology is supposed to do for us: minimize the time we spend seeing the tools and maximize the amount of time that the tools do what we want them to. Where a port-less agenda does that, I support it, and where it doesn’t, well, let’s just say it ain’t broke.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @email@example.com or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]