★ On My Macs, Part II

My first iBook was also my first laptop, and the first computer that I could call my own. It was an iBook G4. For posterity's sake, I wish I had spent more time learning about the machine. I couldn't tell you what the processor speed was or how big the hard drive was or how much RAM it had or anything technical at all. I was too busy using it to pay attention to trivial details. It was fast, it was fun, and it did what I needed it to do.

I can't emphasize how much this machine changed my life. My first iBook meant my first iTunes library. I remember when I finished ripping my CD collection (about 100 discs). I was just thrilled that I could carry that much music with me anytime I went on a trip. Fast-forward to today and I have more than 100 GBs of music sitting on an external hard drive, along with 200 GBs of video and god knows what else. But at the time, digitizing 100 CDs was a stunning technological achievement to my young mind.

The iBook G4 also introduced me to the defining digital device of the past decade: the iPod. Most people seem to have had an iPod before they had a Mac, but the halo effect worked in reverse for me. Once I got all of that music onto my laptop, I just HAD to have something smaller to carry around with me. So after scrimping and saving for months, I headed down to CompUSA (there's that dinosaur again!) and got myself a 20 GB iPod - the first generation to include a Click Wheel. It blew my mind. Since then, I've owned five other iPods, including two more Classic models, two Shuffles, and one Nano (which I'm currently wearing on my wrist), but the love affair started with that bulky 20 GB model that redefined how I listened to music. Goodbye, CD player.

I did the typical things with my iBook. I surfed the web (on Safari, no less), I got email, I did homework. And I wrote. Oh, how I wrote. My prose was sloppy and unsophisticated, but I cranked out everything that I could. I wrote the stories that won my high school's literary magazine contest two years in a row on that machine. I wrote my first stage play and my first radio play on that machine. I wrote short films, I wrote blog posts, and I built the first version of StefanClaypool.com on that machine. And as I did all of this, my relationship with my computer changed. Rather than just being some device I used to do work, it became an extension and enabler of my creative impulses. It gave me the canvas that I needed to grow artistically. It stopped being an amazing feat of technology, and became exactly what I needed it to be: a partner in a continuing creative enterprise.

My iBook G4 changed my life. It made me rethink longstanding assumptions about technology, redefined my work and recreational habits, and gave me a powerful tool to channel my creative impulses. In the end, though, you have to move on, and I did when I passed the machine on, first to my mother and then to my grandmother, who continues to use it to this day. I loved that iBook, but college was looming. My needs had changed.

Fortunately, there was a Mac for that.