ADAM! Put down that APPLE… NOW!

belkm02pic1.jpg I don’t think my Grandfather Land worshipped his tractor. I know my Great-Grandmother Montgomery never bowed to anything man-made, much less a radio. Grandma Belk threw out her TV, and enjoyed peace and quiet for the next 30 years – along with her daily newspaper, books and friends. She liberated herself.

One of the most liberating things I’ve done in years: Balling up my right hand into a fist, raising it high into the air, and smashing it down – onto my laptop, through the keyboard, flattening the hard drive. I feel better now. My arrival at that point had been a long time coming: after years of working with, for, in, around and under computers, I’d reached my limit with their faulty performance and over-hyped reputations. I’d come to the realization: Apples don’t make your life better. Dell won’t come visit you in the middle of the night to fix your hard drive, or hard anything. Working with Microsoft feels like one day too many at EuroDisney, if you dare go to such a place in the first place. But I digress…

So my old laptop is dead. The ‘logicboard‘ went. It was shipped with a faulty logicboard. Apple finally admitted it, and even offered to fix it if I take it to my local Apple dealer. Fine. So I figure on an afternoon trip to the repair shop. Wrong.

I go to a local Edinburgh Apple store ‘Hi I have an Ibook 600 with a broken logic…’ before I get any further the clerk, friendly enough, interrupts ‘Yeah well, we have to send it to London. Maybe the US. It’ll take at least 4-6 weeks.’

FOUR to SIX weeks? Minimum? Now this is where the build toward destroying my laptop starts. Computer companies, whether it be Apple or Dell or IBM or Super-Whoever clearly do not understand their customers. Or postgraduate students. We don’t have four to six weeks. We spend enough to buy a used car on their computers, that they forever represent as dancing, photo-taking, music-playing happy machines. But they don’t test them properly. They use cryptic language such as ‘should’, ‘offers’, ‘potential benefit’ and ‘capacity’ to get around taking responsibility for their products. From the start, they don’t build any logic into their boards or marketing campaigns. The entire industry is based around sleazily concocted plans.

The Hardware Scheme: Produce a superior product, charge three times too much for it. Offer slightly scaled-down models barely within the reach of most consumer budgets, then refuse any real tech support and limit the functionality. Create an advertising atmosphere that makes your customers uncool, unhip and out of the loop if they own or use a product for more than 1 season.

The Software Scam: Release buggy, unperfected software (Windows 2000 Wahoo!, XP-Yippee!, OS X Yeeay! OX 10.3 Cheers!) and give it a belkm02pic2.jpg sexy name like ‘Millenium Edition’, ‘Panther’ or ‘Tiger’. Charge a fortune for it. Make it just too big to fit on the affordable models of computer or any hardware more than six months old. Force loyal customers to upgrade hardware (See: ‘The Hardware Scheme’ above). Finally, fix all the bugs after the loyal, now upgraded customers have done all your Quality Assurance and testing for you, and like lambs for the slaughter, uploaded the information to your web site. Release a new upgrade. Charge for it. Repeat.

The Support Swindle: Add to the company coffers by selling insurance policies, then make it nearly impossible to make a claim. Call your standard warranty ‘complimentary’.

In my humble opinion, computer dealers are not unlike drug dealers. No? Try my short list of 5 questions. Does your computer dealer:

Sell his product by means of manipulating a real or perceived psychological need?

Refuse to take any responsibility for what happens to you after the sale?

Leave you helpless in times of crisis or abandon you totally if you cannot afford the latest product?

Sell a product which can have serious ramifications: loss of productivity at work, psychological or stress-related problems, and/or physical damage?

Sell a product which loses all value after first use?

If you answered ‘yes’ to two or more of the questions above, you may join my Just Say No to Computer Hype club. We should start a consumer revolution. We upload our lives onto these things. Our bank accounts are direct-debited into oblivion. Our work is archived somewhere in Switzerland, probably in the same vault as the remaining Nazi gold. And what about all the young people, on this sunny spring afternoon, sitting in their airless, musty, feet-smelling bedrooms with their TVs on, chat lines going and video games blasting at full-tilt? And we wonder why there’re behavior problems in the schools…

belkm02pic3.jpg Why are we relying on these things to completely run our world? I am absolutely amazed at my own reaction to the loss of a piece of metal. I’ve gone through the equivalent of a mourning process for a pet rabbit (deceased). And what makes me even more upset is the fact that the people at the top of the silicon food chain have engineered these computer products so that people like me (meaning anyone with a pulse) become so hooked and so reliant on their products and systems that we equate them with our own kind. We use words like ‘intelligence’ and ‘personality’ to describe them.

So what’s to do? I’m not advocating a luddite revolution. But my gosh ladies and gentlemen, these things are only tools. Nothing more, nothing less. There should be better controls on the computer industry: non-monopolization and price-fixing statutes, and minimum guarantees. And if we, the consumers (you know, the ones with the money), started refusing to give out our bank details, demanded immediate action for services not rendered and denied access to every inch of our lives, I’d call that progress.

What’s wrong with paying in cash? The chance of getting mugged or robbed by another human being is far less than the chance of getting mugged and robbed by faulty services, add-on fees and corporate deception. Think about it.

This was supposed to be an article on the new smoking ban in Scotland. And you were supposed to have been able to read it two weeks ago. But as you now know, the piece was stored on my greater-than-ever Apple laptop, which is now in a pile of rubble on my living-room floor.

Copyright Martin Belk 2005

Martin Belk is a writer, performer and producer. He has temporarily relocated to Edinburgh from New York City to pursue a master’s degree in creative writing. His credits include producer for Squeezebox!, the New York rock venue where Blondie reunited, Hedwig and the Angry Inch debuted and the first-ever live, global webcast - Live InConcert starring Deborah Harry took place. In addition, Belk is a Multimedia Application of the Year award winner from the ITCA for Will Europe Work? – the first live, global conference of the European Union.

Most recent credits include a guest appearance on BBC Radio, The Lesley Riddoch Show and his first bi-weekly, online column on

If you wish to contact Martin Belk, an email link can be found on Textualities’ homepage.

He is in the process of completing his first novel.



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