The Unibody and Engineered Disposability, Irresponsibility, and Obsolescence?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by rhyzome, Jan 8, 2014.

  1. rhyzome, Jan 8, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2014

    rhyzome macrumors regular

    Apr 2, 2012
    It is nearing time to replace my current MacBook Pro with...something. As I've pondered my options, I've lately come to realize that I'm increasingly discontent with where Apple seems to be going with their business--or certain elements of it. I want to see what insights the MacRumors community has on these issues--namely, of what I perceive to be Apple's engineered obsolescence, disposability, and irresponsibility, and the lies that Apple tells--that many of us tell--in subtle ways to conceal that engineering that makes the company so rich and many people poor.

    First, let me say I'm a big fan of Apple from a family of fans of Apple. I especially like my Mac and the Apple platform for its utility in "creating"--the way you can bring together all sorts of texts, photos and other media to make your own creative work in an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface is unbeatable. That's what I primarily do with my computer, but I know it is powerful at doing even more stuff.

    But I want to explain the accusations in my thesis sentence and in the title in the rest of this, and hear your responses.

    The statement that a computer "becomes" obsolete is a lie. Apple and other software and hardware companies and creators mostly unintentionally--though not naively, and perhaps increasingly intentionally--create new forms of flash media and make them ubiquitous on the internet, or create new forms of software and push them until they are "standard". Those new forms happen to be such that newer systems handle them well and older ones don't. Only after that action can a machine "become" obsolete. The becoming is, however, a fabrication. If you restored my nearly 8 year old machine to its factory settings, reinstalled the factory disc software, disconnected from the net, etc, it would run the same way it did the first day; the circuits haven't changed, and if you restored it, the software wouldn't either.

    It is therefore possible to design and engineer computers, hardware and software, in a sustainable way. It is possible to regulate the technical change we fool ourselves into calling an "upgrade". That doesn't mean don't innovate. It means innovate in a way that is in the user's and consumer's interest. Because of the great problem of electronic waste, it also means innovating in the environment's interest. Apple has a responsibility to design its products so they last.

    At least in my eyes; I'm a firm believer in the idea that tools ought to last. I thus can't stand that the newer MBPs seem to be engineered specifically to be disposable! The unibody design appears to literally embody a throwaway mentality. Glued components and a sealed case make repair, upgrade, or modification by the less-than-expertly-tech-knowledge-endowed user nearly impossible. It encourages one to buy, and then pay Apple a set price when something breaks (Apple often bets that the repair will cost less than that price but won't bother changing its institutional structure to avoid having you pay before it is discovered downstream that the repair costs significantly less), or throwaway and replace. The attitude of disposability is not only environmentally threatening, but socially irresponsible and disgusting. It implicitly states, buy, and buy again to upgrade. Can't pay apple for your repair? Can't buy new? Don't want to? You're out of luck. What happened to the old hobbyist mentality of cultivating and slowly building a system around a structure that will last a long, a really long time, with components that are upgraded over the years and customizable and interchangeable? Why is apple making mass-produced junk that I have to throw away? The stuff doesn't even increase in value over time like my antique lamps that long behold still work perfectly after more than a century. Apple MBPs don't even work after 5-7 years.

    The situation that Apple creates is additionally coercive to persons who are in less fortunate economic situations: students who depend on their machines for what is their work and what they believe to be a mechanism of social mobility--students, who are clearly a _huge_ part of Apple's market base (evidence: education discount, and a peak at the machines used by students in just about any university library). Apple takes advantage of them--and creative professionals who established or not, with or without more money than students, use their products to create.

    I'm disgusted by the notion of Apple Care and by Apple's paltry free warranties. There are plenty of companies that give free 15 year or lifetime warranties covering replacement of machines often in the case of damage that many would call user-created. Apple won't even cover damages to the product that it admits are its own fault for more than a year for free, 3 with a policy you have to pay for. When you do pay for the extended warranty, you are paying for apple to pick up the pieces where it admits it is a defect that is their own fault. Even more disgustingly, Apple takes pains to circumscribe the definition of its "fault" in its favor to an exploitative extent: common causes of computer damage such as coffee spills are, after Apple persuades many with convenient lies, shunted out of that definition.

