Friday, August 04, 2006

dan on the cult of apple

"All Hail Steve Jobs! Bringer of all Technological light! Creator of such marvels the likes of which we cannot conceive…"

I imagine the staff at my local Apple store reciting this at the beginning of every working day, in some sort of pep talk/team bonding ritual which probably also occurs at Starbucks outlets and Virgin Megastores up and down the land.

Yet the thing with Apple, as I'm sure everyone is aware, is that this form of worship extends beyond corporate culture and is embraced too by its customers, who currently comprise a large proportion of the 'young professional' population of the entire Western world. Apple, and all its beautifully sculptured techno creations, can do no wrong, it seems. You try reasoning with a Mac owner about overly fancy user-interfaces and they look at you and realise with horror that they might be in the presence of a doubter, or worse, a PC owner!

My dealings with the Church of Apple - or iChurch, as I will now call it - have been limited to my entering my local Apple shop (or Temple) and asking the guy inside if my first generation iPod (which I had been lucky enough to inherit) was really dead or if there was some insider trick to re-vitalising it. Having consulted the Gospel of Apple (which preaches the 5 Rs: Reset, Retry, Restart, Reinstall and Restore), and after a quick spell plugged into a very expensive Apple Mac Book laptop, my old iPod was officially pronounced dead and given its last rights in the Temple. The solemn mood was soon broken, however, by Apple man (or iMan, for iChurch members) switching into sale mode and asking if I was interested in an up-to-date edition from the Apple family. He was quickly told I couldn't afford one and that no, I didn't want the budget iShuffle.

I shuffled out.

That same day though - and this might have something to do with my time in the local Temple, or maybe just the fear of not knowing how to listen to my collection of podcasts - I was on the Apple Store website. I was totally sucked in. I had no money but I had to have a new iPod. All those lifestyle pictures of happy, cool North American-looking people just doing stuff with little white wires coming from their ears... it captivated me. All rational thoughts on the performance of iPods and the fact that EVERYONE I know who has ever had one has had a problem with the damn thing at some point or other vanished as I drooled over the sleek lines of the lovely looking iPod Nano. Things would be different this time, I told myself. PC connection worries have been sorted since the iChurch softened its stance on inter-marriage with Microsoft products, and there's no more messing about with Firewire. Mac software is slow but I like iTunes.

I convinced myself I needed one to fill the void of my dearly recently departed 'First Gen' and that anyway I would be able to view photos on the tiny screen and look at my album covers in micro art form. So I bought one, having agonised for ages over whether or not to have laser engraved on the back some clever quote or just my email address to shame any would-be thief into returning it. To my amazement the thing arrived the next day. (Apple, like most religious organisations, is obviously eager to spread the word). It arrived in a box which cried out 'this is not like anything else you own'. The box resembles jewellery packaging and as it glides open and you read the words 'Made in California'... just for one second you can see yourself standing under the Golden Gate bridge just hanging out doing stuff with white wires protruding from your ears... Living the American dream.

So, yeah. I really like my iPod Nano. We go everywhere together. Yes, I know it'll break no matter how much care I take of it, the screen will crack, battery fail within a year etc... But its an Apple and somehow I can't bring myself to seriously question the workmanship. Perhaps now I am a true member of the iChurch. (No, no, I can't be. I still own and use a PC - I'll never be accepted in).

But what is it about Apple? Apple Fundamentalists queue outside their temples for the latest gizmo regardless of whether they need one or not and hang on every rumour of what the iChurch will invent next. Any mention of the Chinese sweatshops that make iPods - and which presumably save the iChurch a bundle in production costs - are either hushed or ignored by the faithful. You wouldn't expect another prominent West Coast Corporation such as Nike to have such an easy ride on that issue. Language has even changed because of this cultish behaviour - we are obliged to put a lower case 'i' in front of practically every other word we use now; a real pain when typing. The BBC recently announced a change in structuring to accommodate the future, in which we will all apparently be watching BBC TV on iPods on the tube or bus. I don't know. Maybe we will, but I remain to be convinced that such unequivocal support and money should be given to such a large Corporation.

Perhaps the way forward is to advocate a split in the iChurch. Maybe a Martin Luther figure will step forward and post a note on an internet message board and start the ball rolling? Maybe someday soon we'll see the creation of The iChurch of England, a sort of genial hobby-Church where we can politely refuse particular tenets of the Gospel of the iChurch, its founder Steve Jobs and its multitude of blinkered followers...

[blogging by Dan]


Ali P said...

Cast your mind back to Christmas 2004, at which point I became the proud owner of a pale blue ipod mini- since discontinued.

I, like Dan, carried it with me wherever I went and even occasionally listened to it in bed and kept it under my pillow, amongst other things.

However, about 6 months into my love affair (with my baby blue ipod), my battery went kapoot and after much negotiating with many apple repair centres and such like, I on, TWO occasions, had it replaced under warrantee by Mr Apple.

But it was not to be and so, I laid my baby blue ipod to rest in it's original packaging, said my 'prayers' *&%$$%3$£ useless piece of %$&*£, and walked away, slightly scarred by the whole affair.

8 months down the line, i re-discovered my baby ipod, nestling sleepily in it's minimalist packaging. For old times sake, I charged her up, and took her with me on the commute, and my GOD. do you know what, she played and played and played for at least a whole hour before breaking.

So what does this mean Dan? Jonathan? Anyone? Are ipods life forms, which, like anyone, need a rest from time to time to gather their musical thoughts?

jonathan said...

Indeed they are. You're merely experiencing iPod hibernation, and the only problem is that you woke her up too early. Next time, bed her down in straw inside the packaging (it'll need to be apple-branded minimalist iStraw, obviously) and leave a small bowl of milk and bread beside the box. The iPod will reemerge when it is good and ready and all the better for it's long sleep. Feed it promptly with mp3s and it will be as good as new.

Baby blue said...

thank you dr jonathan. i shall endeavour to nurse her back to help with your top tips. xxx