The MacBook

The MacBook

I've been using a MacBook for almost a year now. Specifically the new 12" ultraportable MacBook. I previously owned a Retina MacBook Pro, and before that an early model of the MacBook Air. The new MacBook is easily my favourite computer to date.

I love this machine for the reasons a lot of people are suspicious of it. It's small. It has one port or the side, a solitary USB type C socket. It is extremely minimal, compact and portable. It's greatest features are the things it lacks; additions or extras — even an active cooling system.

There are a lot of technologies that other people I know use almost every day that more or less passed me by. While I have owned CDs, and absolutely understand their necessity for many, its also true that the gaming PC I built in 2002 and later gave to my sister in 2010 (after several internal upgrades) still had the Windows install disk in the DVD-RW drive when she received it. I've owned three USB pen drives and never used them (I have on occasion borrowed one momentarily out of convenience); they seemed like a really good idea but I didn't really need them. I bought my original MacBook Air (the last generation that had the flappy USB access port) with an external Super Drive and sold it on having never connected it to the machine.

My previous machine was a MacBook Pro, and I chose that for it's graphics capability (and the screen — being the first Mac with a Retina display). It saw use as a gaming machine, and needed that graphical grunt to render the games I was playing. The things I didn't use on the MacBook Pro are more telling of my, perhaps, unusual use case:

  • I didn't use the USB ports,
  • I didn't use the HDMI port,
  • I didn't require the SD card slot (I got a neat little SD card caddy for it and never used it),
  • I never connected to a printer,
  • I used less than one fifth of the SSD storage capacity if you discount the games installed.

It was the ideal computer for my needs at the time. None of those things were detrimental, they were just not required. I embraced technologies such as AirDrop and iCloud pretty early on and never once noticed the machine's controversial lack of an optical drive; it was in fact my second machine without this feature.

I'm a little unusual in that I never so much embraced digital distribution of software so much as I was just waiting for it to become truly accessible. My games came from Steam, my music was downloaded (and later, streamed), I e-mailed files or used FTP (or Dropbox etc. as they became available). It was never a sacrifice for me to give up my CD/DVD drive, honestly it was an inconvenience if I ever actually had to use it. Yes, in the early 2000s the internet was slow and sometimes getting things actually downloaded was a pain, but for me it has always been better than stacking boxes and discs on shelves forever.

Many people form a tactile connection with these things; that instinct/nature is not completely unknown but somewhat rare for me. I'm not really worried about owning my media outright, I have relatively few possessions. I am not anxious about loss of access to the things I have paid to use not because I don't believe it could happen but because that isn't important enough to me. It might be inconvenient but I don't worry about it's loss. I don't really collect anything, and I don't experience nostalgia from all but the rarest and most meaningful of objects. I do understand how some or all of these concerns make many people uncomfortable, and how the physical objects that don't necessarily inspire me can be a source of pleasure and satisfaction for others. I can only speak for myself however.

When my gaming life started to migrate to PS4 the need for the additional processing power of the MacBook Pro diminished. Then when another MacBook in the household died suddenly and needed to be replaced the option that made the most sense was for me to buy the new MacBook I'd been salivating over and pass on my Pro (this option was also going to be about £1000 less expensive). This pushed the last of my gaming hold-outs onto the PlayStation 4 (I had to re-buy a couple of titles) and left me with the most minimal computer I've ever owned. I fully accept that my use case is atypical, but most people are not really all that far away from it, either. Synchronised cloud-based file storage is almost ubiquitous. Software downloads are overwhelmingly more common than physical distribution. My storage needs are also very minimal. I stream all my media, and don't really accumulate 'stuff' over time (see my SSD usage in the image). My increasing body of writing is all plain text. The biggest space requirement by far is my photo library and on the scale of things even that is pretty slim.

So now I have a beautiful laptop with a single port, and that port exists for one primary reason: charging. I have bought one additional cable, USB-C to Lightning, so that I can quickly perform encrypted backups of my iPhone. Still, ironically, you cannot enable wireless syncing of iOS devices without first connecting them to a machine by cable. I don't really care overmuch about syncing iOS as all the benefits of that process now happen via iCloud in real-time; it just seems like an oversight that this isn't also automatically authorised through iCloud by now. I own a USB-A to USB-C dongle and expect never to need to use it. At some point it's reasonably conceivable that it will be convenient to connect a USB memory stick or external HDD so I feel that it's worth having one in my arsenal.

I am the outlier that this laptop was designed for, and with the MacBook Air as a predictor the rest of you aren't actually all that far behind, and you folks are probably running at a somewhat wiser speed. Early adoption always comes with some teething pains. The MacBook Air took a lot of the same criticisms but went on to become the everyman's notebook — one of Apple's most successful machines. Give it a few years and the things that seem to hamper this machine will become well-loved features. I already love them.

Glasses

Glasses

Performative Social Media

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