The last two weeks have brought me a barrage of incredible and enthusiastic comments to my article about my first week with the iPhone. I have felt moved emotionally by many. My article has caused some to laugh, some to cry, and some to buy iPhones. It feels so good to make a difference in other’s lives. For years I have wanted to help change the world, especially the world of the blind, through technology. Now I have my chance. Nevertheless, in these four hundred or so comments, I did receive a negative one. I therefore felt compelled to address my detractor in a somewhat sarcastic academic fashion, making a medicine out of the malady.
I don’t even know or care who wrote the comment. I could go and find out, or even go to make sure I get the comment exactly right, but I would rather not disturb it from resting in its rightful place in my trash folder. I did not approve it on the iPhone article, because I did not want it to blight the enthusiasm. The comment read:
It’s the software, not the phone. I guess even the blind can be Apple fanboys.
Oh I’m sorry, did I break your concentration? I didn’t mean to do that. Please, continue. You were saying something about Apple fanboys? What’s the matter? Oh. You were finished? Well allow me to retort!
The blind have always needed other ways to keep notes and the like. In the late eighties, a wonderful machine came out called the Braille ‘n Speak. The company which produced it, Blazie Engineering, had heart. They really cared. The machine held its own for ten years, but eventually became outdated and the company merged and became lost. When this happened, I thought that I would have to create the next device, since everything else sucked. I imagined building an operating environment for the blind on top of Linux, and having a piece of hardware designed. Obviously, one person trying to do this presented difficulties. Suddenly, Apple stepped up and released the iPhone and siblings,. They also made Macs accessible. Suddenly I found something akin to my vision – a consistent environment built on top of a Unix variant. Amazing! Things have finally started coming into focus, and with the strength of a corporation behind them. They saved me a bunch of work. This does not make me an Apple fanboy.
For years, the blind have gotten nothing from corporations. Accessibility means as much as its market share, in other words not much. Big companies usually do not have an incentive to care about a very small base of users, or so they think. In truth, the blind represent a tightly knit community who tend to follow products loyally and passionately. If something works, word travels quickly, and everyone adopts the thing in question. If something doesn’t work, word travels even more quickly, dooming the product to failure. Apple’s devices have withstood the test. Recognizing this does not make me an Apple fanboy.
The blind have even gotten used to getting nothing from the very companies selling products to the blind. One time, a friend ordered a talking thermometer. When it arrived, she couldn’t figure out how to use it, so called the company for help. “Oh, what’s the matter? Can’t you read the instructions printed on the box?” This represents the level of so-called care to which the blind have sadly become accustom. Finally seeing a corporation actually doing things which actually help the blind represents such a welcome change, and one about which I feel justifiably enthusiastic. I do not believe this makes me an Apple fanboy.
My esteemed critic seems to put all emphasis on software. Obviously, you could run these kinds of programs on any platform, so in that sense the platform doesn’t matter. You could probably do a lot of this on a Droid or a Netbook. I love and advocate free open source software. If my illustrious colleague would have bothered to actually read my blog, they would have seen the very next entry after my iPhone article detailed how to export your Emacs calendar to the iPhone, making it possible to integrate part of the epitome of free open source software with the iPhone. GNU/Linux represents something equally important to what Apple has done, though for different reasons. You can’t beat its price or underlying philosophy! Clearly, the fact that I still advocate free open source software does not make me an Apple fanboy.
Everybody knows that you need hardware to run software, and that without software the hardware becomes useless. Hardware and software represent two complimentary elements, like earth and sky, or the negative and positive poles on a battery or magnet. Focusing on one to the exclusion of the other results in the same follies that it would in any other field of activity. Apple’s platform has allowed for amazing innovation. Countless developers have done countless things, some of which you might never even have considered. Because of this balance, I do not think feeling excited about a piece or five of hardware makes me an Apple fanboy.
With all of this APple goodness, I should also point out that I have also criticized Apple for some things as well, clearly separating me from the Apple fanboys. I wrote at length about how iTunes prevents certain functions of the phone from becoming accessible to the blind. I said that until they update it, they cannot claim full accessibility. I even went so far as to draw comparisons between battling a disability like blindness and battling cancer i.e. Steve Jobs. This seemed rather harsh in hindsight I admit, but nevertheless the truth remains: you cannot just wish away a disability or illness. I then watched in amazement as these remarks appeared in the Atlantic. My love of open source software has also caused me to question Apple’s closed application submission policies, as have many. Do these sound like the words of an Apple fanboy?
