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Apple, the company that now sells how many dongles?

Technically Incorrect: Just how askew is Apple's new dongle fetish? Compare it with how the company once competed against Microsoft.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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Oh, look. The dongle that smiles at you.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Not so long ago, I sat in a meeting with executives from a very famous company.

They all came in with their bright, new, shiny MacBooks, ready to connect their machines to a projector.

Their dongles dangled from their hands, as they tried to connect one thing with another.

The struggle was quite laughable. Wait, was it this dongle? Or maybe this one?

The boss, a man of advanced years, turned to me and said, "Technology."

What was odd about it was that this was Apple technology.

Last week's revelation that you needed a special dongle to hook up your new iPhone 7 with your new MacBook Pro made me a little sad.

It made me think about Apple once being the simple brand and now bathing in complications. Profit-making complications.

Just how far would this dongle fetish stretch? I was moved by Twitterer Drew Breunig, who helpfully tabulated that Apple now offers 17 different dongles.

I confess that when I went to Apple's accessory store, I got wrapped up in what appear to be 19.

Some of these, of course, connect items that are tending toward obsolescence. Still, regardless of whatever the exact number may be, the mere thought that you now have to have several little cords in your computer bag at all times doesn't seem to jibe with the Apple many people know.

Breunig even mused, "Laptop bag manufacturers will be creating the 'dongle wallet' category shortly." And would you believe that one already has?

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Somewhere in my head I remembered that Apple used to mock Microsoft for its extreme user-unfriendliness.

This was even before the "Get a Mac" campaign came along to make Microsoft seem like a sad anachronism.

In 1992, The Seattle Times wrote about then-new Apple ads that mocked Microsoft by bemoaning, "All I wanted to do is simplify my job."

Another celebrated Apple's portables by declaring, "Sitting in coach between two sumo wrestlers, (I pull out my laptop)."

Yes, Apple's computers were really making things easier, even for those who flew in coach (and coach was a lot more comfortable then that it is now).

Yet another Apple ad read, "I feel like I'm being pecked to death by ducks." This one talked about all the little bits and extras you had to buy to make a PC work well.

At the time, not everyone was impressed. I found this critic, who offered, "Apple no longer has a monopoly on easy to use."

He wasn't quite right.

For many, many years it did. The phrase "It just works" was an unofficial mantra for those real humans who looked at an Apple product, turned it on and intuitively worked their way around it.

There's nothing intuitive about dongles. There's everything annoying about them. Of course, this strategy might be an interim measure in preparation for a completely wireless world.

But can anyone living in Dongle Purgatory truly say this feels like Apple?