Apple’s reality distortion field made USB-C cool

Nate Swanner - Nov 12, 2016, 2:16 am CDT
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Apple’s reality distortion field made USB-C cool

Remember when USB-C was a bad word? It wasn’t long after the original 12-inch MacBook landed that we began our love-hate relationship with USB-C. It was universal, which is great, but without the lineup of our favorite ports on the MacBook, many started to consider life a dongled hell. With the new MacBooks Pro, Apple did its best to change all of that, and its famed reality distortion field helped assuage much of our contempt for USB-C.

Pay close attention, and you’ll notice that the term USB-C was muttered only once during Apple’s MacBook unveiling. Phil Schiller said it, and it was only in reference to the connector’s for-factor.

Instead, Apple turned the term ‘USB-C’ into ‘Thunderbolt 3,’ which is much more alluring and magical. We tend to think of Thunderbolt as a high-end data transfer port capable of ungodly things — mostly because it’s really that good.

With Thunderbolt 3, we’re getting even more good stuff. 40Gbps data transfer is insane, even though it commands a special (expensive!) cable to get there.

Apple’s own website leaves USB-C out of the mix, except to discuss the port’s form-factor. Instead, those connection points on a MacBook are now Thunderbolt. Seeing the trend?

Reality distortion. A touch of genius.

This isn’t a new strategy, and to be fair — Apple’s not wrong, or lying. The ports are Thunderbolt 3 capable inlets; we’re talking distortion, not lies.

Apple has done this before, too. The original Thunderbolt ports used the same connection type as Mini DisplayPort, but we didn’t really call them that. Like the new Pros, the former had Thunderbolt ports.

But we didn’t have such vitriol surrounding Mini DisplayPort, and it wasn’t in use on smartphones or peripherals. Nobody was calling for Apple to make it universal across mobile and desktop.

But Thunderbolt — that’s desktop-class, and a technology many equate to Apple anyway. And once again, Apple is spinning things to make them palatable to a wider audience. If we stop thinking of it as USB-C, and stop calling it USB-C — it’s Thunderbolt. Then it’s special. It’s Apple.

And then we stop complaining, and start paying a premium for accessories and dongles because we’ve conditioned ourselves to. Suddenly, and perhaps without even realizing it, everything about the future Apple has pushed us into with these new USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports seems very normal.


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