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Apple's Trend Away From Tinkering 965

theodp writes "Having cut his programming teeth on an Apple ][e as a ten-year-old, Mark Pilgrim laments that Apple now seems to be doing everything in their power to stop his kids from finding the sense of wonder he did: 'Apple has declared war on the tinkerers of the world. With every software update, the previous generation of "jailbreaks" stop working, and people have to find new ways to break into their own computers. There won't ever be a MacsBug for the iPad. There won't be a ResEdit, or a Copy ][+ sector editor, or an iPad Peeks & Pokes Chart. And that's a real loss. Maybe not to you, but to somebody who doesn't even know it yet.'"
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Apple's Trend Away From Tinkering

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  • It's true (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kell Bengal ( 711123 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:15PM (#30971816)
    What makes computers great are their flexibility - it's an entire world to discover to someone young and new. Are we going to be in the insane situation where our children will need to dust off the old C64 from half a century ago just to learn the basics for themselves?

    If all you've got is locked content on locked machines, you end up with mind firmly locked shut.
    • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:35PM (#30972036)

      Even Linus readily acknowledges that the world needs more than the Linux model, that the Windows and OS X can all co-exist.

      And I hear people talking all the time that OS X is a joy to program for, and not particularly hard.

      The iPod/iPhone/iPad is in the form factor that's best suited to appliance. That is, most (90+%) just want them to work. Where even the most polished desktop is too complicated for their tastes and task at hand. Shouldn't their demands be met? BTW, I'm not covering for DRM or the like which only serves the content provider -- just that the appliance view of things is really useful to some people.

      Do we complain how the Kindle or past Nokia phones are essentially closed to the average person the same way? Why is this reserved for Apple?

      Really. I taught my 45 y/o uncle how to use a computer (Windows 7), his experience to computers limited previously to ATMs. It was painful. There is so much to learn that us geeks take for granted. The computer's behavior is so seemingly arbitrary at times, as are the solutions sometimes. These people don't want a "sense of wonder", they found it in other areas already and they want to have something easy to learn and use - should they be denied entrance into the digital world because they're not geeky enough? Geez, I'm glad when I don't have to fuck around with yet another relatives beige box for once.

      I hope that the open PC never goes away. But there should be room for other solutions without the endless complaining. (And yes, the steps Apple does to clamp down their devices from the users themselves, who want to explore and not through misuse, absolutely sucks and should be called on it every step of the way).

      • by EastCoastSurfer ( 310758 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:55PM (#30972296)

        I think the problem people are having the iPad lockdown is that it is trying to straddle appliance and full computer. The iPhone I'm fine with being an appliance. It's made around a small screen and a very particular UI to deal with that small screen. The iPad on the other hand has this large touch screen and it feels like Apple may end up holding it back by keeping it closed. Only time will tell though, when the iPhone first came out there was no 3G, web apps only, etc...

        • by brokencomputer ( 695672 ) * on Sunday January 31, 2010 @04:16PM (#30973130) Homepage Journal
          I think the point is that a lot of people just want a device to consume media on. An iPhone is too small to do so. A computer has multiple purposes. I think a lot of people only use the computer for consumption and that's where the iPad will find it's market.
        • by node 3 ( 115640 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @05:06PM (#30973692)

          So what? Most people not only do not want to tinker with their computers, but they see it as a undesirable. They want something that just works. And when it doesn't work, you take it into Apple and they either fix it or replace it, if it's under warranty, or you go get a new one. And then back home, you plug in the replacement and it automatically reconfigures itself with all the exact same files and settings that you had before.

          Now, you may wish to tinker. That's nice. The iPad is not going to remove the ability for people to tinker with their computer. All you have to do is buy one of the countless other computers that are tinkerable. And no matter how popular the iPad becomes (very popular, trust me, most people do *not* share the geek-centered criticisms), and no matter how much the rest of the computer industry follows suit (and believe me, they won't), no matter *what*, as long as there are computers, there will be tinkerable computers. Just buy one of those.

          You, the tinkerer, will *always* be able to buy a PC that meets your needs. Why not allow everyone else the opportunity to do the same?

          • by MpVpRb ( 1423381 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @06:05PM (#30974384)

            You, the tinkerer, will *always* be able to buy a PC that meets your needs.

            I certainly hope so...but the trend is disturbing.

            The new versions of Windows restrict driver development to "approved corporations" only.

            The mass market is being herded toward "appliances".

            Gamers are switching to consoles.

            Without large sales volume, the "fully programmable" computers will be a high priced, obscure niche product.

          • by isilrion ( 814117 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @07:10PM (#30974950)

            You, the tinkerer, will *always* be able to buy a PC that meets your needs. Why not allow everyone else the opportunity to do the same?

            And how I being able to tinker with /my/ device deprives you of your opportunity to not tinker with /your/ identical device?

            And no matter how popular the iPad becomes (very popular, trust me, most people do *not* share the geek-centered criticisms)

            And yes, that's exactly the problem. If it becomes very popular, then we geeks won't be able to "play" with the popular devices. I doubt may would bother if it were a useless piece of crap. Are you telling us that we can't play with our devices, unless we get a less popular/functional one, because you don't want to or know how to play with yours?

