“That’s so cool,” I sighed as I exhaled after my first hit. “I have to get some more of that.” After many months of mooching highs from my friends, I realized that I had to have some of my own. I asked around for a good connection and after many dead ends — I connected. It was in a crumby part of town in an even crumbier apartment that I scored. After much sampling and haggling I marched out with my first Apple computer. It was the Macintosh. The first one. The little, all in one box with the intuitive mouse operated user interface. It was top of the line, a tiny screen, floppy drive, a mouse and a screaming 1 megabyte of memory. It was so cute. I had previously tried PC’s and Mac 2’s and and had zero interest in their non- intuitive command operating systems, based on MS DOS. Really tedious. Must be a right brain/left brain thing. The new little Mac sucked me right in. It was to be the start of a twenty-five year addiction.
Try it, you’ll like it.
I had first become aware of the Mac in Reno, in 1984. We were staying at the MGM Grand Hotel during Super Bowl weekend. They were showing the game on a giant screen in one of their theaters and serving free hot dogs and beer to get us into the spirit of the game. I do not remember the score or even who was playing, but I sure, along with millions of others, remember the first Macintosh commercial. It was the one based on George Orwell’s novel, 1984, with the woman runner throwing a hammer through the movie of a p.c. priest.
As with any addiction, I had to have more and more. After the first little Mac, I had a few of the dreary desktops during the dark Scully years, one of which cost $4000 (Quadra) because I had it upgraded to an astounding, at the time, 4 megs of ram and 40 megs of memory. After these I moved into the iMacs. With these I was truly hooked. They not only looked good with the flat screen monitor on a chrome arm on top of a beautiful white plastic dome, they worked great with the new OX software.
Everything leading up to the typical Apple purchase is calculated to be addictive, starting with the advertising, both print and TV, designed to get the buzz going and to keep the user coming back for more, and more. With Mac products, even the packaging is addictive. It starts in the Apple store, which is equally obsessive, if a little cultish — with all the blue shirts and smiling faces. Not to mention their very minimum wage, well below Walmart’s. The beautiful packaging entices the already weak user to buy the product. Finally, the process of opening the beautifully packaged new product, which is like opening a desirous Christmas present.
Yum, Yum. I want more.
The brilliant (but probably overworked to the point of lunacy), Apple design and engineering staff is constantly kept busy tweaking the product to make it more enticing to the user. Sort of like the chemists at the tobacco companies tweaking the amount of nicotine in the cigarettes to keep the customers coming back for more. I certainly know that I always want more and more of the latest Apple product. iBooks, iWork,iPods, iTouch, leopards, lions, tigers and the creme de la creme iPhones and iPads. I want, and have, them all. They must be doing something right, or wrong, depending on your point of view. In either case, I sure have spent a lot of money.
On day in October, I received terrible news. Steve Jobs was dead. That can’t be. The man behind the screen. The wizard of Cupertino, my connection, my main man was dead. What’s going to become of Apple, and me? After all, Steve Jobs is considered a lord by many.
Ironically, on the same day that Steve jobs died, my computer went into it’s own grief mode. A huge question mark started flashing on the screen, and the computer would not start up. I assumed that it was saying, “where’s Steve? where’s Steve?” This lasted seven days, so I assumed that there was a little jewish blood in there somewhere.
As I was grieving along with my computer, I began to think of the dark side of Apple. These thoughts did not make me very happy with myself. I began to realize that Apple is really like a big Mexican drug cartel. The Apple business model, while not as vicious or as violent, certainly seems to have a great many similarities to business model of a Mexican drug cartel.
Just like a cartel, Apple ruthlessly controls each step along the way from original product conception through the vastly overworked, underpaid and abused manufacturing workers in China (the growers), then the shipping process (the mules).
And finally the product gets to the Apple stores (the connection). Talk about the appearance of a cult, all those smiles and blue shirts. And ultimately, to me, the addict, willing to pay top dollar for the product.
An interesting side story to the life of the Apple employees in Cupertino is the new corporate headquarters Apple is proposing. It is going to be like a giant flying saucer plopped down in the middle of Cupertino. It is being presented as some sort of architectural breakthrough but it seems, to me, to be much more cynical than that. It is really no more than a giant work camp in which the workers will be confined to a giant, doughnut shaped building surrounding surrounding an equally large exercise yard, restricted to only Apple employees. The entire project will have extremely limited access for non-Apple people. I would also assume that there will be all sorts of “services” supposedly to keep the employees happy, but more than likely intended to keep them working longer hours. Apple folks will only be able to talk to Apple folks. What next, dormitories so the workers can stay there all the time? Sounds like sort of a giant cult to me. I bet they will be serving Apple Kool-aide in the cafeteria. Sort of like a glorified Foxconn with the same abusive long hours.
At least the workers at Cupertino are paid well for all the long, long hours they put in. It is much worse at Foxconn, Apple’s supposedly closely monitored Chinese supplier SPACESHIP where underpaid workers slave (literally) away to assemble all the products to feed our insatiable needs. Foxconn’s idea of employee health benefits are the nets they have put up to keep workers from killing themselves jumping out of windows due to the stress from long hours, overwork and really awful living conditions.
The whole process is not very nice to contemplate. It really is like like a drug lord driven Mexican cartel with a lot of the awful downsides. All of us addicts should really be ashamed of ourselves and demand more of Apple. It is not like they do not have enough money to make the whole process more humane. I just heard on the news that Apple is going to use some of their extraordinary cash pile to pay its investors a rather small dividend. No mention of using some of this money to pay the workers a little more and allow them to work fewer hours, currently 12 to 16 hours per day, so that they could actually have a more normal life. Come on Apple, share a little of your grotesque wealth. They are people just like us, not slaves. It will make us Apple addicts feel a little better about our habit. Maybe we will even good enough to buy more Apple stuff.
To top off this sad tale of my addiction and Apple’s avarice, I have recently learned from an article in The Times that, just like the drug lords in Mexico, Apple is using all kinds of shady ways (double Irish and Dutch sandwiches) to hide (launder) their grotesque profits from the tax collector. All iTune sales goes directly to Luxemburg to avoid all US taxes! This avoidance of Apple’s social responsibilities is helping to kill the very California Dream (great education and well paid consumers), that made Apple possible in the first place. These tricks are certainly not helping all the other places that Apple does business either. Apple is being selfish, disgusting, and extremely shortsighted.
I don’t even want to go into the grotesque Apple new CEO (lord), Tim Cook. If you look into it, he has not even proven himself. He certainly does not seem to be a Steve Jobs, who for all his faults, was certainly a creative and design genius, despite his megalomanic personality. Apple is paying Cook more than he could ever possibly need, or spend. I bet that there are of of drug lords in Mexico questioning their line of work. It never seems to occur to Apple that they could raise the pay of everyone making the stuff in China and still have enough left over to pay Cook handsomely.
It seems that at every fork in the road, Apple takes the low road instead of doing the honorable thing.
I really don’t feel that bad about my addiction to Apple products. Granted, Apple products are great and I love them and can afford them. I do feel bad about the trail of death destruction and down right selfishness that Apple pursues to support my habit. I, and I bet, many more, would gladly pay more to have a more honorable supply chain/connection.
I feel so bad about my part in all of this that I have developed my own twelve step program to wean myself from my addiction to Apple products. It is quite simple. Every time I hear a conversation about Apple products, or see an Apple store or sign, I take twelve steps in the other direction. It is sort of working, but I find that I really want a new iPhone so that I can gain wisdom from Siri. Interestingly enough, Android is taking a big step to challenge the iPhone.
“I’m not an addict I can quit anytime…”