    Why can't Apple see as legitimate the idea that water damage is Apples fault. Of course, the user spilt the coffee or whatever. But we're not fools. We know that water can damage circuit boards. And engineers are not fools (I would like to think). Apple is at fault for not making its electronics spill proof, since it is obvious that they will be used in a context of everyday life in which people drink drinks in normal use. It is disgusting that the most common damage to Apple products is not covered under any Apple warranty because Apple's untruths that the damage isn't its fault are believed and legitimated by the public and many institutions. It is Apple's obligation to build computers that are spill-proof, and their fault that they get damaged by spills, not mine. They ought to pay for their own mistakes and defects, including this one, when I spill coffee on it and it breaks.

    In sum: I like the creative aspects of computing with Apple, but I don't want to give money to Apple anymore for a machine that it engineers to become obsolete, that it engineers to be disposable, irreparable, and unupgradable, that it engineers to be susceptible to accidents that are endemic to reasonable everyday life. I don't want to pay for their design mistakes--even mistakes Apple admits are their own fault--anymore. I don't buy into their straw man arguments that "obsolete" is not invented, that spills are caused by the user and not stupid engineers (or rather very crafty CEOs and engineers). Apple seems to have destroyed the old hobbyist way of computing, and frankly I don't really like to see that the sum of money I've given them over my lifetime (probably enough to buy a new Prius at this point) goes to building Foxconn and other ethically questionable campuses and the exploited lives of workers in China, and to their new frisbee-shaped extravagant, and equally questionable campus in the US. The mystique is gone.

    I don't like the technical, environmental, or even social system that Apple seems to be creating with its products, and I'm much less inclined than I was years ago to contribute to it anymore.

    I don't expect this post to be uncontroversial. Thank you for reading (any portion of it) and I look forward to the ensuing discussion.
  2. jav6454 macrumors P6


    Nov 14, 2007
    1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
    Don't forget to put your tinfoil hat on. There is no such thing as planned obsolete computers.

    Sure computers will eventually not able to cope with new standards, but that is how we advance. Certain architectures were never designed with 10 years into the future.

    Good example is Intel's Pentium 4 processors based on the Netburst architecture. They were never efficient and always ran hot.
  3. skolvikes macrumors newbie

    Mar 20, 2011
    Apple is at fault for not making its electronics spill proof, since it is obvious that they will be used in a context of everyday life in which people drink drinks in normal use.

    From what entitled bubble do you reside in? You spill your liquid on your computer, damage it, and it's Apple's fault? It's one thing to want them to cover this under warranty, it's another to deflect all blame and responsibility for your own actions. You don't want to worry about spilling liquid on your computer? Then don't buy a computer.

    That's like blaming the car manufacturer because you lost control of the wheel and ran into a telephone pole. It's obvious that your car will be used in the context of everyday life and people drive by telephone poles all the time.
  4. simonsi macrumors 601


    Jan 3, 2014
    Spill-proof would effectively entail water and air-tight (otherwise we are simply debating the degree of "proof"), that means air-tight, that means thermal problems, that will equate to much lower processing power - and that will mean much less of that Apple creativity ability that you say you love. can take some responsibility and we all get a better product.

    I agree with the fact that machines take much longer to become truly obsolete that we are inclined to appreciate but again the buying decision to replace any item is ours alone as individuals....not Apple's.

    Largely computer's become obsolete through filling up drives (and users being unable/unwilling to upgrade just the drives, hence manufacturers tend to build cheaper products that suit the usage of the majority of consumers), for that blame increasing video definition and camera resolution....

    These trends are all supported by consumers, if we don't give the manufacturers our money they would stop making these products pretty quickly...
  5. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    I dropped my computer on the floor and it broke. Surely this is Apple's fault for not designing their computers to be dropped!