      • by Dare nMc ( 468959 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @03:08PM (#30972424)

        The only issue is that kids are excited easily to develop for something they already have access to. IE the local high-school has a robotics class where only the geeks sign up for. And a class to write a program for the iPod, that has a lot more (initial) interest. So they get everyone with a ipod wanting to do something cool with it, but then they can't load it onto their own i-pod very easy, and have to have a mac, which they don't have at home and if they do, the $99 required fee is not cheap to the kids at this school... So they are very excited for about 3 days, then get more and more disappointed and many leave. If the iPod/iPhone/iPad development was open how many of these kids would have started playing at home as well, and felt challenged to out-do their friends?
        So nothing wrong with having some open options, and some closed options, but don't pretend that a popular platform for youth being closed has a up-side.

        • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @05:21PM (#30973850)

          A professor (a Mac head unsurprisingly) wanted to teach a class on iPhone application development. Well of course that needs to run on Macs and we don't have any Mac labs since some of our software is Windows only and we need to purchase budget computers. I don't know what he planned to do about that, maybe buy some Macs for teaching out of his research funds. However the bigger problem, the show stopper problem, was Apple. We needed to get the SDK licenses. They sent over this ginormous contract for us to sigh. That of course had to go to the lawyers, who modified it and sent it back. Apple said "No. No modification are permitted, you sign it as it is now or you can't have it." Well, we have no authority to sign, only the lawyers can do that. They weren't going to sign it as is. So, we had to say screw that.

          Now the class is being taught on Android app development. This has proved to be dramatically less problematic. The SDK runs fine on our Windows systems. It would also run on Linux or Mac systems, if needed so if we want to put it on our shell systems as well as our lab system we could. Getting the SDK was not problematic either. No contract to sign, I just downloaded it from Google's site and installed it.

          Does this all matter? I dunno, all I can say is there's a class of students being taught how to develop for the Android phones, rather than the iPhone precisely because of the locked down environment. The requirement to use Mac hardware, but in particular the requirement to sign a massive contract vastly in Apple's favour killed any chance that it might be taught. We simply cannot do that.

      • by cvd6262 ( 180823 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @03:29PM (#30972630)

        Do we complain how the Kindle or past Nokia phones are essentially closed to the average person the same way?

        Yes. We. Do.

      • by Rexdude ( 747457 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @03:35PM (#30972680)

        How's Nokia closed? They don't lock down their OS the way Apple does, anyone can download the S60 SDK and write applications for it, or even just use J2ME.
        Nokia phones have been customizable for ages, even the antediluvian ones like the 3300 or 5100 from around 12-15 years ago allowed you to change ringtones and wallpapers!
        More hardcore hackers change the region product code in the firmware when they're impatient for a new firmware update that's not yet available for their country/region.

        If you ask me, Nokia shows how you can provide a consistent and easy user interface (across all their handsets, not just smartphones) for the technically challenged, yet leave the platform open enough for the power users/hackers/modders etc.

        Case in point- I have both Opera Mobile and Skyfire [] on my N82, even though the built in S60 browser is pretty decent. Whereas Apple blocks any application that competes with or duplicates features they provide, so you can't have a separate browser application written for the iPhone.

      • by MikeFM ( 12491 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @03:39PM (#30972744) Homepage Journal
        All Macs come with XCode and an extensive set of developer tools = for free! Schools can sign up for free rights for students to develop for the iPhone/iTouch/iPad and are encouraged to teach courses on it. Anyone can sign up as an iPhone developer on their own for $99/yr. (IMO the ads make it sound as if it's $99 for life but this is false.) To a large degree Apple has turned a blind eye to the jailbreak community. I hardly think Apple is trying to keep people from learning programming or doing cool new things.

        I'd love to see some development tools actually on the iPad. It appears that Apple has relaxed some of their rules with the announcement of the iPad so I wouldn't be surprised to see some user-programmable apps. I doubt you'll directly be able to create new apps die to security issues but maybe something like Scratch [] or maybe even Java or Python based programming. Also, there is nothing stopping anyone from creating a tool to develop web-based apps for the iPhone/iPad from the iPhone/iPad. You could do quite a lot with that given the capabilities of Safari.

    • Re:It's true (Score:5, Insightful)

      by countertrolling ( 1585477 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:36PM (#30972056) Journal

      Inquisitive minds are a danger to authority. Best to shut it down as early as possible. No need to seek out anything. It will be provided to you on a need to know basis. Curiosity should be confronted with great suspicion. If somebody asks a question, the only proper answer is, "Why do you want to know?".

      • Re:It's true (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Progman3K ( 515744 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @03:10PM (#30972442)

        Inquisitive minds are a danger to authority. Best to shut it down as early as possible. No need to seek out anything. It will be provided to you on a need to know basis. Curiosity should be confronted with great suspicion. If somebody asks a question, the only proper answer is, "Why do you want to know?".

        Ironic that this company once ran an ad based on Orwell's 1984 where Apple decries totalitarian control.

