He’s in this box.

I’ve owned five Apple computers: an Apple IIe (it was really my parents’, but I used it more), a Powerbook Duo, a Pismo PowerBook, and two MacBook Pros. I also have an old Mac that is now an aquarium; Ben used it in college, and Ken gutted it and built a lexan tank. I haven’t brought it out of storage, and won’t until Grace is old enough not to, y’know, toddler the fish, but it’ll return to the living room one day. It’s a friendly-looking device, even if you removed the elephant ears that Ben velcroed on back at Mudd.

The Pismo was my favorite, because it felt so solid and comfortable and had, I think, the best keyboard action of any Mac. I bought it for $600 off Craigslist, back when I needed something to get into TicketMaster’s systems to work. And, yes, I felt very chipper and nerdsexy carting that beast around on the bus, taking it out of its case for meetings, and all that. I really didn’t write a lot on it, though. At least, I don’t think I did. It’s sitting in the closet, waiting for the day when I haul it to a shop to resurrect it.

I’m pretty sure it was the last laptop Apple made before Steve Jobs returned (I’m too tired and lazy to look it up, but I’m sure some Mac pedant will come along in the comments to correct me if I’m wrong), and that got me thinking a lot today about how the machines have changed since Jobs returned. I can remember opening up the IIe to look at its guts, and, even as a kid, I could appreciate how pretty it looked inside. It doesn’t surprise me the Jobs rode the IIe team to make it look as good inside as it did out.

While I couldn’t get into the Duo, I could pop out the batteries and the drive bays and all that stuff. The Pismo had levers, and I thought that was awesome. Done with this battery? Just pull the lever and pop a fresh one in, then maybe hotswap a drive, just because you can (or not. Can’t remember if that was possible. Shut up, Apple Pedants!)

Then I bought Jason’s used MacBook Pro, and when things went wrong (like the DVD drive crapping out), I could still attempt to take it apart. It was a royal pain in the ass, and it required all sorts of tiny screwdrivers and Torx heads and a roll of Scotch tape just so you didn’t lose track of the screws, but, dammit, you could still get into the damn thing. Screw the warranty, screw the Genius Bar; I have a Radio Shack electronics screwdriver set, and I’m bloody well using it myself!

The DVD drive I bought off eBay didn’t work, by the way. I mean, the machine knows it’s there, it’s just indifferent to the drive’s presence.

When that machine’s trackpad started to go, I hemmed and hawed about getting it fixed by a pro versus hauling out the Torx, and caved. I bought a new MacBook Pro, and it’s sealed. Everything’s locked in. If the battery croaks, there’s no friendly switches to pull. It’s all tucked inside the case behind ten screws that are just daring me to undo them.

And I can’t help but wonder how much of Job’s obsession with industrial design and Apple’s obsession with control freakery (and how both bled into each other; Apple is Jobs is industrial design is we’ll tell you how to get your contacts onto your iPhone and you’ll bloody well like it) were driven by Job’s pancreatic cancer. Here’s a man who could make entertainment companies bend to his will, who reshaped the face of personal technology time after time, who could probably reduce Ph.D’s to tears with a single shake of his head, and he couldn’t keep his own body from rebelling and killing him. We’ve all read or seen his excellent commencement address to Stanford, and it sounded like a man who had looked Death in the face and told it he would go when he was good and ready…

And yet, here’s this case. Here are these ten screws. Here is someone saying, “I’m going to put all this good stuff in here, and you have to trust me and not try and take it out.”

I wonder if some of that good stuff was a bit of himself. Steve is in there, in all our machines, among the memory subroutines and bits to monitor the processor temperature, making sure the Good Stuff stays in there.

In a few months, my iPhone will get its updates over the air. Steve will be out there, now. Fifty-six is too fucking young.

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