    As far as upgrading, really the only step back is the RAM. But it's cheap to max out at order time.
  6. Ryan1524 macrumors 68000


    Apr 9, 2003
    Canada GTA
    If you restore an 8-yr old machine to its factory default, it is NOT the same as its first day. Any physical machine in our current age and development of technology has a lifespan.

    Assuming the machine has been in use during those 8-yrs, heat and electro/chemical/mechanical degradation will alter the components as time passes.

    And even if you can restore it to its initial mode, what you get is a perfectly working machine for that time period. It will run software from those time period, but not anything beyond what its specifications are capable of.

    If you once bought a hatchet for camping, and you now need a chainsaw. No matter how much you polish that hatchet, it will not do the job.
  7. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    This is a very interesting topic, but I am afraid that OP confuses reality with wishful thinking. Its quite simple, actually:

    - there is no way to develop hardware and software in a sustainable way. as our knowledge and technical ability grows, so grow our demands. If computers were created in a sustainable way, they couldn't do what they do now. Computer technology is quite different from, say, cars, because the computer technology grows exponentially

    - there are physical limitations of how the components can be constructed. Is it possible to make a water-proof computer? Yes, but it will cost an arm and a leg, overheat instantly and have a bunch of other drawbacks. Same goes for durability
  8. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Planned obsolescence or just limited lifespan?

    I don't think Apple is purposely designing computers with a set number of years. With that said, my opinion is many people only use a laptop for a few years and then upgrades it. Nature of the beast to see better, faster designs with more demanding software

    Laptops in general had a low upgrade ability and repairability. Apple made some decisions for a thinner design that takes this low repairability to a new level. I'd not think its because they want to design planned obsolescence
  9. priitv8, Jan 9, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2014

    priitv8 macrumors 68040

    Jan 13, 2011
    As I see it, the manufacturing of cars follows the exact same pattern - ever increasing integration, ever larger assemblies need to be replaced in repair.
    And. as a matter of fact - apart from engine and exhaust - there are no repairable parts in cars either. Whatever the defect, your service will replace the defective assembly. No authorised service station is even allowed to carry out repairs on most of these assemblies. They need to be replaced as units.
    The reason is quite simple - they need to return a street-legal car. And manufacturer takes the warranty.

    PS A contemporary car consists mostly of computer technology already.
  10. MCAsan macrumors 601


    Jul 9, 2012
    Its called progress. If you don't like it, get a house in the woods off the grid with a fireplace and learn to use a a sliderule and abacus.
  11. bradleyjx macrumors member

    Jul 7, 2008
    Madison, WI
    The big problem with computers is that the pace of advancement is still break-neck, even though it's not always apparent. For an example, I'll go off of the mac I bought five years ago as a baseline: the '08 Aluminium Macbook. That computer was fast for it's time, but since then... (for macs, at least)

    - USB 2 has been supplanted (mostly) by USB 3.
    - Many SATA interconnects within the computer have doubled in speed.
    - CD/DVD optical media has become near-obsolete at the consumer level.
    - The processor of '08 (2-core Penryns were standard then, I believe) and the graphics of '08 are objectively worse than the processors and graphics of '14 - not as much as the difference in the six years before that, but still substantial.
    - Solid-state has moved from being an expensive BTO option to being nearly-standard.
    - The needs that were filled by 800Mb/s Firewire are now primarily being filled with 20Gb/s Thunderbolt.
    - Wireless standards have advanced; 802.11n was a draft format in '08, and today 802.11ac is beginning to become pervasive with 802.11ad possibly on the horizon.
    - In 2008, 4GB of RAM was a lot in a notebook; today, it's standard, if not a bit low.

    Some of these things upgradability can handle: I upgraded the RAM and hard drive twice while using that computer. But most of the rest of those advances I couldn't take advantage of, whether it's a mac or most other notebook manufacturer.