        I fixed the problem on my Mac-mini: I installed Linux on it.

        The cat is next.

        • by Eternal Vigilance ( 573501 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @06:11PM (#30974438)

          Ironic that this company once ran an ad based on Orwell's 1984 where Apple decries totalitarian control.

          When one understands the nature of projection, which is where we attribute to others the behaviors and characteristics we can't see or can't accept about ourselves, one then starts to be able to see expressions like Apple's famous "1984" commercial as the most revealing indicators of the character of and the most reliable predictors of the future behavior of the speaker.

          Projection isn't an occasional occurrence; it's the way the ego functions. It's always operative. Every ego-driven activity - an observation, a statement, an action - one makes is a projection.

          It's true in personal relationships (both on the low side and the high side, it's how people fight and how people fall in love) and in group relationships (read any pronouncement from any country about their enemy and one knows exactly what's true about the country making the accusation).

          The important tell is the amount of emotional energy in the statement. The amount of emotional energy, the reactivity, associated with an action or observation or statement is a measure of the energy the thing to which the speaker is reacting has within the speaker. So lots of short-term energy (e.g., a quick, visceral emotional response to something) or lots of long-term energy (a thing on which one spends one's time and energy, over and over) both reveal that the thing to which the speaker is reacting is unconscious to them internally - and thus is actually what runs them. The same statement made objectively and dispassionately indicates the speaker has a conscious awareness and acceptance of, and thus control over, that characteristic within them.

          And because human consciousness is self-similar, projection works at every scale. It's really quite beautiful.

          Some examples:

          Corporations: Google's mantra of "Don't Be Evil"

          Politics: Bush's demonization of Saddam Hussein as a "brutal dictator" who "hates freedom"

          Nations: Israel's fear that Iran wants to "wipe their enemies off the map"

          Religions: The characteristics people project onto their chosen deity (e.g., Christ's compassion and love)

          Personal: What you're thinking about the writer of this comment right now. ;-)

          Of course, knowing about projection is not only useful in understanding others, it's essential for learning the truth about and becoming responsible for oneself. (The classic mistake made when first learning about projection is to see it only in other people, and not apply it to oneself: "Ha! That idiot has no idea they're projecting!" Oooooops....)

          I'd say the nature of projection is one of the most helpful things I've ever learned, easily the equal of any of my technical education.

          The sadly amusing thing about the "1984" commercial is how much the setting resembles a Steve Jobs presentation.

          "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984'.

          Give us until 2009."

    • Re:It's true (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ultramk ( 470198 ) <ultramk&pacbell,net> on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:38PM (#30972084)

      Well... this is one device that isn't even for sale yet. I'll start to worry when nice, open, fidgetable devices aren't completely fricking ubiquitous anymore. I mean, look around you. There have never been this many machines to hack and play with in the entire history of computing, and it's just going up from there. All this "back in my day" stuff just makes a guy sound old and crotchety, and I say this as someone who is in fact old and crotchety. I don't think anyone will be forced to dust off a C64 any time soon, my local goodwill has a stack of P4-class machines stacked outside the back door to haul off... I bet yours does too.

      • Re:It's true (Score:5, Insightful)

        by zuperduperman ( 1206922 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @06:21PM (#30974512)

        > I'll start to worry when nice, open, fidgetable devices aren't completely fricking ubiquitous anymore

        Umm, then you should start worrying. That is the whole point. The whole reason everyone is clammoring about this is that Apple is setting a precedent here. Don't you think Microsoft would love to be able to tell you what you can and can't run on Windows? They'd be ecstatic if they could just "refuse" to let FireFox or iTunes etc. run just by saying "it doesn't meet our standards" or even worse "it competes with our own application". So why don't they? Because they could never get away with it. Even if there was no legal problem, people would go absolutely nuts and protest about it. But if Apple succeeds in creating a hugely successful device here that is totally locked down, and if they further succeed in establishing that it's perfectly ok to refuse an application on the basis that it competes with their own one then do you think other manufacturers will hold back once the general public and industry has accepted the precedent with Apple?

        If you only start worrying about this when there are no other devices left than locked down controlled ones, you will have started worrying about 10 years too late. If you care about this at all, the time to worry is *now*.

    • Re:It's true (Score:4, Insightful)

      by The End Of Days ( 1243248 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:48PM (#30972214)

      I have a stupid question.

      Why does every single computer need to be geek friendly? Is it seriously necessary for this whining to continue every time Apple releases a product?

      Here's how it goes: the iDevices are computing as an appliance. They are not meant for you. Why do you feel the need to bitch and moan about every little thing like you are somehow entitled to everything being your way?

      • Re:It's true (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ProfMobius ( 1313701 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @03:33PM (#30972670)
        There is a difference between being geek friendly and being antigeek.

        The author is not complaining that the iPad is not geek friendly, but overtly anti geek. Apple is now trying to prevent people from tinkering with their bought hardware/software by blocking all ways of access.

        It is the same mentally as the car makers who lock down all access to the internal working of their car by way of proprietary protocols/special screw, etc.

