Touch, Feel

I’m not proud of myself but I have to confess to a lascivious addiction. I know. It’s disgusting. But I can’t help it.

The problem started in 1999. I remember all too clearly my first glimpse of the well-proportioned curves and smooth, smooth skin. After that I was hooked. Oh. God. I couldn’t resist.

The Apple G3 PowerBook, my first ever laptop, was gorgeous.

Image from flickr

It didn’t matter that the machine weighed nearly 3 kilos, was possessed of a rather flimsy keyboard and whined. Lust, like love, is blind.

We were inseparable but the relationship lasted just two years. In 2001 Apple produced a computer that uncoupled me from the G3. To some, the first incarnation of the G4 PowerBook was no looker. Gone were the cool black skin and the sensuous curves. The new machine was all rectilinear functionality: serious straight lines softened by the merest blunting of the corners.

Photo by Scott “Jerry” Lawrence

But to me it was a dream. What sold me on this beautiful metal machine was the 2001 look – it seemed to have dropped to Earth from the slowly rotating space-station in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. And it was lighter, thinner, faster and boasted a massive 20 GB hard-drive. The keyboard felt amazing: firm under my fingertips. This was the future I had been promised in the sixties.

I had to have it. I told you I’m addicted. When, just two weeks into the relationship, the strap on my shoulder-bag failed, dropping the computer to the ground and breaking one of the screen hinges (so much for being made of Titanium), I was almost broken-hearted. But I did not hesitate to pay out for the £600 repair.

We had three years together. But age withers the loveliest of creatures and the titanium coat was eventually disfigured by the touch of my sweaty palms. And the machine started to lag behind newer incarnations that came wrapped in stain-resistant aluminium.

Aluminium G4

Image by Pete Verdon

I was never entirely happy with the all-over silver gleam of the G4 Powerbook I bought in 2004. I preferred the firmer squeeze of the keyboard on the older machine, but speed and power won out. Here was a computer that could be used in all seriousness for the number-crunching and image-rendering required by protein crystallography. It made me feel like a real man.

Three years later, seduced by the switch to Intel processors, I swapped it for a 15″ MacBook Pro. There was no change in the look of the machine or, mores the pity, to the spongy keyboard. The gratification of the purchase seemed diminished so I consoled myself with the boost in performance and a hard-drive that had swollen to 250 GB.

MacBook Pro 13"

My lap. My laptop. Image on flickr

But now, the love is back. I have just got my hands on a slender, sophisticated 13″ MacBook Pro. It’s still more rectangular than rounded but the body of this thing is machined from a single piece of aluminium. The keyboard — firmer again — nestles in a shallow depression that invites you to run your fingers around the curved edge. The large, sensitive trackpad needs your touch. The black is back, in the keys and surrounding the glossy screen. It is only a shade over two kilos and has the power to last all night.

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23 Responses to Touch, Feel

  1. John Wilkins says:

     I have owned all four models (I won the G3, believe it or not), and I too love the current form. Even if the MBP13" gets hot enough to basically poach my junk.

  2. Stephen Curry says:

    I’ve only had my MBP13" for a week and haven’t noticed it running excessively hot. But the ambient temperature in the UK has been rather low so maybe that has helped.
    I do remember one of the earlier machines (the Aluminium G4 Powerbook?) getting very hot one time I left it charging in my laptop bag. I had to open it up upside-down on the table and swab the back gently with damp tea-towels to bring the temperature down. Poor thing.

  3. Stephen Moss says:

    Stephen – shameful indeed, displaying racy pics such as these on a public web site. The laptops might at least have been closed in the interests of modesty. But who am I to speak? My first Mac laptop pre-dates even the G3 Powerbook, and I still have it hidden away in a drawer somewhere – will post a pic here in due course.

  4. David Colquhoun says:

    I expect this is heresy round here, but my Toshiba R500 pc weighs less that 1 kg with good 12.1" screen, 160 Gb hard drive and DVD read/write. It’s lasted for almost 3 years now and been round the world a bit. i can’t wait for the all solid state version.

