Griffiths / Getting jack of the great headphone debate

“There are bigger things to worry about, like… how are the new generation of long-term unemployed going to afford new iPhones,” writes Lowbrow columnist JOHN GRIFFITHS

EarPods were devices from a parallel universe. They were created by John Lumic. They could be used to read minds, control them, and add information into them (news or a daily joke, for example). They were also the alternate universe’s alternative to iPods, mobile phones and music players.

– (EarPods is also the name of Apple’s latest headsets for use with iPhones)

POSSIBLY the most white-hot raging controversy on the internet at the moment is Apple’s decision to excise the 3.5mm headphone jack from the new line of iPhones.

John Griffiths.

John Griffiths.

Never mind that the headphone jack design dates from 1878 (with the 3.5mm plug debuting in the 1950s, and the international implementation of the standard has since fragmented), forget that the hole in the phone makes them break when they get wet, ignore the lint-related problems with devices that live in pockets and handbags.

A whole bunch of self-described technology enthusiasts have heard that new devices won’t work exactly like their old devices and they are really, really upset.

Also ignore that there will be an adaptor!

The legion of know-all critics quickly point out that with headphones plugged into the lightning port (a combination data and power point) it won’t be possible to charge the phone while listening to music on headphones.

Some people might not consider it to be a human right to be entangled with a phone, a wired headset and a power cord plugged into the wall.

Personally, I’d view this as a situation to be avoided if possible, but the internet is full of angry people demanding the right to enjoy this obsolete technological embrace.

Bear in mind, there is even an adaptor that will allow for charging the phone while listening to earphones sporting an ancient 3.5mm plug.

Won’t anyone think, we are asked, of folk who have spent thousands of dollars on ultra-high-end headphones?

If one were to think very long on the subject, one might think that the small number of people with the acute hearing needed to gain any benefit from thousand-dollar headphones are unlikely to enjoy listening to music files with lousy compression on a phone.

The intriguing possibility remains that the tiny number of very vocal people getting so audibly angry about headphone connection options might not be Apple’s target market.

It could even be that what they’re really angry about is that the biggest company in the world has designed a flagship product that explicitly says “your concerns are rubbish”.

One might almost wonder that there are bigger things to worry about, like how technology is going to replace large percentages of the workforce in the next few years and how are the new generation of long-term unemployed going to afford new iPhones?

Fortunately, with eerie prescience Doctor Who saw Apple’s replacement headphone “EarPods” coming in the 2006 episode “Rise of the Cybermen”.

Those “EarPods” eventually consumed their wearers who were “upgraded” into unfeeling machines.

Which is food for thought as the internet outrage machine fires up on yet another trivial distraction, while very real and really big changes to the nature of society bear down on us like an express train.

John Griffiths is the online editor of


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