Around 1993 I bought my first Apple Mac, after using them at University and falling for their simplicity and user friendly design.
My current main computer is also Apple – a MacBook Pro (MBP), that I purchased new in 2008, for around £1400.
That felt (and was!) a fair chunk of money then, but since I was upgrading from my previous 2003 12″ PowerBook G4 that had lasted five years and been such a creative tool for me – as well as an utter joy to use – I couldn’t have considered any other kind of computer.
Plus, £1400 over 11 years works out at about £10 a month, which has to be great value for all I’ve done with it.
Last year, I was at a crossroads with the MBP.
I’d upgraded the original HD to an SSD to expand the storage and speed things up, but it was still not as fast as it used to be, and I was seeing the dreaded spinning beach ball of death a little too often.
Eventually, as I didn’t have a spare £2500 lying around to buy the equivalent new model, I decided to restore the machine to its factory settings, then update the OS from there.
It worked very well, and the machine felt lean and fast again.
However around that time I also came across Google Chromebooks, and in particular, software that can be installed on most PC laptops to turn them into a Chromebook.
I scurried under the bed for my wife’s old HP laptop, which hadn’t been booted up in years at it had a crippling disease called Norton AntiVirus, making everything so painfully slow it was unusable.
With her permission of course, I wiped every remnant of Microsoft and Norton from the HP’s HD, followed the CloudReady install instructions to the letter, and to my delight it worked!
One new Chromebook in a still very respectable old shell – especially a decent 15″ screen and comfortable keyboard.
Some eighteen months on, the old HP is just as quick and nimble as it was when I did the install, and despite being eight years old now, remains a more efficient machine than it ever was with Windows software.
Because the battery on my MBP is next to useless, and it only really works when plugged into the mains, I never take the MBP out anywhere.
With my son attending trampolining three times a week, there’s a few hours available there to write some new posts for 35hunter, so I’ve been taking along the old HP, whose battery lasts around two hours on full charge.
When it came to considering my 11 year old daughter’s first laptop a few months ago, we didn’t think twice.
She’d already used the HP Chromebook and liked it, so we investigated new native Chromebooks, and bought a Lenovo S340 on sale for £179.
Which is what I’m typing this on right now, and have written probably half the words I’ve published on 35hunter in the last couple of months.
Although the Lenovo cost £179, far more than the free CloudReady download I reincarnated the HP with, it remains, in my view, amazing value.
And this is where I find this dedicated new Chromebook – and the reincarnated HP – have become unthinkable machines.
Even a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have considered anything other than another MacBook.
But a series of realisations have edged me towards a Google machine.
My iPhone (5C – the only iPhone I’ve had) didn’t last all that long, and then the upgrades were capped by Apple.
After that point, it just slowly ground to a halt. Even using it just as a camera and iPod, it’s sluggish, so I rarely bother.
The Sony Xperia Android phone I replaced it with is, 18 months in, still nippy and actually more efficient to use.
Things like the text prediction with the Sony just seems more intelligent than the Apple equivalent, even to the point where I would rather use it to write brief emails and sketch out a few lines for draft posts for 35hunter, than my iPad, with a much larger screen.
The keyboard might be bigger on the iPad but it’s not as intuitive, and trying to select, copy and paste with an iPad is frustratingly torturous. Why??
The iPad is great to read on and view photographs, but for any typing I find it frustrating and awkward.
(Edit – ironically I came across Google’s Gboard keyboard app for the iPad the other day, installed it and it seems far more logical than the native Apple one.)
Perhaps more important than Apple’s star losing, in my eyes, its once eternally glowing light, is how my needs have changed, and simplified.
When I bought my MBP I used it for music (making my own, and listening via iTunes), video editing, blogging, photography viewing and editing, plus a host of other applications, like uploading webpages via an FTP server, and so on.
These days the dock on my MBP contains just two apps – the Finder and Google Chrome.
The only other apps I use regularly are Image Capture to import photos from memory cards (via one USB card reader, much easier than keeping multiple cables for multiple cameras to plug in) and Preview to view the photos.
Both are set up as the automatic default app, so when I plug my USB card reader in, Image Capture opens and I just click one button to import them all then delete them from the memory card. Which then syncs with Google Drive to back them up.
Preview also opens automatically when I double click on a photograph in the Finder, so I never need to open it manually via the Application folder.
The other needs are just not there anymore.
I don’t have enough interest (or time) to make music. iTunes has been bloated and clunky for at least five years, and I can’t remember when I last opened it. Now I just use Spotify via my phone.
Most other apps I use are web based.
GMail for email – instead of Apple Mail.
WordPress for blogging – instead of writing web pages in HTML then uploading via FTP.
Photo processing via Snapseed on my phone – instead of LightRoom on my MacBook.
And so on.
So the MBP, despite still being a lovely device that I have a wonderful history with, is complete overkill for my needs, and a new one would be even more so by a magnitude of hundreds.
I try to relate most posts I write here back to photography, even if the link is not directly and entirely related.
On this occasion, there are obvious parallels.
I don’t need a cutting edge camera that costs thousands and has 42 megapixels and 672 different modes, functions and features.
I’ve made photographs I love on simple gear like 15 year old digital compacts or plastic Holga film cameras.
I think it’s important to review whatever gear we use from time to time – at least once or twice a year – to see how well it’s working for us.
As our needs change, what might have been a perfect marriage years ago might have evolved into something unnecessary and unsustainable, that we’re still going along with barely fuelled by the happy memories.
My MBP is still working ok for now, and I’m not one to buy something new just for the sake of it. Mostly! So I’ll keep using it until it breaks.
But the next machine I consider will be one that was unthinkable a few years back.
Which is kind of exciting.
How about you? What gear do you use now that no longer really serves its original purpose? How have your needs evolved over recent years, which has influenced which equipment you use – for photography and other parts of your life?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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