A tale about my first new Mac (and its fate)

Throughout my teenage years, I got by on less. All of my computers were built from ewaste, and up until the last year of high school my main machine was a Power Mac G4 Sawtooth with a Celeron shitbox running XP somewhere in the background. Both machines tossed out by their previous owners.

2006, however, was about to be a sea change in computing for me. Because I was going into my final year of high school, and my grandfather wanted to buy me a better machine that would hopefully carry me through college because all of my machines were falling apart.

My thinking was to aim low because hell, even if I aimed low I’d still be landing one hell of a machine. My grandfather was very partial to Apple, so he suggested I pick a MacBook. Given my thinking to aim low, I had my eyes set on a white MacBook. Still a hell of a machine, even if weaker. We set a date to go to the Apple Store, and I’m ridiculously excited because holy shit, I never figured I’d ever get a new computer.

My grandfather at the time was very self sufficient and lived alone so we didn’t talk between setting the date and the day of. During that time, Apple had refreshed the MacBook Pros to have Core 2 Duos, which was pretty cool but I didn’t think much of it because hey, this didn’t affect me.

The day of reckoning finally arrived, and I excitedly hopped into my grandfather’s car and we went off to the Apple Store. Upon arrival it’s pretty busy, so we look around and I show him the MacBook I’m wanting to get. He seems…kind of dismissive of it after picking it up, and looks at the just-refreshed MacBook Pros.

“These look better built, why not get one of these? It’ll be more future proof.”

I wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. I asked if he was okay paying that much, to which he said “if it’ll last longer, it’s worth it.”

Sweet. So now I’m getting a Core 2 Duo machine, WITH a dedicated GPU? Oh HELL yes. My excitement was almost unable to be contained. I couldn’t wait.

Of course, things were almost in jeopardy: My grandfather’s credit card wouldn’t work. I remember him getting on the phone with USAA and going off on them over it because they refused to believe it was actually him making the purchase(and sternly having to use his full military title). This wouldn’t be the first time this happened, oh no…but that’s a story for another time.

Why this part is memorable is because between USAA and the Apple Store, the credit card processing was at an impasse…until one of the employees busts out an old-school credit card imprinter and does the transaction that way, somehow. Thankfully, this allowed everything to proceed, and I was handed one of those fancy Apple bags with my precious contained within.

I was dropped off at my home, and I couldn’t wait to get into my room and tear this thing open. It was awesome, the whole thing. Unboxing it, setting it up, and sliding in my first disc to test the audio. (I remember the first song I played on the then-awesome speakers: The Postal Service’s Such Great Heights.)

I was psyched to get some games on this thing too, and it was amazing. I could only dream of playing Half-Life 2 before, but now? This machine was playing it perfectly. Team Fortress? YES. If I hadn’t quit Diablo II for good by then, I would have gone a few rounds there, too. It was amazing to finally have a machine that would just utterly destroy anything I threw at it.


Trouble Ahead

Now, my grandfather’s mentality with this is that it would also be extremely helpful in high school, as I was relatively fresh into my senior year at the time. And it was! I was able to use it to help a ton with school work, to keep myself organized (with iCal and the like) and actually use it on a couple finals to give me an edge.
My senior year was also the year of reckoning for me. It was when a bunch of school programs I depend upon were canceled, and kids with disabilities were thrown into normal classes and left to fail when they couldn’t adapt. We were just told to think fast, and that was that. So it goes, my grades suffered.
I’d have though my parents would have seen that hey, I’m getting utterly hosed by modified classes being all canceled, but no. They blamed…the MacBook. Furthermore, despite that MacBook being immensely helpful for one of my finals (systems/networking, I was using it to interface with some Cisco routers), the instructor for that final didn’t like that I was using a non-Microsoft product and reached out to my parents to suggest that my MacBook be confiscated. (He was…very much one of those people who believed that I must learn to do things the way I’d do them in corporate America and no other way. Linux was verboten. Same with Mac OS.)
The MacBook very quickly became a bargaining chip. I was never allowed to use it for leisure, and even then I was rarely allowed to use it for even schoolwork as my parents felt it was too easy to get distracted. The reality is that it quickly became the “family computer” rather than, you know, my computer. The only time I was ever allowed to touch that machine is if 1. My parents were feeling uncharacteristically generous, which only ever lasted seconds at a time, or 2. They were using it for their leisure and they broke something that I needed to fix.
Worse, my Steam account was laid out there for my stepdad’s son to play around with. Still feels kind of irritating that he got more time with my own machine than I did.
Still, I managed to create SOME memories with that machine, or I wouldn’t be here writing about it. Like one kid in my electronics class getting his hands on an early version of Vista and installing it on my MacBook. That was a fun time. Or the many nights of sitting on the bed in the spare room at my girlfriend’s house just being able to use it free of my parents walking into the room and having a very sudden change of heart and taking it away again.
There were also some fun memories of the school’s IT guy not liking the MacBook either. He only wanted Windows machines on his network, and was not at all amused when I threw XP on my machine and natively booted it. Ah, memories.

