OPINION: The recent passing of Clive Sinclair, father of the UK computer industry, has me thinking about his contribution towards my own education in technology.
I was pretty early getting into technology.
Indeed, my claim to fame is that, back in the early 80s, I learned programming in BASIC on a Sinclair ZX81 with an entire 1KB of memory. And while technology has accelerated incomprehensibly since then, my programming skills are still stuck in 1980.
Self-awareness is important and I’m well aware that programming isn’t my forte.
That said, I have been a user of technology since those ZX81 days and had an extended period of time in the 80s where I used Apple products – I remember the Lisa, the IIe and the Powerbook – all devices that I used as a teenager.
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Apple lost its way a little after this and my move away from the platform mirrored that of its founder, Steve Jobs. The only difference being that when Jobs returned to the company and reinvented it with initiatives such as iTunes, the iMac and the iPhone, I remained firmly fixed to Bill Gates’ PC world.
I’m still a PC user but recently, as I have ramped up my governance work, I have seen that the vast majority of my colleagues on boards use an iPad for reading, annotating and interacting with board information.
The majority of people say that the user experience of working on an iPad is more suitable in the boardroom context than a traditional Windows-based laptop.
Not wanting to be outshone by my colleagues, I took up the offer of one of the boards I’m on to give me an iPad for my work. With the notification that said device had arrived, it was time for me to get ready to sign into my account.
Which is where my tale of woe began.
While I haven’t used an Apple device since my teenage years, about a decade ago I did set up an Apple account in order to use iTunes (back when iTunes was revolutionary). Being a studious chap, I also remembered my username (which, in the Apple world, is my email address) and my password.
I duly signed into my account and was presented with a screen telling me that I had to prove my identity by answering a couple of extra security questions. The first was the name of the street I first lived in, the second my nickname as a child. I filled in this information and was told in no uncertain terms that my answers were not correct. Foiled by Apple’s quite appropriate attempts to ensure user security.
Luckily, and helpfully, a link just below the login offered to take me to a page where I could reset my security questions.
Unluckily and unhelpfully (at least to this humble scribe) the link took me to a page telling me that Apple didn’t have enough information to reset my security questions. I tried a few different things, put my advanced Google skills to the test and finally admitted defeat and rang Apple’s support line.
A lovely chap on the end of the line asked me to explain my problem, which I did at length.
He seemed a little flummoxed and told me that if I had an existing device signed into my AppleID account that it would be very easy for me to change my security questions from there. Unfortunately, as I related to him, I didn’t have an existing device signed into Apple.
I expressed my frustration on Twitter where Apple’s customer support team were quick to come back to me and point me to… exactly the same webpage that I’d been trying to use all morning.
Once again, no dice.
Now of course I should have signed into my account more often and made sure that I was on top of my security settings.
Of course, I’d be the first person to criticise Apple if they had less than stellar user security and this laxness led to user information being compromised.
Of course, Apple, with billions of customers worldwide, needs to err on the side of caution – especially given the number of bad actors who are intent on stealing individuals’ identities and more.
But still, I can’t be the first person to have had an orphan Apple account wanting to renew it. I’m a technologically literate individual with the ability to create new email addresses and similarly find a solution to the problem. But Apple is touting itself as the user-friendly platform that anyone can use. There’s a continuum when it comes to ease of use, my experience would suggest that Apple are towards the wrong end of it.
Ben Kepes is a Canterbury-based entrepreneur and professional board member. He’s a fan of many things but has never understood the rabid fandom around Apple products.