Cutting the cord: 2017 was the end of the headphone jack as we knew it. Photo by Neal P. Corpus

A eulogy for the headphone jack
Neal P. Corpus (The Philippine Star) - December 28, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — The headphone jack is dead. It’s been dead for quite a while, actually — one year, three months, and 13 days, to be exact. The culprit? The iPhone 7. While that was released in 2016, it was in 2017 where every succeeding flagship smartphone came with one hole less: the Google Pixel 2, the new iPhone 8 and X, the Moto Z, the Essential Phone — the list goes on. It’s no use crying over spilled milk, but when the dairy is something that’s been around since the 19th century (today's headphone jack is a smaller version of the 6.35mm jack used for telephone switchboards) and has literally caused no complaints in the last 130 or so years, you come to realize that really, nothing is permanent.

Like the floppy disk, CDs, film cameras, and more that came before it, the time has come for the last vestige of the analog era to rest in peace. And in a time where everything is migrating to the tiny rectangular boxes of metal and glass we call smartphones, non-digital things are getting less and less space in our lives. All in the name of progress, they say. But really, what is progress when you can’t even charge your phone and listen to music at the same time?

You might think that our tech is taking one step forward and two steps back, or that it no longer listens to the wants and needs of consumers. We’re at this point where our I/O (input/output) ports are in transition, and everything just kind of… well, sucks. Everything is either nascent or on its way to the grave, much like being a millennial stuck between Gen X and Z, if you think about it. The loss of the headphone jack is the perfect analogy: Bluetooth headphones are still expensive and finicky and don’t always have a steady connection; there aren’t enough charging stations for electric cars, and the cloud still isn’t all that secure (remember those leaked nudes? Yep.) It seems like our quest for a truly wireless and mobile world is never-ending, and it seems like we’re not even halfway there. And the worst part is, living in the Philippines means all this new technology is always a couple of years away.

But look at it this way: in a few years, everything will be wireless and seamless, and you won’t ever have to think about fussing about wires and plugging anything in. You’ll no longer be constricted to being tethered. A concept! Maybe it’s a sign to just leave everything behind, all the things that bog us down and chain us onto the earth. Because when you really think about it, the point of all this tech is to make our lives easier, and really, to get out of the way and blend into the background. I mean, have you met Alexa?

It’s all very exciting, especially for closet tech geeks like myself, but here’s the big caveat: we’re not living in the future yet. We’re here, in 2017, living the dongle life. And before we can even declare our world to be a truly wireless and interconnected one, we mustn’t forget that that vision should include everyone, not just those in the first two tiers of society — and getting everyone onboard means having to wait even longer.

Is there anything we can do about it? Probably not. So until these tech giants decide to cut all cords in 2018, we’ll just have to mourn the headphone jack. And keep looking forward to being wireless.

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