Macdeath

Sorry. There's a chance this might get a tad solemn and obituarish. My Mac, my wonderful iMac, is no more. She is an ex-Mac.

There I was, in the middle of writing a typically astonishing slab of prose for MacUser, iA Writer's oh-so-satisfying whiteness filling all 24 inches of my display. Everything was fine, we were happy, life was good. I stepped away for half an hour to have a bite to eat, came back and— what's happened? Where the hell are my beautiful words? Why isn't anything happening, or responding, or anything? What's this big question mark?

Click … off … gone. I tried everything to bring her back (Macs are female, right? Like ships?). Restart, reinstall, rejigger. Drives were inspected. Peripherals were unplugged, unpaired plugged, paired, unplugged again, tapped aggressively. At one point I tried slapping it about, shrieking "live dammit, live!" (everything I know about resuscitation, I learnt from The Abyss), but this just hurt. No, it was too late. After five years of service, this was it. Dead, so very abruptly dead.

Five years. That's actually a pretty impressive stretch of computational usefulness. I wanted something I wouldn't have to replace after two years, but would accommodate the realities of my bank balance. I went for the lowest spec of the biggest iMac – not ideal, but I thought I could eke out her lifespan with some upgrades and software compromises as time and obsolescence came calling. I may have underestimated her just a tad. Here's a detailed list of everything I've had to do to keep her running smoothly over the last semi-decade:

  • install a bit more RAM.

And that's it. It cost me no more than twenty quid, and all I had to do was slot in without any major surgery or soldery. Software hasn't been a problem either – my meatiest tools, the latest bundle of Adobe CC goodies, have been running just fine. Yes, I know it's a bit annoying when us Macolytes smugly bang on about how Apple gear is just better. But, you know what? It turns out that it is. This is still a perfectly good computer … as long as you overlook the fact that it doesn't work.

It doesn't work. So there I was, staring at this gorgeous scrap. What do I do now? First instinct: panic about all of my stuff. All those projects, songs and fonts I'd accumulated over the years? Gone, just like that? All of those photos of my wedding? Of my baby? Of my Lego Millennium Falcon?

No need to panic, voice in my head. Keeping everything precious in one electric aluminium sandwich is just foolish, and after years of being nagged at by everyone, I'd done the sensible thing. I'd given in and backed up all of my stuff elsewhere. Several elsewheres actually. It's all safe.

But what about getting work done whilst in a state of computerlessness? Fortunately, I managed by hopping from borrowed machine to borrowed machine. These inbetweeners, all shapes and sizes of Apple (of course, what do you take me for?), have proven invaluable. And thanks to various cloud formations, it's been possible to pick up where I left off without much pain – Backblaze, iCloud and Adobe CC have suddenly come into their own. It may take a few more clicks than usual, but I could easily access any of my files without any suffering or tears. Not a single deadline was missed.

Although I was still glum abut the fate of my formerly dependable hub-of-everything, I found this nomadic existence to be quite liberating. The idea of having an always-connected computer that has no permanent storage, an empty shell, suddenly seems incredibly feasible and appealing. Why be tethered to one machine for years on end? If disposable computing isn't already a thing, it jolly well should be. I'll make a note and get onto it ASAP.

I'm very busy though, so that dazzling future may be some way off. I had to get myself a more permanent solution; I had to get me a new Mac. This isn't just something you jump into straight away, good grief no. There's an art to this sort of thing. It was time to play the exhilarating/infuriating game of Apple Chicken. I don't care how alluring those latest Macs are. I don't want the latest one, I want the new one. And if the universe has taught me anything, it's that the new one will be announced precisely one day after I've bought the old one. And so it's important to display a little willpower. Don't chicken out. Wait.

Historically, this is a game I'm particularly bad at. There's somebody at Cupertino whose sole purpose in life is to monitor my shopping activity and press the big "LAUNCH NEW MODEL" button the second after I click the buy button. My honeymoon period with the iPhone/iPod/Sock/etc. in question is always cut short and replaced with bitter resentment and hours of longingly stroking the Apple Store website.

Not this time though. I held my nerve for just a couple of weeks, and then just like that – BAM – a new iMac appeared in the universe. I'm not sure why the universe felt sorry for me this time around, but I'm not going to question it. The universe is bigger than me, and I don't want to cause any trouble. So now I have 27 statuesque inches of fresh aluminium on their way, and it's time to pack the old one up and bid her farewell. She's a good girl, and she's served me well. I will mourn her passing for a while, I will weep, I will—

Let's be honest, I will completely forget all about her the second the Apple Cart arrives with that shiny replacement. We may have had something special, but I'm fickle and she's decrepit. Mourning over. Here's to the next five years with my new best friend.

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Originally published in the November 2013 issue of MacUser.