Death Of A MacBook

Enormous magnifying glass for screen sold separately.

Being my personal computer is not an easy job. I spend most of my day on the computer, either scouring the Internet for funny gifs or occasionally writing, and my response to even the slightest slowdown in service is to start yelling obscenities at my screen. I guess it’s because of this high-pressure Swimming With Sharks-style atmosphere that my MacBooks have been committing suicide like clockwork every two years.

I officially became an Apple customer six years ago, when my father bought me a MacBook for college. Like me, it was both pearly white and slow to wake up from sleep mode, and I loved it very dearly. Perhaps the feeling wasn’t mutual, because late in my sophomore year, nearly two years after I’d received the computer, the hard drive made the sort of record scratching sound you hear on TV when somebody says something risqué at a party, and then about a quarter of my data and all of my music was gone forever.

That summer, as I began the slow recovery from the hard drive crash, my father sat me down at the dinner table for a very blunt, man to man talk about the facts of life.

“Truman,” he said to me. “I tend to be of the opinion that laptops really only have an effective lifespan of three to four years.

“Yeah, I saw that article you emailed me.” I said.

“Also, I need a laptop. So I’m going to keep your MacBook and buy you a MacBook Pro, and that’s the last damn laptop I’m buying you.”

And so, in August of 2009, my MacBook Pro arrived. Like the spaceship in Independence Day it was both technologically advanced beyond my comprehension and also made completely out of metal. As I turned it on, filling my lungs with that new hard drive smell, I felt pretty good about the idea of keeping this tank of a machine running for the next several years.

Two years later I had just arrived back at my Culver City apartment from a Christmas trip to Portland when I pulled out my MacBook Pro and turned it on only to see a blank white screen, the outline of a file folder, and a big old question mark. This is not the sort of thing you want to see on the machine where you keep every single piece of writing you’ve done in your adult life.

A trip to the Apple Store and a new hard drive fixed that problem, and then it was smooth sailing for approximately two years until July, when my MacBook Pro developed some sort of advanced stage computer-based Alzheimer’s.

Ever since downloading the latest Apple operating system, my MacBook has literally begun to forget how to be a computer. I have to reboot several times a day now because every few hours virtually every app on my computer spontaneously shits the bed in its own special way – iTunes won’t play, Firefox won’t open, and worst of all, nothing in Word or FinalDraft will save. This would be great if I used computers as part of some Zen exercise where after every day of writing the slate was wiped completely clean, but unfortunately I’m kind of a stickler about being able to have access to my data from one day to the next.

Like the last two times this sort of thing has happened, I contacted Apple support. And, after two phone calls with Apple tech support, three trips to the Apple Store Genius Bar, and a consultation with an Apple support specialist who gave me his personal number and extension, here’s what I’ve found out: My MacBook Pro is dying in a way that no Apple product has ever died before.

Every time I explain my computer’s symptoms to a new tech support professional, their response is a long, helpless pause, followed by a few logical solutions I’ve already tried (“Have you turned the computer on and off?”) and a few House-style Hail Marys once there’s nothing left to offer. (“Have you tried painting it blue?” “No.” “Try painting your laptop blue. “Will that help?” “I mean, it might. Worst case scenario, you have a blue MacBook Pro that still doesn’t work very well.”) Whatever my MacBook has is the laptop equivalent of AIDS in 1983.

This is pretty frustrating for me. A functional computer is about the only piece of equipment I need in order to make money, and on basic principle I think it’s kind of shady that a top of the line computer made out of aircraft-grade aluminum has the same lifespan as an American-made car.

On the other hand, though, I always knew this day would come. My MacBooks have done this to me twice already, and my Dad made it pretty clear that laptops only last a few years. I knew that sooner or later I was going to have to get a new laptop, but having already squeezed two consecutive free ones out of the old man I wanted to try and postpone this day for as long as possible – or at least until I was filthy rich.

What really sucks is that I’m just going to replace this defective MacBook with a new MacBook, which, if history is any guide, will probably become defective by 2015. If any other product had let me down this consistently I would’ve started buying from the competition long ago, but with laptops I don’t really have any choice.

ChromeBooks are useless to me for a variety of reasons that aren’t terribly amusing, and from what I’ve heard I’m probably better off with my defective, half dead, four year old laptop than I would be with anything running Windows 8. When it comes to computers, my only viable option is to keep buying from the people who have been screwing me for six years.

So when you see me out and about with my MacBook Air in the coming months, don’t call me an Apple fanboy. I’m really more of a hostage.

Truman Capps will revisit this subject in two years.</i>