        For this whole locking down thing, most people are not complaining that it doesn't go their way, but that some random person decided that their way is not authorized or worthy anymore and they can't walk it.

      • Re:It's true (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cnaumann ( 466328 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @03:42PM (#30972788)

        You are right, but you missed the point.

        Apple used to be one of the most geek friendly brands out there. My Apple ][ came with schematics! How cool was that? It is a little sad that Apple has turned away from this, much in the same way that it is sad that hp has gone from a premier instrument maker to a maker of commodity PCs and peripherals. Let us old guys lament a bit.

      • Re:It's true (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @06:49PM (#30974764)

        Why do you feel the need to bitch and moan about every little thing like you are somehow entitled to everything being your way?

        Beacuse the word 'Insightful' appears next to their name when they write that stuff.

    • In their defense (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Simonetta ( 207550 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @03:05PM (#30972390)

      In their defense, personal computer programming is much more complicated than it was in 1982. The machines and the hardware is several orders of magnitude faster and denser than it was then. The basics do change.

          Don't forget that the primary reason for the existence of Apple Inc is to facilitate the orderly and systematic transfer of money from the bank accounts of bored yuppies to the account of Steven Jobs. The toys and the technology is a means to an end. Home computers started in the 1970s as toys for hackers, became business office tools in the 1980s, design and educational tools in the 1990s, and home-entertainment/communications centers in the 2000s. (..and destroying the previous industry giants in each field in the process)

        People wishing to provide for their kids the experiences that they had programming 8-bit home computers should get into Aurdino and other small-scale microcontroller-based systems. The chips are cheap. The programmers are low-cost. The assemblers and compilers are free and open-sourced. Sensors are cheap, as are LCD-character displays. Graphics LCD modules are getting cheaper, but are a long way from being cheap. Gigabyte storage of data is dirt-cheap as SD cards, but they can have a difficult learning curve. In this field, projects are often shared. Tinkering and development is encouraged. Questions, even beginning questions, get answered.

        When PCs and Macs get locked down in place, the microcontroller communities sprout up like mushrooms. This is the place for tinkerers. But, please, don't let the people at Microsoft and Apple know!

      • by cnaumann ( 466328 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @03:59PM (#30972972)

        I agree with everything you say except the part about personal computers programming being more complicated today than it was in 1982. You are not remembering what a PITA programing was back in 1982. In 1982, you either programmed a personal computer in BASIC or assembly language. You didn't do anything that needed to run very fast in BASIC, and writing a useful program in assembly with 48K or RAM (if you were lucky) was not trivial. Granted, expectations were much lower back then, and yes, back then I understood the machine down to the gate level. So while computers are much, much more complex today then they were 28 years ago, I actually find them much, MUCH easier to program due to the availability of very powerful programming tools.

    • Re:It's true (Score:4, Insightful)

      by OldSoldier ( 168889 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @03:58PM (#30972960)

      Seems some form of this comment comes up every few months... Usually it's in the form of finding the best language to teach kids, "because in my time Apple Basic was right there, ready to use".

      I agree that the PARTS aren't in the SAME CONFIGURATION they were 20 years ago, but the PARTS are still all there, maybe even better. Lots of 3D engines are available for download and public tinkering and open source is going a long way to allowing people to tinker meaningfully (as opposed to just for themselves).

      What would really move this overall conversation forward is if we could identify the WEAKNESSES of the current system. Lamenting something that's lost is pointless and just plain wrong. For example:

      • Learning a programming language 20 years ago was trivial. If you owned a PC, BASIC was probably staring you right in the face. Today if you want to learn a language you gotta go hunting.
      • Finding source code today is much easier than it was 20 years ago, problem is that that source code is also MUCH larger than it was 20 years ago. Related who wants to learn SVN before they first start tinkering for their own enjoyment?
      • Tinkering with hardware is also harder today than 20 years ago. True, there are hardware kits you can buy, but perhaps the point is that you gotta buy them? You can't just play with the latent ability inside your PC first to see if hardware tinkering is something you like?

      To my sense what was in the past isn't so much lost as it is scattered to the winds. What's lost is the ability to "discover yourself" by playing. Today you can play much more meaningfully, but you gotta go hunting for the things to play with and that IMHO is what we're complaining about here. Suggestions to fix it?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:17PM (#30971830)

    But Mac OS X comes with development tools right on the install CD. How expensive (or difficult, back before bit torrent) it was to get a development environment up and running on Windows was what drove me to Linux and I'm pleased that Apple make it so easy to get programming tools on your Mac.

    • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:26PM (#30971912)

      But Mac OS X comes with development tools right on the install CD. How expensive (or difficult, back before bit torrent) it was to get a development environment up and running on Windows was what drove me to Linux and I'm pleased that Apple make it so easy to get programming tools on your Mac.

      I think the article author was making a different point than the cost / availability of developer tools:

      Apple, way back when, made it easy to get into the inner workings of its systems. They didn't try to prevent people from finding ways to do things, indeed Beagle Bros. built an entire company around that. 1984 was the epitome of what Apple was about.