    I gave that macbook to my dad two years ago, and he recently migrated to an rMBP for work-related reasons. In terms of longetivity, it still looks like it can last a while: it needs it's fan replaced and a new battery, but we're talking tangibles there. Nothing we can do to that machine will make it a faster computer anymore, and it doesn't matter whether I bought a mac or a ThinkPad in that regard.
  12. old-wiz macrumors G3

    Mar 26, 2008
    West Suburban Boston Ma
    So TV makers are also at fault for designing and selling TVs that fail if you spill water on them? Any piece of electronics that comes into contact with water or liquids can fail. This is the way it works.
  13. GSPice macrumors 68000


    Nov 24, 2008
  14. mneblett macrumors 6502

    Jun 7, 2008
    No it's not -- it is just a fact.

    The thing that "makes" older machines obsolete is not the hardware technology, but *our* demands on that hardware.

    90+% of the improvements in the computer field are just that: *improvements* over what came before, not just change for change's sake.

    We all want to have our programs run well -- primarily that means fast "enough," i.e., with sufficient hardware resources to make working with the programs not a pita. As programs have become more resource demanding, the hardware has evolved to keep pace with the demands being put on it. Some hardware improvements can be made backwards compatible, some can't. That is not "planned" hardware obsolescence, that is just the nature of *any* technology.

    That's why my 2008 MacBook Pro is still fully functional, but is "obsolete" for *my* needs -- I have greater software use demands than 5 years ago, so I bought a late '13 MBP. (The 2008 MBP is now in my wife's hands, and fully satisfies her needs). Between 2008 and 2013 I was able to do exactly what you want: replaced parts -- where the technologies would allow -- to improve performance (more RAM, SSD). But at some point no further improvements are feasible, as when the latest tech has to be fundamentally different in order to obtain new levels of performance.

    As to the non-replaceable RAM in the new MBP, I'm not thrilled about it, but it appears to me that that is less a matter of Apple's wanting to force us to dispose of computers, than Apple's responding to *our* constant demands for "more" -- thinner laptops, more battery, etc. One way to get thinner is to remove height-requiring RAM slot fixtures. That's what happened; I can't blame Apple for going this way. In fact, it appears they held off as long as they could by thinning other things in prior MBP generations, until eliminating RAM-receiving fixtures was unavoidable.

    Until the constant demand from *us* goes away, don't expect the current constant tech advances -- some of which require abandonment of old standards -- to change.
  15. takeshi74, Jan 9, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2014

    takeshi74 macrumors 601

    Feb 9, 2011
    It's not a lie. You're just defining it differently. Very few use a computer in a vacuum and never update the software or use anything that was not delivered with the computer. If a computer does not meet one's needs it is obsolete.

    Because we're not deluded or ignorant? :p

    Seriously, there's a response above that covers issues that you're conveniently overlooking. Every design decision has multiple consequences that have to be considered. If you're only seeing benefits to a decision then you haven't looked hard enough at the matter.
  16. GSPice macrumors 68000


    Nov 24, 2008
    This thread is disposable, irresponsible, and obsolete.
  17. Jack Sun macrumors member

    Oct 30, 2013
    OP's "logic" has been mostly picked apart already, but I would like to add for the "upgradability" crowd:

    MacBooks are becoming "disposable" because those factors (glue, everything pre-soldered to motherboard, etc) are the some of the key ways to engineer MacBooks thinner and thinner, lighter and lighter, while faster and faster, cooler and cooler, with longer and longer battery. Worthy tradeoff??? OF COURSE.

    If you DON'T think its a worthy trade-off, go buy yourself a big old upgradable clunker with 3 hours of battery life...
  18. TheEnthusiast macrumors regular

    Aug 22, 2013
    OP, if you're going to discuss something like this, at least be reasonable with some of your claims. The locked-down machine is a trade off for having a machine that's sleek, light and extremely portable. If you want a machine that's upgradable, the classic Macbook Pro is still on the market. Additionally, it is well-known that users are not advised to consume food or drink anywhere near computers. If you do that and some kind of spill happens, can't blame Apple. Sure there are keyboards that can prevent this, but that also affects the whole thin and light prospect; I'm not sure how well it would work with the current keyboard design either. If you want to go the route of the old computer hobbyist, then you're interested in a desktop, it's always been that way. Laptops, typically, only have two meaningful parts that are upgradable: RAM, HDD/SSD. Obviously, you can't upgrade with the new Macbook models, but, as I said before, it's a trade-off for design.

