It’s getting very near the end

Ten minutes ago, I lifted the lid on my laptop, plugged it in, and it died. Screen out, no response to my pushing the power button. I figured it was dead. A faithful servant for almost six years, gone to meet its Maker.

But no! I took the battery out (try doing that with your fancy new MacBook Pro), put it back in, and pushed the power button one more time. Bonnnnnnng! And I’m back in business. The clock was set to 1969, but that was easily remedied.

I don’t have the records handy, but I’m pretty sure I bought this iBook G4 in December of 2004. It was my first Mac in years. After being a Mac user since 1985—a Fat Mac was my first—I abandoned Apple at its low point in 1997. Not because I thought it wouldn’t survive as a company, but because it was putting out a crappy product. System 8 crashed regularly, and I was sick of the whole cooperative multitasking thing. The last straw came when Apple decided it didn’t know how to write an operating system anymore and was going to buy either NeXT or Be to write it for them. I figured (rightly, as it turned out) that Apple wouldn’t have a decent OS for years, and I bailed.

I ran Windows 95 for about a month until I couldn’t take it anymore and installed Red Hat Linux. This was the beginning of a productive and educational seven-year sojourn with Linux. I learned a lot of things that I carried with me when I came back to the now-Unix-based Mac.

In fact, before I bought the iBook, I did a lot of research to assure myself that I could use all the Unix tools that had become an indispensable part of my workflow. Jaguar seemed like the first flavor of OS X that was really stable and usable, and I’d grown tired of being my own sysadmin. Linux had come a long way in seven years, but it still required you to get under the hood1 and learn the syntax of a new set of configuration files every time you wanted to do something new.

This iBook has been amazingly reliable. I can’t remember the last time I had to reboot it—other than for system software updates—before tonight. Generally I just close the lid and let it sleep.

When I learned that Snow Leopard was going to be Intel-only, I figured the old iBook would be done for. But although certain software passed it by, it still did almost everything I wanted it to.

Tonight’s blip, though, wasn’t totally unexpected. For weeks now, it’s been very particular about how I plug the power cord in. Small movements of the cord often cause it to switch to battery power. The cord itself isn’t the problem; it’s some connection inside that’s heading for the last roundup. And there’s no way I’m going to pay to repair a six-year-old computer.

No question, it’s fun to get a new computer, and whatever I get to replace this one will be so much faster my head will spin. But I’ll be sorry to see it go.

  1. A common analogy used by the Free Software Foundation is that a proprietary computer system is like a car with its hood welded shut—nobody would want that, would they? After seven years with my nose by the engine, tinkering with config files, a welded-shut hood was exactly what I wanted.