The Bad Apple and Me

Tom Mahon
4 min readFeb 3, 2023

~Tom Mahon~

I just bought a new iPhone. And with that I entered the lowest chamber in Hell. It has taken me a week to find a Get out of Hell card.

Apple has $65 billion in cash now. Maybe with that the company can buy the piece that’s long been missing from the logo: common sense.

Technical gizmos, however shiny and insanely great, should never become the centerpiece of a cult or a religion where glitches are accepted by the devotees in order to achieve the greater good, whatever that may be.

My trouble started when I forgot my old password. Without that, I could not begin to enjoy the ultra-feature-rich features that are featured in the shiny, insanely great gizmo.

The solution to getting a new password is to first enter your old password. I am not kidding. Sixty-five billion smackers on hand, some of the sharpest people on earth in the headcount, and I must remember the forgotten password to enjoy the product.

Thus I could not access the hundreds (maybe thousands) of new features that have replaced the comfortable, manageable feature set of my old iPhone. That poor puppy was a victim of planned obsolesce when my carrier dropped 3G from its tower.

This problem — told to use the old, forgotten password to create a new password — went on for several days, both on the phone and in the store.

One gentleman at the Genius Bar told me there was no solution available from the Geniuses. They had been stripped of the ability to solve this one problem. (Does it come up that often?)

He told me someone from higher up would be in touch. Later that day, I got this email: “You will receive a text or a phone call at this number when your account is ready to recover on January 31, 2023 at 7:41:36 AM PST. (The actual email. It sounds like I will get my child back when I deliver the ransom. The call never came.)

I told the Apple people, on the phone and in the store, this was like Catch-11. Then I had to explain to the young Applets what a Catch-22 was. I said it was like something out of Kafka — again, who or what is a Kafka.

I envy them their proficiency with the gizmo. But the lack of general knowledge is concerning. I can go to Target for that. Maybe this is why the race to reach Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) has become so critical.

I think at the heart of this darkness is Moore’s Law. I respect Dr Moore. His was a brilliant projection almost 60 years that you can double the capability of a microprocessor every 18–24 months.

But having all that ‘silicon real estate’ forces the engineering community to add more and more features to the devices, going way beyond common sense.

I don’t mind having, say, ten choices for a phone ring. But when I have to pick from a hundred or more, I freeze up. I am overwhelmed. I sit like Hamlet or J. Alfred Prufrock, Do I dare and do I dare? But first I must get a new password, and I can’t one until I enter my password.

As the processors become more self-assured, we become more hesitant; self-doubting. Which of those many ringtones is the right one that will never offend people wherever I may ever be when the phone rings? Certainly, I must avoid shrieks from horror movies on TCM; or the cries of enemy combatants during enhanced interrogation; or the prayers of children all over the world hoping that Tinkerbell will be saved.

Only when I threatened to return the product to buy an Android device, or just stay home from now on and use my desktop and a separate phone for 911 calls… only then did we get anywhere. The problem was solved in under five minutes. Why was the process so frustratingly opaque? Nobody knew.

Once upon a time, these were cool things to have; now they are necessities to function in the world.

Once, 40 years ago, Ridley Scott’s TV ad introduced the Mac promising it would be ‘a computer for the rest of us.’ Now the Apple brand is a luxury item, like Louis Vuitton or Gucci or Lancôme.

Once, we were the land of the free and the home of the brave.

UPDATE: FROM INSANELY GREAT TO THE FALL FROM EDEN

I spent 30+ hrs this week trying to get a new Apple ID password because I forgot the old password without which you cannot get a new pw.

Well I finally found a human somewhere in the Apple organization yesterday who spoke to me in conversational Standard American English, and we worked it out. That was yesterday.

The hard-won pw from yesterday no longer works today. And even tho I now use it as my old pw (24 hrs old) I cannot get a new password to access the many features on my overly-feature-rich iPhone.

But at last I know what where that first byte of the Apple went. It is when Adam bit into it and we were cast out of Eden, the end of Innocence.

© 2023, Thomas Mahon

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Tom Mahon

I've been writing about technology for 50 yrs, most of that time in Silicon Valley. The 40 Anny reprint of my book CHARGED BODIES has just been re-printed.