★ On My Macs, Part III

In 2005, I matriculated to Middlebury College. When I did, I took with me what I thought was sleek, sophisticated machine well-suited to my growing needs as a writer, musician, and student. The PowerBook G4 was, in theory, my dream machine. And yet, looking back on it, it is the one Mac I've ever owned that I can honestly say disappointed me. It ran hot. It ran slow. And within six months of purchase, it was made obsolete. I had jumped on board this train just before it derailed, just before Steve Jobs announced that the Mac platform would switch to Intel processors and abandon the old PowerPC chipset that had been the heart of Apple products for more than a decade. Suddenly, my sleek new machine was a dinosaur.

That's not to say it wasn't serviceable. I did a lot of great work on my PowerBook. I wrote my first radio scripts and had my first exposure to serious sound editing - Dad insisted on installing Pro Tools before I left for school. It also let me make my first real foray into computer gaming. I had grown up a Nintendo fan, but I installed StarCraft on my PowerBook during my freshman year, and spent many nights bonding with friends through our computers. (For the record, I play Protoss.)

But the whole experience was clunky, and in retrospect, un-Apple-like. I had a standalone iSight Camera that I used a few times to video chat with my parents, but it was so clumsy and miserable to set up that I rarely took it out of the box. The trackpad, small and unresponsive, was so bad that I resorted to using the single-button wireless mouse - itself a less-than-satisfying product. The only consolation was that the PowerBook was still a superior machine to the Windows-based that (increasingly few of) my classmates were carrying around. That's a small comfort.

It was, in retrospect, a disappointing computer. Yet the experience of owning my one disappointing Apple computer taught me a very Apple-like lesson. I had made the upgrade because of a perceived need. I was going off to college, therefore I NEEDED more power, more storage, more everything. More, more, more. It didn't matter that my iBook was doing its job exceedingly well, and would have continued doing so. I just had to upgrade, because, well, look how much better the specs were! It was foolish, but in doing it, I got a much better picture of what my needs actually were. And when I upgraded next, I did it right.

The result was the longest-lived computer I've ever owned.