Apple recently introduced its newest MacBook computer that sports many of Apple's latest designs. But even with all these wonderful new features and capabilities, I kept hearing the same lament from people who have owned Apple products in the past and who were considering the purchase of the newer model. Apple didn't include a FireWire...

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Apple recently introduced its newest MacBook computer that sports many of Apple’s latest designs. These include its unibody enclosure, in which the computer is fashioned from a solid piece of aluminum.

Being carved out from a block of metal has many advantages, including added strength and rigidity. Other new features are its glossy, LED-backlit display, up to five-times-faster graphics performance and the new, smooth glass Multi-Touch trackpad.

But even with all these wonderful new features and capabilities, I kept hearing the same lament from people who have owned Apple products in the past and who were considering the purchase of the newer model. Apple didn’t include a FireWire port.

This got me to thinking about something that’s bugged me for a long time. How long do you have to support a legacy technology?

Older technology

Take the floppy disk. Does your computer still have a floppy-disc drive, and if it does, when was the last time you used it? What about external hard drives that use the SCSI interface? Or how about a parallel and serial interface for a printer?

I can go on and on citing examples of older technology that you may still have lying around, but do you really want a new computer supporting all of these antiquated devices?

Because if you do, the price you pay for all that backward support is performance degradation. If manufacturers and publishers keep having to make their newest products support all that aging hardware and software, eventually it’s all going to come to a screeching halt.

Drawing the line

So the question is, where do you draw the line? How far back do you want your new system to go? Perhaps the answer is to give people a choice.

Your computer doesn’t have a floppy drive, but you can still buy one that plugs into any USB port. You can buy a SCSI card to run SCSI drives. And you can still get cards to connect most of the other older devices as well.

But there are some bridges that eventually must be burned as newer standards arise. Most technologies are eventually going to become obsolete, and if you find you’re clinging to one or more of them, you could be holding yourself back.

I realize the FireWire standard isn’t that old and there are still many products out there that support it. And while the MacBook Pro offers only a FireWire 800 port, at least there’s an 800-to-400 conversion cable included.

I guess the lament occurs when the new product doesn’t give you a choice.

The MacBook abandons the FireWire port. It does have USB, but there’s no way to convert USB to FireWire. The door has been slammed shut, and there’s no way to reopen it.

So while I applaud Apple on its innovative design and product technologies, my hope is that it tries to avoid just slamming the door.

Granted, this may be an opportunity for some innovative company to develop a USB-to-FireWire converter device if the market shows it needs something like that.

Yet it’s also unreasonable to ask companies like Apple to keep supporting legacy products without end. Doing so would only cripple the upcoming generations of products as they struggle to support everything ever made in the past.

Sometimes you just have to let certain things go to move forward. Unfetter the upcoming generations of computers so that they can embrace the newer and ever-faster technologies that make our lives so much more interesting.