  5. Stephen Curry says:

    @Stephen – go for it. I free-cycled my G3 earlier this year (once my kids had started to deride it) but the first G4 is still knocking around the house. Useless for YouTube but still fine for basic word processing. 
    @David – that’s no heresy as far as I am concerned. I am determined not to ignite a Mac/PC flame war. It is important for our support group that all addicts feel free to talk about their problem. 😉

  6. Mike Fowler says:

    I’ve been running my latest MBPro (15") for a year and a half now (which I acquired as a result of being serially underpaid in my last job), and I’m still very happy. I also suffered a broken bag mishap a few weeks ago, ironically, while awaiting delivery of a new bag.
    Luckily, my trusty leatherman helped me coax the lower right corner of the screen cover back into shape, and I can open and close it without scraping the smile off the lower part of the machine.
    Enjoy your new toy 🙂

  7. Tom Webb says:

    I’ve got a huge amount of use out of various macbooks over the years, but it’s the MacBook Air that I love the most – not really practical if it’s your only machine (I have people carrier – sorry, MacPro – in the office), but as a sporty runaround it is fantastic, lovely to write on and actually capable doing proper work too. And very light, so easy on my delicate shoulders when I take it out. (In the interests of balance – a few years ago I used to borrow my partner’s little Sony Vaio for travel, which I was also very impressed with. But perhaps not quite as _pleased_ with…)

  8. Stephen Curry says:

    @Mike – In my case it was the metal connectors that fix the strap to the bag that gave way. I thought I could trust Samsonite. I thought wrong. The strap on my current bag also became detached — thankfully not catastrophically this time. Now it is connected to the back with 4 cable-ties on each side. That connection is no longer the weakest link.
    @Tom, I did look lovingly. longingly at the MacBook Air and have heard good things about its performance. But I still have use for an optical drive and wanted a >250 GB hard-drive that I could afford. Maybe next time…

  9. Mike Fowler says:

    @Stephen, exactly the same problem with my laptop bag, although it wasn’t a Samsonite, it was a give-away from a tourism company.
    I’ve also got an Air at home, but use it very little for work these days (for at least one reason Tom’s about to find out). It’s just like a toy in comparison to its big brother. No hard disk space once the required apps and files are installed, only 1 usb port, no firewire, but otherwise good, clean fun for the family.
    But for all my simulating, and even some of the more complex analytical stuff, I’d really like one of these. {Swoon}

  10. Stephen Curry says:

     Steady. That’s pretty hard-core! Even for an old hand like me…

  11. Martin Fenner says:

    thank you so much for your coming out. I have to confess to the same addiction. In my case it started in 1993 with a PowerBook 100. Now on PowerBook/MacBook #6 and ready to buy a shiny new MacBook Air.

  12. Cath Ennis says:

    I’m so glad to have found this support group!
    For me, the iPhone was a gateway drug. It was the first Apple product I’d ever owned, and it was love at first sight… so when I needed a new laptop a few months later, a 13" MacBook it was. I now have a 13" MacBook Pro as my work laptop, too, and am well and truly hooked – I have gone Mac and will never go back 🙂
    (although my husband’s Android phone is very cool too, and blows the iPhone out of the water in some ways, e.g. the native maps/GPS app. But it’s very fiddly – you have to do manual backups and restores when updating the software, for example).

  13. Stephen Curry says:

    That’s an impressively long record Martin. I didn’t get my first Mac until about 1995, but it was a desktop model – a Quadra 6100. That was in the days before Jobs returned to the company and rediscovered its mojo
    @Cath – ‘gateway drug’? Have you done this before?