      Now, Apple appears to be more ideologically aligned with the "Big Brother" than the hammer thrower. While it's not quite gotten to the "Information Purification Directives" level yet; Apple seems to be much more inclinned to ensuring things are done there way and controlling how their products can be used tahn creating really cool stuff and watching what others do with it, as they were in the Apple ][ era.

      While Job's focus and control has been critical to their success as a company; the down side is a very tight controlled ecosystem. A very successful one, and probably the right way to go; but still controlled.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by foo fighter ( 151863 )

        I almost completely disagree with you. Pay $100 for the iPhone developer program and you can do whatever you want to your own iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.

        The only thing Apple is controlling is what you can do to other people's devices. Frankly, from my point of view having to try and defend an enterprise and friends' and families' computer from malicious software, I'm very happy about this. With the developer program you can share your work with up to 100 other people anyway, so I really don't think Mr. Pil

      • by itsdapead ( 734413 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @04:49PM (#30973488)

        While Job's focus and control has been critical to their success as a company; the down side is a very tight controlled ecosystem.

        Yet the Second Coming of Jobs has also seen the move from the black box that was Mac OS 9 (limited proprietary applescript macros or pay top dollar for a SDK) to the infinitely more tinkerable OS X (posix compliant, includes a shedload of binary & scripting languages, most of the FOSS ecosystem available via MacPorts or Fink). Its under Jobs that Apple started giving away their industrial-strength development tools free. Even the Great Satan iTunes has the decency to mirror most of its metadata in XML so your programs can get at your playlists.

        No - Apple just has two distinct ranges of products: closed "iAppliances" which are locked down to protect their core functionality and general-purpose Macs, which aren't locked down.

    • Mod parent us (Score:5, Informative)

      by schnablebg ( 678930 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:38PM (#30972092)

      The iP* products are consumer electronic devices, not general purpose machines. It makes perfect sense that these are locked down for the sake of reliability and performance. Not to mention the Apple business model is based on the closed nature of these products.

      The desktop versions of OS X are incredibly flexible and powerful tools, with the usability bonus of a well thought out graphical shell. There is a reason programmers and IT people are migrating en mass to Mac--they are way ahead of the competition when it comes to power and flexibility compared to Windows, and reliability and usability for an end user compared to Linux.

      When you purchase a Mac, you are getting a full featured development environment and sys admin toolkit out of the box.

  • Another One (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daveime ( 1253762 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:18PM (#30971836)

    I'm someone else who cut my teeth PEEKing and POKEing on Commodore and Sinclair machines. Hell, there were even magazines with "tricks-n-tips" for useful locations and what values would create what effects. Nowadays I suspect they'd just get sued under DMCA provisions for reverse engineering :-(

    Yes, a sad time indeed.

  • Buy something else (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ed Peepers ( 1051144 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:21PM (#30971850)
    It was nice to be able to tinker with early Apples because there were few alternatives. But as much as I enjoy a good rant against Apple, I fail to see the problem. Buy your kids something else. Either he thinks the latest Apple SHINY is more important than his child's opportunity to get under the hood or he doesn't, and there are (or soon will be) numerous alternatives that are not as tightly locked. Life is about decisions and trade-offs.
    • by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:28PM (#30971944)
      Don't just stop there. Spread the word and let people know when you don't like a product, and why. Eventually many people starting out don't need the functionality that they're locked out of, but will in the future. At least make them aware that there are choices. I'd hate to see all computing platforms go the way of the iPhone.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:41PM (#30972120) Journal
      The real concern, broadly speaking, is what happens to the kids whose parents don't know/care.

      Empirically, a fair percentage of engineer/comp sci./science types owe their trajectory(or at least believe they do) to childhood tinkering options. Some sanctioned by their parents, some a tolerated but wholly accidental side effect of parental decisions, and some outright clandestine.

      If tinkerability is default in all computers, all children in computer owning households, whatever their parents motives/level of interest/level of information get access to it. If tinkerability is a special feature, one that you have to trade off against shiny for, a much smaller percentage of children will have access to it.

      This isn't a "OMG, the iCops are violating your rights" thing; but it could easily be the case that the rise of appliances results in a reduction of children's access to tinkering and future motivation in certain directions.

      It's like chemistry sets: If you are really motivated, you can get your hands on home chemistry stuff, no real problem. The death of the (useful) home chemistry set as a normative childhood expectation, though, has vastly reduced the number of kids who get to play with one, and quite possibly the number of kids who end up going in a scientific direction.
    • by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:48PM (#30972218)

      there are (or soon will be) numerous alternatives that are not as tightly locked.

      Sure. Like the Nexus One. Not only is the SDK free, easy to program (java), flexible (you can replace most of the built in apps) but the phone itself isn't locked. Watch this video if you don't believe me [] ... the shipping phone doesn't need a "jailbreak" because you can simply run an officially provided command and after informing you that you void the warranty, the phone will let you reflash to any OS (it changes the bootup logo to make it harder to resell trojaned/warranty voided phones but that seems reasonable).