I’ve had quite a transformative summer. I bought an iPhone in June. I bought an iPad in July. I bought an iMac in September. I know that I will buy a Macbook as surely as I know the sun will rise. I have done this because I see Apple’s hardware and software at the cutting edge of accessible technology. I did not do this because of some wild impulsive behavior, or because I like spending money to get more stuff, as some cynically suspected. I certainly did not do this because of some groundless unrequited love of a fanciful personification. I realize my critic will probably have to look up half of those words, so let me make it simple. I do not consider myself an Apple fanboy!
I love the autumn, I always have, largely because of the wonderful apples which come in season. I love good slightly tart big juicy crispy lovely golden apples. I always have. Since buying my iMac, I have eaten something Apple-related every day – fresh apples, apple cider, apple pie, whatever I can find. The other day, I ordered a Stromboli from my favorite pizzeria. The guy delivered the food, and started discussing the weather, which led us to talking about apples. Man this guy went on and on about apples. Apples! Apples! Apples! Apples! Apples! “There’s this place, it might be Linvilla, where you can go and pick your own apples! I mean, they have like fifty kinds of apples, can you imagine that? And you can get a bucket or something, and go pick them.” “Yeah, I just went there last week and bought some things, but I don’t know if they have that.” “Oh, their apple pies are to die for, but they’re, what, like eight bucks, right?” “I don’t know something like that yeah.” I hoped my Stromboli would stay warm in the cooling night. “And, another thing, have you ever had a pawpaw? You know the Jungle Book, that song Baloo sings, about being Under the Pawpaw Tree?” “Um, yeah, I think so.” “Well, they were a staple of the early colonists, but are hard to grow commercially, so you don’t see them in stores, but I lived next door to a private orchard which had them. They are so good, but they have a hard skin like a kiwi, kind of prickly, but they are so good, you should try them.” I thanked him, paid him, and went inside. When I unpacked the order, I noticed he forgot the hot peppers. About ten minutes later, someone rang my doorbell. I wondered if he had come back just to deliver me this little bag of hot peppers. “Sorry, I forgot something.” he said, holding out a rectangular box. I told him that he must have gotten the wrong order, actually he just forgot my peppers. “Oh, sorry, we have this new guy tonight, I think he got blasted or something.” Ok, but you just spent five minutes talking about apples, then got an order confused. Just saying. I didn’t actually say that to him, of course, he seemed nice enough. Apples! Pawpaws! More apples! Still, even with all this apple-related fun, I would never call myself an Apple fanboy, though some may begin to nervously disagree at this point.
In conclusion, I do not consider myself an Apple fanboy for several reasons. Firstly, Apple’s commitment to accessibility deserves real praise. Secondly, focusing solely on hardware or software misses the other. Thirdly, I continue to advocate free open source software, even criticizing iTunes and Apple’s closed submission policies. Fourthly, I have never really considered myself a joiner. I tend to remain on the sidelines or behind the scenes, attempting to maintain my individuality amidst unity. I named my site Behind the Curtain for this reason. Fifthly, I have always loved apples in all forms. I got my start with computers on an Apple II/E, the first home computer made accessible to the blind. I love the apples in the autumn. Discordians value the party-crashing golden apple thrown by our Goddess to crash a certain wedding to which she was not invited. Now things have come full circle. If Apple continues its commitment to accessibility, the Golden Apple will indeed crash the party of certain companies and even philosophies whose time has come. The inferior must make way for the superior. I believe I have made a logical retort. Given the illogical and mean-spirited nature of the original comment, however, I doubt it matters. Oh well, any article which references Pulp Fiction and the Jungle Book has to have some merit, right?
While reading over this article for the final time before publishing, I realized something. So what if I may seem over-enthusiastic, an Apple fanboy if you will. Apple has changed my life forever and for the better. Their products have opened doors and rekindled friendships. Judge a tree by its fruit. Kallisti!