  14. Grant Jacobs says:

    I’m curious as to how you get it to last all night! The short battery life has been one of my few disappointments with it. Noting you say haven’t experienced heat issues, I’m left speculating if it’s something like Flash eating CPU (and generating heat, hence the speculation; that an usually having a browser open with lots of tabs open).
    As for my first Apple – an Apple ][+ clone. Way back when 🙂
    (I moved to PCs when "original" IBM PCs came out. Mixture of machines ever since, but Apple is my preferred GUI/desktop application machine. For most computational biology work, I use "stock" Intel machines under Linux. Windows I mainly use for testing browser interfaces I’ve built, but via virtualisation rather than a separate machine. Could just virtualise Linux but need desktop CPUs, etc.)

  15. Cath Ennis says:

    The analogy has been made before, yes 🙂

  16. Stephen Curry says:

    @Grant – well that last bit might have been a bit of hyperbole. I’ve only had it a week and not really had the chance to put the battery though it’s paces. Have seen 8-9 hrs displayed (best on prev. Model was about 4) – but have yet to test properly. I keep screen brightness down and have wifi off unless I’m connected to the web to save on electrons.

  17. Grant Jacobs says:

    I’m guessing I’d get 4-6 hours. Haven’t tried pushing it, but estimating off the % battery level, assuming a linear relationship w.r.t time.
    FWIW, one of the reasons I opted for the MacBook Pros, was that you can hook up an external display. It’s nice to be able to hook the laptop up to a (say) a 21" CRT recycled from older workstations or desktops and full-sized keyboard when I feel like it.

  18. Stephen Curry says:

    I’m hoping I get at least 6. I have an external monitor at work and am planning to get one from home. Are you sure a MacBook air won’t support an external monitor? Plenty of people use them for presentations so I’d imagine they have the ooompf do run a large monitor.

  19. Mike Fowler says:

    MB Airs do connet to an extrenal monitor. We often watch things on the computer at home on a large monitor, as we don’t have any other DVD player. Connected up to the stereo works rather nicely.
    Computer manufactirers get an easy ride when it comes to battery life estimation. Most other electronic items tend to base their estimates on whatever the machine is designed to do (e.g., digi cameras take photos and with the LCD on when they’re calculating their battery life expetancy). Laptops apparently just need to be switched on when they test the battery life. Actually running software will reduce battery life.
    Remember to run your battery down to death at least once a month to ensure longevity. Not too often, but at least once a month.

  20. Stephen Curry says:

     I presume you have a external DVD drive Mike since there isn’t one built in to the Air. 
    Thanks for the reminder about running the battery down – must remember to do that – especially since the batteries are now ‘built-in’ to many apple products, including the MacBook Pro and will have to be replaced at the Apple Store when they die. I hope that is set up as a while-you-wait service.

  21. Grant Jacobs says:

    MB Airs do connet to an extrenal monitor.
    I was comparing MacBooks and Macbook Pro’s actually. The former can’t connect to external monitor, IRC.
    Remember to run your battery down to death at least once a month to ensure longevity. Not too often, but at least once a month.
    Advice I’ve read for the Li batteries, is that deep recharges like this actually reduces the life of Li battery, and that ideally they should be used frequently, but lightly, but it suggested to occasionally do a deep re-charge to re-calibrate the battery monitor (Apple suggests every 2-3 months after an initial calibration), e.g.

  22. Stephen Curry says:

     @Grant – thanks for the links and info on maintaining the Li batteries. Odd that Apple doesn’t give more prominence to this information for new purchasers. Maybe it is in the tiny manual that came with the computer but the simplicity of Macs tends to give you the impression that such documents are redundant.
    For completeness, I checked the MacBook that we have at home and it *does* allow you to connect an external monitor.

  23. Mike Fowler says:

    @Grant: I was responding to Stephen’s question about Airs, but that might have been lost in amongst my spelling mistakes. I think I had an infant in one hand while I was typing that one. And yes, I do have an external superdrive, Stephen.
    Thanks for the battery links. I was basing my advice on things I’d heard on Dr. Karl’s radio shows, I’ll go and check out those links now.

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