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Apple’s History of Throwing Our Prized Accessories Into a River and Laughing

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Getty Images

The latest Apple rumor yielded a collective C’mon, son from the internet this week. The company purportedly wants to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 in order to “make the phone thinner and improve its water resistance,” The Wall Street Journal reports, citing anonymous sources. If the rumor pans out, millions of headphones ranging from dollar-store earbuds to high-end cans would be rendered useless (without some kind of annoying and obtrusive dongle).

Would Apple have the audacity to phase out a vital accessory that is convenient to millions of people? Is Apple the kind of company that embodies this GIF? Of course it is. When it comes to determining when a technology is officially outdated, the Cupertino, California–based company is straight Father Knows Best, and it has been for a long time. We’ve collectively hitched our wagon to a design-obsessed organization that won’t stop in its relentless pursuit of sleek minimalism until the iPhone is just a thin, viscous mask that doctors/Genius Bar attendants apply to newborn infants as they emerge from the womb (watch out for those in-app transactions, though).

Here’s a look back at some other seemingly necessary functions Apple threw out the window, along with the inevitable fallout — and potential benefit — from each move.

The Floppy Disk

It’s easy to laugh at the floppy disk now, but these small soldiers were essential for transferring documents between computers before Tim Berners-Lee made it possible to email yourself. Apple, which had included a floppy drive on its computers since the original Macintosh in 1984, eliminated the device with the iMac in 1998, declaring that the 1.44MB disks were old hat.

The Fallout: Reviewers dinged the iMac for failing to include a functionality that was still important to the non-tech-savvy audience that Apple wanted to court. “Many families today still rely on plain old floppies to back up or share small word-processing and graphics files with coworkers or schoolmates,” Wall Street Journal columnist (and now Recode founder) Walt Mossberg wrote at the time.

The Final Verdict: The iMac lacked a floppy drive, but it included a USB port for the first time and is credited with spurring the adoption of USB as a universal connector standard in the tech world. If floppy disks had to die so that universal phone chargers could live, so be it.

The CD/DVD Drive

During his presentation at 2008 Macworld, Steve Jobs threw a giant image of a compact disc on the screen next to him and wrote “Why?” below it. It was an early death knell for physical media, delivered via the first MacBook Air, Apple’s super-thin laptop that lacked an optical drive and an ethernet port.

The Fallout: At $1,800, the MacBook Air was largely viewed as too expensive, especially because users would have to buy accessories — such as the $99 optical drive add-on — to give it the functionality of a traditional PC. Remember, this was back when Netflix streaming was a curiosity for subscribers to the DVD-delivery service, and just months after Kanye West and 50 Cent had carefully orchestrated a rap beef to see who could sell the most CDs. We still cared about our discs back then.

The Final Verdict: The Air was ahead of its time and ultimately would have been a hassle to use as a primary device in 2008 (unless you stan for the iTunes Store). But Apple still offered plenty of computers with DVD drives at the time, so there was little reason for a public uproar.

The 30-Pin Connector

After selling 400 million iOS devices, along with millions of old-school iPods, Apple decided that the longstanding 30-pin connector was outdated. With the launch of the iPhone 5 in 2012, the company introduced a new 8-pin connector called Lightning, immediately rendering millions of phone chargers, car audio systems, and iPhone alarm clocks (why were we so into those?) incompatible with the new device. Apple’s reasoning? Improved design, of course. The company said it couldn’t make a phone as thin as the iPhone 5 with the old 30-pin port.

The Fallout: Customers were not happy that many of their gadgets would become useless when they upgraded phones. Apple offered an expensive adapter, but even that didn’t offer full functionality with some older docks and car audio systems.

The Final Verdict: Apple made the jump to Lightning at a time when more and more iPhone accessories were connecting wirelessly via Bluetooth rather than through cables, which may have lessened customer fury. And if you didn’t already own an Apple-specific speaker system, it was hard to get that wound up about your old chargers being obsolete. Ultimately the iPhone continued to break sales records for years after the switch. This was arguably the most annoying and least customer-friendly update, though — if only because if your buddy updated her phone, all that easy charger sharing was out.

The Headphone Jack

Is Apple laying the groundwork here for its fabled curved screen? Is Andre Young granted permission to make one sweeping product change every Dre Day? Has Jony Ive uploaded his consciousness to a quantum computer under which Tim Cook serves as mere puppet? Guess we’ll find out in September.

The Fallout: There are a lot more people using Apple devices than ever before, so the potential for Mass Internet Hysteria is high. While Apple’s previous technological whims may have frustrated company loyalists, this switch could anger more platform-agnostic users for whom the iPhone is one of many different devices they expect to play nicely together. Buying a phone that won’t hook up to your favorite headphones or your home entertainment system out of the box sucks, plain and simple.

The Verdict: Much will depend on Apple’s implementation. If headphones are now routed through the Lightning port and the company sells a cheap (lol) adapter, users will grouse but may not revolt. If Apple goes full wireless and expects everyone to switch to Bluetooth-enabled accessories sponsored by Beats, though … there will be blood.