Scraping By

I still needed some means to write papers and the like, so if you remember that old Sawtooth G4 at the beginning of this post? I still had it. I brought it back out and sure enough it still worked just fine. I’d have to get creative with it, however, and kept it hidden in my closet to keep it from getting taken away, too. I also still had my 4th gen iPod that I thought I had also kept very well hidden.
That is, until I let my guard down. I forgot to bring my iPod to school one day and I came back home to find that it too had been taken away, along with the G4. Yep. They had found it.
My last resort was an old Pentium III machine I kept in the deep recesses of my closet that barely worked, but as you can probably guess that was eventually found and taken away, too. Even worse:
It was at this point that my grades went from “passing, albeit barely” to “completely failed”.
I think thankfully this caused my parents to realize the thing they should have known: My access to computers was never the problem. While they still kept the MacBook mostly out of my possession, I was allowed to use it more and take it to school again.
This allowed some of the more fun memories to happen. The first being when I trusted my girlfriend to hang onto the MacBook for a bit at her house. She had been using it (with permission) and, well, her ex came by and was hanging around outside her window, throwing rocks at it and such. One of them went through the open window and dinged my poor MacBook right on the screen. It didn’t break it, but it left a very nice scar in the polarizer.
Thankfully her ex’s family was willing to pay for damages, so we took precious to the Apple Store to get an estimate on repair. The Genius pointed out that he found a dead pixel on the opposite side of the display, so the display would be replaced completely free. Ah, when Apple’s customer service was exceptional. Miss those days.
The second memory was using it to help other people with their finals. You see, I failed Econ the first time around. The second time around, our final for that class was to start our own business, with a pitch, business plan, and such like that. We were divided into groups and mine was just…utterly blowing it every which way and I was having to do all the work. I promise this isn’t to brag, this becomes relevant later.
It’s the final period of the day, and…someone arrives at class (I was a teacher’s assistant that period, and had not much to do that day thankfully) with a hall pass to…my econ teacher’s classroom? Interesting. Let’s see what that is.
Turns out, a couple of the other groups need help recording some audio for their business pitch and I was one of the few in his class who was 1. available at the time, and 2. had a laptop. Asked if I could help them out for some extra credit, but I had to swear secrecy about this. Sure, I’m in. We went to the media lab and got to recording, and at the end of the year…my entire group failed the class, but I somehow made it out with a B. (Though part of that, admittedly, was that the teacher told me he had noticed me doing a LOT of the work in my group so he felt it wrong to dock me hard for putting out so much effort.)
Still one of those times where I felt the MacBook saved my ass hardcore. That extra credit helped a ton.


Unfortunately, all good things must seemingly come to an end, and that end came in the summer of 2007.
After graduating just barely, celebrations were in order! So I went out with the girlfriend and her family to their cousin’s house way out of town for a week or so. It was fun to get the hell out of Dodge for a bit, even if it was super hot where we ended up. (Ah, to be my younger self again and more heat tolerant than I am now.)
I can remember the moment it all happened. I was in a K-Mart. Wandering the soda aisle. My trusty Motorola V262 starts ringing. It’s my mom.

“Someone broke into the house and they got your MacBook.”

I remember just about wanting to snap my phone in half. I was livid. That machine that had become my baby…just gone. Just like that. I wasn’t even home for it, either.

When I got back I tried searching for it among people we knew because this felt like it had to be an inside job. A few people alleged they knew where it was and who had it, but nothing ever turned up. I never recovered the machine. Years later we eventually found out who did it, but obviously by that time it was too late.
What had happened was that a “friend” had socially engineered my grandfather into letting them into the house and because my grandfather’s facilities at the time were really starting to go, he had no idea what was going on and this person made off with some of my mom’s stuff…and the MacBook.



Though not the same machine (and not even the same year), about a month ago (so, August 2022) I picked up a few MacBooks from an awesome community of people. One of those is a 2007 15″ MacBook Pro, about as close as I think I’m going to get to that old machine I had.
It still runs Tiger like my old MacBook did. And I even have a 4G iPod to go with it, just like my old MacBook did before everything started getting taken away.
It’s kinda nice to have a machine to pay homage to that MacBook that I feel never got enough time to really shine.
Though in a way, I feel like things had to happen this way, because if I still had that 2006 MacBook Pro, I would have never acquired my late 2008 MacBook Pro, and that machine has a short (but very interesting!) story.
Maybe I’ll tell it sometime.



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