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Updated: March 24, 2013 00:04 IST

The apple of discord down the ages

Zerin Anklesaria
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From our earliest origins the apple has been a trouble-making fruit. Think of Eve eating it though expressly forbidden and then, (naughty, naughty) offering it to Adam. Instead of living perpetually in Paradise, they were driven out, and what happened to their progeny? Not only are we all cursed with Original Sin but have a dreadful poem by Milton foisted on us.

Now if Eve had sinned over a golden-ripe mango, or asun-warmed peach, or a juicy scarlet strawberry, one could have sympathised, but all this to do over an insipid apple? Unforgiveable!

Another day, another age, and we read of Eris, the legendary Creator of Discord. Miffed at not being invited to a gathering of Greek deities, she threw a golden apple into their midst, where three of them pounced upon it. Eris said it would be given to she who was the fairest, after which the first beauty competition known to man was held. Predictably, a furious row erupted, ending in the historic convulsions of the Trojan War.

‘Nuff said. No need to mythologise further. At a single giant leap spanning millennia I come to the here and now, and to the laptop on which I’m tapping out these musings named after the selfsame fruit; aptly so, for it has caused so much disruption that if it was human, as I’m convinced it is, it would need urgent psychiatric attention.

To go back a little, our venerable box-style PC needed constant repair, and with three of us squabbling over who should use it and when, a second one was deemed essential. Advice was then solicited near and far. My jokey London friend came out with a variation of the tired cliché. ‘An Apple a day keeps the virus away, heehee!’; and from Cambridge, that fount of learning, there was a snooty message, ‘Nobody here uses anything but Apple’. Locally the consensus was, ‘Nothing like a Mac’, ironically true as it turned out. So, having succumbed to the wiles of super-salesman ZOZ, (his initials,) and scraped the bottom of my bank account, we proudly brought our laptop home.

Getting used to it was tough, but with my daughter P as tutor without salary I was doing well, I thought. She didn’t. I was constantly bombarded with instructions: do not thump the keys but tap them gently, move the cursor with one finger not two, never send the pointer flying off into outer space by touching the track pad accidentally, etc., etc. Finally, she concluded that I was a slow learner and actually, ACTUALLY, said she may now have to use a ruler. Ouch! ‘Just like you threatened me in the bad old days’, she reminded me, ‘when I didn’t do my homework’. True, alas! The whirligig of time brings in its revenges.

Soon, I found myself having to relearn parenting skills at an age when other women are great-grandmothers, for the new inductee into the family was a brat, wayward, disobedient, and blatantly sexist, as we discovered when we tried Speech Recognition. Pleased at the thought of talking to a machine I cooed into it, ‘What is the time?’ No response. I repeated myself more sternly, then again in the tone of a headmistress, with the same result. ‘What’s the time DAMMIT’, I exploded. Deafening silence.

P took her turn, talking politely, severely and so on, to no effect. We complained to ZOZ. ‘Remember, it’s American. Talk American,’ he said. So, keeping in mind Ex-President Bush, much loved by all Indians as our PM has proclaimed, I attempted a Texan drawl. ‘Warrizz the taaahme?’ Nothing, again nothing. ZOZ then suggested that it might respond to a male voice and presto, the effect was magical. The time was given to the second.

Worse was to follow. Never will I forget the dreadful day when I was about to finish a difficult book review, already way past the deadline. After much brainstorming I had come to the penultimate paragraph when, without an iota of provocation, the screen went blue as my face did likewise, and the entire thing vanished. Kaput, khalaas, TamamShud!!

‘What did you do?’ wailed my daughter. With fingers and toes crossed and BP rising, I watched as she jabbed frantically at this button and that, and issued commands north, south, east, and west, with zero results. I had no backup of any kind, no notes to fall back on, and was close to tears. The neighbour was called in, he who had caused the dumb to speak, but this time there were no miracles. The review had disappeared into the abyss of some vast technological limbo, never to be seen again.

Mercifully, this Judas-like act of betrayal has not been repeated, and I have to say that the brat has its plus points. The LED screen is a dream, spam and viruses are unknown, and my fingers glide along effortlessly while lesser mortals click and clack at keyboards and mouses, (or is it ‘mice’; and if the latter, shouldn’t the plural of ‘house’ be ‘hice’?)

But it’s as self-willed as ever, teasing me with electric shocks, offering Bluetooth when I’m perfectly satisfied with the natural colour of my teeth, suggesting cheekily that I need help, and advising that I change my daughter’s name from Persis to ‘persist’ or ‘paresis’, which, the dictionary tells me, is a form of paralysis! As for the music system, it produces a tenuous tin-pot sound that would disgrace a newborn kitten. And frequently, entirely on its own, it cuts off my mail in mid-sentence and sends it on its way to the puzzled recipient. I am now more tolerant of its antics but (if you’ll forgive the poetry) It’s still quite a struggle/ To grapple/ With my Apple.

(The writer’s email:

Keywords: AppleMac

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Dear madam

An excellent, enjoyable and mirthful article you have written.I admire your language skills capable of delivering sentences latent with humour. I thoroughly enjoyed the article

Posted on: Mar 24, 2013 at 15:13 IST

Yes, Apple is difficult for windows users since windows has always asked us to over think
and be super smart. I haven't handled a more sophisticated and responsive machine than an
Apple. The solution is easy. Stop over thinking. Use your instinct. As far as voice recognition
is concerned, u can hardly blame Apple to have customized their s/w to their largest market.
Should not Indians create a conducive market so that companies like Apple can produce
some really nice products targeted to us?. Also, no one who know even a little bit of
electronics would expect music quality the way the author expects. Apple produces the best
sound given the hardware one is paying for.

from:  R.Vyshali
Posted on: Mar 24, 2013 at 09:03 IST

Satire aside ... perhaps reading the "owners manual" would help? :-)

from:  John Antoine Labadie
Posted on: Mar 24, 2013 at 06:11 IST

Usability issues with Apple products are very well put :)
Cool read on a weekend.

from:  SRK
Posted on: Mar 24, 2013 at 01:43 IST
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