    Also, I hope you don't expect a fair discussion, on a subject that is critical of Apple, here.
  19. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    I disagree. Actually, virtually every response in this thread has been quite fair, especially considering the naivety of OP's post. The core problem is that OP clearly has a fundamental lack of understanding about how computer technology works.

    And quite seriously: how is this even supposed to be criticism towards Apple? Almost every complain raised by OP applies to the same degree to any computer manufacturer. Again, OP's issue is not with Apple but with the computers themselves.
  20. old-wiz macrumors G3

    Mar 26, 2008
    West Suburban Boston Ma
    water damage is Apple's fault????? Seriously???

    Have you tried to compare to the other phone makers? Do you know a single mainstream phone that can resist dropping into water?

    I don't see Samsung advertising that you can drop your phone in the tub then saying it's so much better than Apple.
  21. GSPice macrumors 68000


    Nov 24, 2008
    I wonder if the OP owns a DVD player that is engineered to be obsolete with features like, say, a built in amplifier.
  22. akdj macrumors 65816


    Mar 10, 2008
    So. True. OP seems to still be living in 1998. Computers are no longer baseline builds @ $2,500---with professional and 'current' technologies ONLY available on the high end workstations or boutique builds for gamers, +$5,000!
    Those days are gone. Go to Best Buy. Costco. Wal Mart. Hard these days to find a computer in the >$500 price range with any type of upgradability...BUT, we are paying LESS money these days, significantly less for power that has exponentially blown up, allowing tablets to bench like a laptop just five years old.....and a battery life that'll last longer than you in a day. Even if you spend ALL day using it! Today's the transition from the slide rule in the 60s to the 70's calculator @ $500 a pop on release, or the $3,000 cell phones of the's computer isn't a 'big deal' any longer. We've all got em. Plenty have supplemental devices like smart phones and tablets....and aggregated they don't cost as much as that 'upgradable' to a Voodoo.3dFX 32 MB card next year...and boast killer frame rates til the new silicon 18 months later won't 'fit' in that CPU socket! Dang!!! Time to start over. Keep the box. Maybe power supply and sound card. Everything else, other than the OD & CD/DVD, gotta buy it all over again.....if ya wanna stay 'on top'

    Today we buy computers with budgets in mind that fit our workflow. What we 'need' from a computer. We anticipate 24-48 months of usage. Apple offers a 36 month, no BS Bumper2Bumper warranty. Amazon and B&H will save you a third of the price and you've got a year to buy it. That's the ONE thing now mandatory. A warranty. With Apple, you'll have a 'fixed' or replaced (on many occasions....I was given a new 5s yesterday because my voicemails wouldn't delete!) on many occasions. It's top shelf customer service. Performance. Speed and Reliability. The perfect amount of each...& I've no problem replacing my 2012 rMBP in 2015 with a new one. I'll probably retrieve 50% of the value on the used market. Buy a new, really fast machine. Do it all over again. In those three years, assuming I bought a $2,000 Mac, sold @ 50%----it cost me about a buck a day for an incredibly enjoyable and problem free computing experience. Seems fair
    And for 25% that cost. And same amount of time. Check out an iPad if your needs aren't justified by a $2,000 rMBP.

    Excellent example. And to consider today's A7 benchmarks (in Geekbench and unsustained obviously...but with all the 'updates' you talk about including solid state memory, battery, display, etc) in the iPads are in parity with that '08 MBP is pretty amazing, eh?

  23. priitv8 macrumors 68040

    Jan 13, 2011
    The OP must have disposed himself of available words right in the first post.
    I wonder if (s)he's even following this thread?
    Unless (s)he chimes in, I consider this another troll thread.
  24. jkcerda macrumors 6502a


    Jun 10, 2013
    Criminal Mexi Midget
    Did apple replace it under warranty?:D
  25. simon48 macrumors 65816


    Sep 1, 2010
    I see a lot of threads like this where the OP seems to just post the OP and run.

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