We’ll Miss You, Little Plastic MacBook

We’ll Miss You, Little Plastic MacBook

Apple stopped loving the MacBook a long time ago. It was obvious to everyone, perhaps, but the MacBook. And now Apple’s decided to stop even pretending. The plastic MacBook is gone.

MacBook, we salute you.

When the MacBook first arrived in early 2006, it occupied a space all on its own. There was nothing like the 12-inch Powerbook. There was nothing comparable to the iBook. And then came the MacBook.

But the MacBook was made for real people, not nerds. One could argue that the MacBook is what truly jumpstarted Apple’s ascension back toward laptop relevance.

Once the early adopters proved the product was legit, the MacBook spent the next couple of years slowly creeping into the tech zeitgeist in a way previous laptops had not. A big part of that rise was owed to its design. It was one of Apple’s most minimal works to date. Hinges were concealed. Besides the keyboard, power button and trackpad, there were no superfluous buttons. But using the MacBook was hardly cryptic. Instead of some inelegant latch mechanism, the MacBook used magnets to keep the lid in place. It was geometrically flat and rectangular and simple, but the rounded off edges and corners prevented it from being a cold and uninviting device.

When I first got my black MacBook, I would often just sit and stare at it. It was the first Apple computer I had cared about in years. Next to my sister’s gargantuan Toshiba laptop, or a friend’s sterile-looking Dell, it was the definition of beauty. For its time, it was remarkably small considering its ability to outperform any similarly-spec’d notebook.

Like the Pro, the original MacBook had an Intel Core Duo processor. It had a DVD-burning SuperDrive. It could hold 2GB of RAM on its motherboard. It had an integrated webcam and MagSafe charger. It came came in two colours: white, or for an extra $US200, black. (Oh, the BlackBook tax.) And it was the first Apple laptop to come with the now iconic chiclet-style keyboard – something the Pro line wouldn’t get for another 2.5 years. But it was nearly half the price of the MacBook Pro, starting at $US1100.

Over the years, the MacBook was a solid, reliable workhorse of a laptop. It could handle most tasks people tossed at it. Photo editing, video editing, 720p playback, music production, DJing, etc. It could even handle Firefox’s memory leaks (to an extent). During its prime, its specs were refreshed a couple of times a year, and it held up well, even if it suffered from the occasional grimy-looking palm stain.

The beginning of the end was late 2008. Suddenly, there was an aluminium MacBook. And it was just like the Pro. But the name didn’t fit the body, so the aluminium MacBook (Almost) Pro evolved into a real Pro, and we were given a new, refined MacBook, sculpted in plastic. Yet updates and refreshes were rare. Public sightings few and far between.

Which brings us to today. After five years, the MacBook isn’t the laptop of the people anymore. That title belongs to the MacBook Air, which now outsells the MacBook and is everything it’s not: metal-skinned, aggressively designed, exceptionally modern. It’s not surprising Apple dropped the MacBook. That doesn’t mean we won’t miss it and what it stood for.