  • Evolution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chris Lawrence ( 1733598 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:21PM (#30971852) Homepage

    I think this is just a natural evolutionary process for most new technology. When personal computers were new, they were mainly purchased and used by hobbyists. Now they are mainstream and most people just want to use them to get things done, they don't care how or why they work. Cars were the same when they were first introduced. You had to know how to tinker just to keep them working. Now cars are everwhere and they are computerized and automated so much, it's hard to do the kind of tinkering that used to be common.

    It's sad to see things change, but there will always be room for those who like to tinker. We still have Linux and *BSD, after all. I love my Mac, but sometimes it's nice to play around with Linux.

  • by mozumder ( 178398 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:21PM (#30971860)

    They just separate that audience and give them OS X. Let them play with the iPad through the SDK on it, instead of on the iPad itself.

    iPads are meant for people that DON'T care about computers, but about real world activity.

    It's something hackers could learn from Apple: how to make a massively technical device usable.

  • by dskoll ( 99328 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:24PM (#30971888) Homepage

    My kids use Linux. But sadly, even under Linux, there's no dead-easy kid-friendly way for them to learn programming the way I learned BASIC on my TRS-80 CoCo. I've introduced my one daughter to Tcl, but even that has advanced concepts compared to 1980s-era BASIC.

    I've also ordered a 130-in-one electronics kit for my daughter because I remember how much fun I had with mine. Alas, Radio Shack no longer sells them... they've given up on tinkerers and hackers too.

  • by TwineLogic ( 1679802 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:24PM (#30971892)
    That was the spirit Steve and Woz began with: empower the hacker.

    Why is Woz not in charge of his own high-power company? The world is not fair, I suppose.
  • Woz was the tinkerer, who brought the spirit of the tinkerer to Apple. Steve Jobs is the anti-tinkerer; he just wants you to shut up and buy cool looking gadgets from him on a regular schedule.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Well, the explains using BSD and including tons of Dev tools and creating a case thats easy to work in~

      Please THINK.

  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:27PM (#30971934)

    Reading the forums alot of the apple fans don't seem to like it. They can't figure out what to use it for or they don't like the restrictions. A lot of tablets are coming out this year that are more open.

    Tens of millions of people play farmville or watch hulu and you can't do any of that on the ipad. You can only buy more content from apple. I'm wondering if apple did any market research before they crippled it.

    • by That's Unpossible! ( 722232 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @03:25PM (#30972586)

      Reading the forums alot of the apple fans don't seem to like it.

      Have you considered that people that like something tend not to storm the web and write about it? Of course everyone bitching on the forums hates it... Does that mean it won't sell really well?

      I personally love it. I'm a programmer, I work on Windows mostly, but Macs more and more. All I've wanted a tablet for is surfing the web, reading books, and things like that. I'm not trying to do EVERYTHING on this device. I think Apple has reached a very good balance. (I would have liked a front-facing camera for video chat, but other than that I like it.)

      Tens of millions of people play farmville or watch hulu and you can't do any of that on the ipad.

      Uh huh. Until Hulu switches to HTML5 video embeds and Farmville writes their app in a standard format, like JavaScript + HTML5 canvas.

      Fuck Flash.

  • by ultramk ( 470198 ) <ultramk&pacbell,net> on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:30PM (#30971966)

    While this is certainly true for the iPad, iPhone etc, it's really not true at all for OSX. OSX comes with a bunch of dev tools on the install disk, in a way that was not true way back when. Those kinds of utilities existed, but getting ahold of them was non-trivial for someone out in the boonies.

    The iPad isn't a general purpose computer, although it seems like it's blurring the line a bit. Certainly no reason for doom and gloom.

    I always find it a little sad when I read something like this, though. Part of the joy of those days was exploring something new and interesting, finding terra incognita... the problem is that your kids probably won't get that joy in exactly the same way, and very well may not be interested in those things at all... they are actual individuals with individual tastes and interests, not a bunch of little clones running around. It seems like every time someone goes to great lengths to recreate his precise childhood for his kids, it's just doomed to failure, just because they're kids. Unpredictable.

  • by mikefocke ( 64233 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ekcof.ekim]> on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:30PM (#30971968)

    in machine language...

    Few people want to play at that level any more and few need to. Most want to create really cool apps and for them access to the GUI is enough. Heck, C isn't taught in many schools any more.

    But if a kid wants to play at low level, there are $25 or less offers on the web for the computers of yore. Or they can start reading isn't like lots isn't available. And even for most OSS, the docs are so much more than the manufacturers manuals were in the 60s.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:31PM (#30971982)

    In the 50's and 60's hobby electronics was a huge thing - it was common to see people tinkering in their basements. It might still exist now in some manner, but it's far, far less popular and most people just want to come back from the store with an amplifier or radio that "just works".

    It's the same with computers. We're going through the phase now where hobbyists are lamenting that they're being "locked out of their own computers", but no more than the electronic tinkerers are locked out of their consumer electronics unless they're very good with surface mount soldering and miniaturization.

    The simple fact is that 98% of people out there just want their computer to work. They don't care about getting under the hood. If it plays their youtube videos, netflix streaming content, and lets them send some emails and play the latest game they bought from Steam or Best Buy, they're happy. That's all that's needed. So a company catering to that market instead of the 1 or 2 percent who want to tinker under the hood is just good business.

