Today’s kids have a few things left to tinker with

[Drafts clean out. This one from January]

Mark Pilgrim laments the slow eradication of Apple products to which the owner has full (and gratis) software/hardware access.

Anyone can develop [for the iPad]! All you need is a Mac, XCode, an iPhone “simulator,” and $99 for an auto-expiring developer certificate. The “developer certificate” is really a cryptographic key that (temporarily) allows you (slightly) elevated access to… your own computer.

In the comments he claims, “By 2015, I predict Apple will not sell any devices with root access.” It’s a fun post—reminding me of my days with the CoCo (I had 1 and 3)—but a bit dramatic. Mark and I were pretty privileged and few to have several hundred dollar (in the early ’80s!) computers for us to tinker on; my dad let me drill into and add a motherboard switch to my CoCo 1! My tinkering was more or less limited to BASIC as I never found out about other programming languages really until high school. I mean, I’d heard of EDTASM for assembly editing but I had no idea what that was about, and it was hard enough getting decent documentation for BASIC.

What can today’s kids tinker on? Well, just about everything with a CPU and a port. It’s getting hard to find devices for which you can’t mod/jailbreak or find open firmware for on the web. You can compile and run programs right on the damn web.

I agree with Mark that bad laws and update patches make too much of this kind of tinkering illegal/temporary, but c’mon. Apple will not lead to a future where kids have no computers to experiment on. Yes, few iPad users will tinker, but in the past most kids didn’t have anything to tinker on at all.

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