(Photo: Past evidence of my present obsession.)
In the middle of a work meeting late Tuesday afternoon, my three-year-old Apple Macbook dropped decidedly dead. Mac users will not be surprised what I did next: before the end of the day, I replaced it with a brand-new one.
In my old Mac’s defense, it had been giving me problems almost as soon as I bought it. The palmrests began discoloring the month I brought it home and plastic construction joints began cracking apart soon after. Sometime in year two the optical drive began to fail. As year three dawned last June, the system software began a slow but steady meltdown, causing applications to sporadically crash–or fail to open.
On Tuesday, after an innocent restart, programs ceased launching at all and mouse clicks went unnoticed for minutes at a time–and lucky me, with no DVD drive to reinstall system software. At least I had the presence of mind to maintain an external backup (thanks to Mac OS X’s built-in Time Machine feature), so, thankfully, I didn’t lose any data.
After an experience like that, some people might shy away from purchasing a computer from the same company that had supplied them with such a lemon. (Did I mention the first time I bought the Macbook it had “on-off epilepsy” that kept randomly shutting down the computer, forcing the Michigan Avenue Apple Store to replace the machine seven days after they sold it to me?)
Not us hard-core Mac fans. Thanks to that patented Steve Jobs reality-distortion field, we live with the eternal hope that Apple hardware and software will live up to the hyperbolic hype that always seems to surround each new release.
Now I’ve been a Mac user since July 1997. I know that because my meticulously updated Excel spreadsheet of computer ownership tells me so. Yes, having such a file scares me as much as you. (And if you don’t believe I have one, download it for yourself and see.) So I’m aware Apple products can be breathtakingly sweet and effortless to use when they work as promised.
But those nearly 12 years of Mac ownership have also taught me no amount of funkily fannish Kool-Aid can cover up the occasional cracks in the magic mirror of Appledom. I recall a Revision B iMac (owned from October 1998 to September 1999) that would crash at the drop of a hat. A G4 Cube that, like my first Macbook, would shut off whenever it felt like it and had a hard-drive failure within a year of purchase (Sept. ’00-Oct. ’02). A Rev. 2 eMac with a hard drive that died after 18 months of use–another Mac trend?–forcing me to boot off of an external drive for the next year-and-a-half (July ’03-June ’06).
For that matter, let’s not forget the year-old iPhone whose screen died a month after the warranty did and the 2004 iPod that failed after a mere nine months. Or how about the bent-in-half MacBookPro with a faulty display sold to my old friend, Devyn, by the online Apple Store that required three returns and an eventual intercession by the Michigan Avenue store in order to get him–a first-time Windows switcher, no less–a working computer?
And through it all, the allegedly seldom-appearing “spinning beach ball of doom” showing up with more-than-promised frequency as one native program after another would lock the entire system up at random moments, sometimes necessitating a Force Quit, sometimes a harsher forced shutdown. (Safari–look at me when I talk to you!–you are the evil browser minion of Macintosh hell in this regard.)
So why does my spreadsheet tell me I’ve persisted in owning no fewer than 11 Macs in 12 years? With the new Macbook, that’s the equivalent of one new Apple computer every 12 3/4 months. Yes, that scares me, too. All I can say is that when Macs work, they work–so well, in fact, that we tend to forget when they don’t. Even when, as in my case, they don’t work a lot of the time.
So, thanks to Cook County sales tax, I’m now 1,450 unexpected dollars short of my already inadequate ability to pay my 2008 income tax (thanks, New Depression). But in return, I’m the proud owner of a 2.0 Ghz aluminum unibody absolutely kickass October 2008 Macbook. Its specs, sexiness, and (God I hope so) sturdiness far outclass my Rev. A 2006 Macbook, which has been relegated to the bottom shelf of my TV stand to serve as an Airport bridge for wireless backups.
In its memory, I have named the hard drive of my new ‘book Rocko XI. Yes, Mac users tend to name their hard drives. No, that doesn’t scare me anymore. After 12 years, I’m used to it. Although the fact that I’ve sequentially named all 11 of my Macintosh hard drives after the mid-1990s Nicktoon, Rocko’s Modern Life, is probably cause for alarm.
Then again, so is the fact that I’m essentially typing on my tax payment. Of course, without a computer this work-from-home communications consultant and blogger doesn’t work at all, so a hard decision had to be made. If receipts don’t improve, at least I’ll have a really sleek laptop waiting for me when I get out of debtor’s prison.
Hopefully it won’t come to that. Maybe the economy will get better and I’ll actually come to afford this sweet but oversold aluminum wonder. Maybe it’ll even live up to its hype, too. Who knows? I think I have a shot at both. After all, if there’s one thing we Mac users tend do better than anyone else, it’s continuing to live in hope.
False or otherwise.
Michael Thaddeus Doyle
I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.