    Yes, it means that the kind of computing we all grew up with in the 70's and 80's will either die or come close. But that's just the standard life cycle of technologies - it happened with radios just like it's happening now with computers. It's a mistake to extrapolate our interest to the general public, which doesn't share it. Since there are 50 or 100 of them for every one of us, they form a FAR larger market, and that is the direction things will inevitably shift over time. It's a lost cause trying to argue things like "but you're locked out of your own system!!". They don't *care* - that's not what they want out of a computer. The sooner computer nerds realize that, the easier it will be to adjust to the direction the market will be moving over time.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:47PM (#30972202) Homepage

      The current problems with Apple goes far beyond their products
      being hostile to "tinkerers". The problem with Apple these days
      is that they are hostile to non-morons. A system need not be
      actively hostile to the power GUI users in order for it to be
      usable by the total idiots. Infact, this was supposed to be the
      whole original idea of the Macintosh.

      Nevermind "tinkering". I just want to be able to use it and connect
      to it with any device of my choosing the same way I could with a
      proper Mac.

  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:31PM (#30971988) Homepage Journal

    Apple isn't out to fight people that want to 'tinker', they are just going after a different market now, the 'consumer market'. Its where the real money is to be made, and the side effect are shiny closed boxes that 'just work'.

    If you still want to 'tinker', you still can, just you do it elsewhere. Give your kid a FPGA board and some books on basic logic.

  • by DrogMan ( 708650 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:32PM (#30971992) Homepage
    I too cut my programming teeth on an Apple ][

    I have a copy of the original "red book" with hand-written notes on shape tables, etc. I also had a plethora of other sources of information - the Wozpack, Disk Doctor, early copies of call-apple and coutless others which were hard to come-by in the UK at the time.

    Kids of today, get off my lawn, etc.

    So what we have now are "appliances" and lawyers.

    And as they say; If you can't open it, you don't own it.

  • Whiney BS (Score:3, Informative)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <> on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:35PM (#30972040) Homepage Journal

    The Apple II was a computer. You cans till tinker with Apple computer.

    Apple also sells Appliances. More difficult to tinker with, just like your TV.

    You want a computer for tinkers? the Macs work great. OSX on BSD.

  • The appliance (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:37PM (#30972072) Journal

    I don't really see the iPad as a "personal computer", but an appliance, a bit like a washing machine or a microwave oven (although that may be pushing it because the iPad does a bit more than "just wash clothes" or just "toast" or whatever). But it's clearly pitched as a consumer appliance, rather than a general purpose computer.

    And no, I won't be getting one.

  • This is Dumb (Score:3, Informative)

    by foo fighter ( 151863 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:38PM (#30972096) Homepage

    Pay $100 for a developer's license and you can do whatever you want to you iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.

    XCode and Applescript come with every "real" Mac for no additional charge.

    What is the problem here? That you can't program the iPad on the iPad? Sorry, but that is hardy worth the energy of his rant.

    Yes, I read the article. Well, I tried. It's a poorly written, confusing rant.

  • by eieken ( 635333 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:40PM (#30972116) Homepage
    What we should be doing is trying to get the DMCA overturned; It is the bane of the tinker. It's ironic because I'm guessing many of the people working on this stuff over at Apple got interested in computers because of the creativity they could express by hacking away at computers.

    I should say though, that Apple is not the only company in town creating hardware, I mean honestly a lot of these articles seem to make some leap at some point about how Apple is representative of all hardware manufacturers, when I think that's just not true. They create some stylish products, people buy them, and then they miss out on hacking the hardware. If people really want the option to hack the hardware, don't buy this locked down crap. It's not like Apple is the only game in town, they live off this spotlight everyone creates for them. Just get that less stylish piece of hardware that offers tons of customization and hopefully at some point Apple will have to learn what they should be doing.
  • From The Beginning (Score:5, Informative)

    by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @03:09PM (#30972440) Journal

    Apple's trend away from tinkering predates the company. During the design and building phase of the ][, Woz was building in things which Jobs didn't want. Three specifically that they argued over were color (vs. black and white output), the lid (and by extension, poking around inside) and memory expansion past the max installed 16 K (this is the actual source of the often repeated and rarely correct "Who would ever need more than X-kb of memory?" -- It was Jobs and it was 16K). The second and third are both in the 'tinkering' group of features. In all cases Woz won, and we got a machine that ultimately was pushed to do things which by design it supposedly 'couldn't'.

    When Jobs decided to make his own machine, all three of the above limitations were built in. The first Mac was B&W, had no lid, and came with the only memory configuration that it could run. At the time I was senior/technical editor of The Road Apple, a 'zine for Apple ][, // and ]|[ users, created with the specific intention of trying to prevent Apple from dropping the ][ line. (As far as I have ever been able to determine, it was the first computer publication produced simultaneously in the US (Portland OR; Al Martin, Publisher)
    and USSR (Moscow, Russia); my co-editor was a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Academician Vladimir Fedorov). When Woz left, Jobs prevailed and we lost. Jobs' design choices for the first Mac and his acquiring complete control when Woz left, were the second and third major changes away from tinkering. Both were a direct result of Job's taking back those things he wanted done on the ][ that allowed tinkering (or were just plain neat hacks) but which Woz chose to do his own way. Simply put, this direction was based on the fact that Jobs lost those arguments. resented it, and when he got the chance, he finally got his own way.

