Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis

Back in Black

My first laptop was a black Apple Powerbook G3, aka the WallStreet. I dragged the ten pound sucker across Europe in a backpack. I’ve had many computers before and since, but this was the one I pecked out stories on while riding trains through the European countryside, the one I fell asleep next to in Amsterdam, the one I jacked into phone lines to dial home to check email. This was the one I loved.

macbookI’ve longed for a similar computer ever since. Black just seems to be the right color for a computer you’re going to be traveling with. And the plastic was just more resilient than the easily dented metal Powerbooks that came after. In short, I’ve been waiting all this time for the computer that Apple just released.

Meet the new MacBook (formerly iBook). It’s half the weight of my old WallStreet, same size screen, and so much faster I can’t even imagine. And, yeah, black. So I went to see it in my local Apple store tonight and, frankly, walked away unimpressed.

First there’s the glossy screen, which has already rankled many a Mac-head. And I, too, would not want it. Then there’s the keyboard, which is just weird. The spaced-out keys are very distracting and makes the whole computer seem childish.

But this post is really about the black. And as happy as I am to see it back in the lineup, this specific implementation leaves me wanting. My old WallStreet had a lovely hard black plastic case, with a grippy rubberized center portion. The result was a sexy computer that felt great in your hands.

But the MacBook black is a flat, matte black that soaks up the oil on your fingers like a sponge, leaving a computer that looks smudged and icky in minutes. The ones in the Apple store look like toys in a preschool class already. Ew.

The matte finish on the black models is a curious decision, especially because the white ones are glossy and smooth as the iPods are and iBooks were. Even the current black iPods are glossy. So why the matte finish? Perhaps someday we’ll know.

Until then, I’ll happily keep pecking on my second favorite laptop ever: my aluminum Powerbook with the keyboard that’s designed for grownups and the matte finish is where it belongs – on the screen.

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Hi, I’m Derek. I used to make websites. Now I grow flowers and know things. I’m mostly harmless. More.