    References for the historical stuff can all be located if one digs. Support for Jobs' tendency towards management techniques such as tantrums and verbiage bordering on abuse has also been documented up through the point where John Scully took over for 10 years so Jobs could grow up and gain some people skills. Collections of The Road Apple were available on some of the Apple ][ ftp sites. One that has been converted to webby stuff is at []

  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @03:15PM (#30972480) Homepage

    'Apple has declared war on the tinkerers of the world. With every software update, the previous generation of "jailbreaks" stop working...

    I can't see any reason for Apple to do things any other way. In some ways they're victims of their own success, just like Dell, HP, Microsoft and many other big companies. They've become so absorbed with their own chic they've lost sight of who helped get to where they are today. The artsy types have taken over from the tinkerers.

    It's too bad their sense of style trumped everything else, because that used to be a nice bonus with Apple products, the "and they look cool" factor. Now style and marketing have edged out other factors. They're so absorbed protecting their market rice bowls they stopped caring about expanding it.

    Tinkerers will always have a home with Linux.

  • Article is incorrect (Score:5, Informative)

    by lakeland ( 218447 ) <> on Sunday January 31, 2010 @03:42PM (#30972786) Homepage

    The iphone and macbook freely allow tinkering, so I expect the iPod will be much the same.

    If you recall all the peek charts did was give you access to system calls and variables, well... things are a little tighter now thanks to multitasking and you're expected to use an API to access them. Apart from that though, Apple is quite happy with you tinkering with your own computers to your heart's content.

    What apple tries hard to control is you sharing those hacks with non tinkerers. Say I wrote an awesome iPad game and distributed the source code over the net for anyone with the SDK (a free download). Well, Apple would not exactly approve but they wouldn't stop me. However, say I distributed the same game in binary form, telling anybody interested to email me their IEMI number... well, I suspect Apple would take action at that point.

    I had an Apple II. I didn't write any C code for it because I didn't have a C compiler, so instead I wrote assembly - in hindsight, how dumb is that! I mean, great, I can say I wrote 6502 assembly and sound geeky - but I'm sure I would've been more productive using C. Similarly, I had a Mac Plus and I had to copy someone else's compiler to be able to write software. Piracy because I wanted to write software... Then I got a 6100, and I shelled out I believe $150 of my hard earned student money to buy a compiler (Metrowerks). I couldn't afford the apple suite at the time. As I got a bit older and richer, I signed up for an apple developer account which gave me access to tech support (they were amazingly helpful in the days before you could get similar information off the internet or usenet).

    Lets compare that to now, where I can download the SDK for not only my mac but my iPhone completely for free (a colleague of mine would disagree on this point, noting that he wanted to develop for the iPhone but had to buy a mac to do so). Not only do I get an excellent SDK, but I get video tutorials, lots of example code and even a simulator! Sadly, I'm too busy to tinker any more but I do feel that Apple is bending over backwards to make it easy for me, completely unlike how they were twenty years ago.

    They could be better - If they embraced open standards a bit more so that say MobileMe could be connected to using LDAP - it would make it easier to do cool stuff in a similar way to how easy it is to do cool stuff in Linux. But to say they're less tinker friendly because they try and prevent jail-breaking is just... wrong.

  • by Swift2001 ( 874553 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @03:52PM (#30972898)

    Every jailbreak relies on finding a way to to crash the phone and insert code. This is a bug in the system, which has to be fixed to protect legions of other users, some of whom do their banking on their iPhone -- and remember, Bruce Schneier warned people not to do their banking on Windows, because it's too easy to "insert code" on a Windows computer. The banking apps on an iPhone are inherently more secure than anything on the web, or anything accessed through IE. A jailbreak so you can put on a cool program that Apple didn't pass can also put trojans there, too. Apple isn't being unduly mean to jailbreakers. If they really want to get good at it, they can figure out what to do next. Leave the debuggers to other platforms.

    And that's all that Apple's "doing" to jailbreakers. Lots of people who want to do that are still doing that. No lawsuits that I know of.

  • So get a N900 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @04:03PM (#30973016) Homepage

    Most awesome phone ever. Completely open, runs a very normal Linux distro, and you can "apt-get install" stuff on it.

    No jailbreaking needed, the terminal is one of the applications in the default installation, and you can install SSH.

  • by chrysalis ( 50680 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @06:59PM (#30974852) Homepage

    How come nobody realizes that ChromeOS isn't any different?

    For the sake of security, I highly doubt that resources editors and hex editors (in order to patch executable files) would run on ChromeOS.

    It's a tradeoff worth making.

    Joe Hewitt's post about the iPad is worth a read: []

Ya'll hear about the geometer who went to the beach to catch some rays and became a tangent ?