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Media Archeology: Apple MacBook Air 2014

macbook-air
          Photo Credit: Toya Hill
    • Apple MacBook Air 2014 Edition
    • Medium: Hardware
    • Type: Portable Computer
    • Product Name: Apple MacBook Air
    • User Name: Macbook Air, Macbook
    • Manufacturer: Apple Computer
    • Model: Macbook Air 11.6’
    • Year: 2014
    • Original Price: $1,099.00
    • Serial: C02MX11RG083
    • Floppy Drive: None
    • Optical Drive: Internal
    • Hard Disk Drive: 121 GB
    • RAM: 4 GB 1600MHz LPDDR3
    • CPU: 1.7 GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 (Turbo Boost up to 3.3 GHz) with 4MB L3 cache
    • External Connections:
    • Gigabit Ethernet port
    • Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter
    • Apple USB SuperDrive
    • 45W MagSafe 2 Power Adapter
    • Two USB 3 ports (up to 5 Gbps)
    • Thunderbolt port (up to 10 Gbps)
    • Headphone port
    • MagSafe 2 power port
    • Dual mics
    • Internal Connections:
    • Operating System: Mac OS X Mavericks
    • Compatible Peripherals:
    • Accession #: 2013.06.90
    • Tested [date]: 12/1/2016 (Perfect Condition)
    • Donor:

Notes:

The Macbook air entered the lightweight computer market back in January 2008. Back then it was the thinnest Apple laptop to ever be released. It looked a lot like the Macbook Pro and other previous silver models, but with its curved edges and light and tiny nature, it positioned itself as the top of the line mega-portable system. In order for it to continue being at the top, Apple had to make a lot of sacrifices. It was slower than other coexisting laptops. It had only 2GB worth of ram which was not even upgradable, no firewire ports, a slow hard drive, no optical audio output, no ethernet port, no audio input and no internal optical drive.

While there were are a lot of down sides to this device, it’s hard to find fault with the design. Its sleek, minimalistic and quite beautiful. It’s got a full size computer screen, oversized trackpad which employs some nifty features, such as fingertip gestures similar to an iphone. To diminish the connectivity necessary to make the Air so thin, Apple offered various accessories: USB-to-ethernet adaptor, a USB 56kbps modem, an optional external 8x SuperDrive, and multiple micro-DVI adaptors.

My experience with the Macbook Air has been a pleasant one. I own a handful of Macbooks at home so I am definitely a bias when it comes to Apple products. I own two Macbook pros and an air and I can see the pros and cons to both. The difference between the two sister pairs are simple as they are compelling. The Pro has three times more the resolution than the Air does, better quality when it comes to color and contrast reproduction, wider viewing angles and an IPS display with Retina Class Resolution. However, despite all of that, my Macbook Air is my favorite device. My Macbook Pros are used for work and school only. However my Air is the one I use for virtually everything. It was a gift given to me, but what attracts me to it the most is portability. It’s a lot smaller and I can carry it in my bag , my backpack and even my purse. Which is a huge plus for me because I literally go almost everywhere with it.

With that said, I wholeheartedly agree with Mcluhan on how we as people tend to adapt to our environment through a certain balance of our senses. The medium of our times brings out these senses which is apparent when it comes to my Macbook.

“The wheel…is an extension of the foot. The book is an extension of the eye… Clothing, an extension of the skin…Electric circuitry,an extension of the central nervous system”.- (Marshall Mcluhan).

Mcluhan saw every medium as an extension of the human faculty and thus, exaggerating that particular sense. And whatever is dominating media today will have a heavy impact on the way we perceive the world. I truly believe that my macbook is more than just a computer, but also an extension of the mind. An omnipresent digital assistant that knows what you need and supplies it before you even realize it. In essence, it’s a part of who I am. It is also where I keep personal information including contacts, notes, messages, emails, photos, videos, music, and other application data. I can see why this would be a tad frightening to some because with all that information in one place, it can be easy for hackers to access that information. Which leads me to another concept. Its nice to love a device so much, but I can understand why others may find it potentially scary.

“All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered.” The Medium is the Massage-(Marshall McLuhan). Information is constantly around us and a huge question that revolves around all of this is, with the increase in technological advancements, are we more connected to ourselves? Or are we more connected to the spoon that stirs societies melting pot?

I would say one of the biggest challenges with representing this object digitally, is that a Macbook Air is something that needs to be experienced, not just described. I can list all of the technical specifications and abilities of the machine, but to truly have an understanding of its effect on my daily life, a reader needs to sit down in front of it and use it. To feel the response in an instant from the other side of the world, to be able to alter massive databases with the push of a button. I can describe all of these experiences, but someone who will not experience them will not truly comprehend. Future readers of this article will either be so advanced that they take for granted their abilities of manipulation, or bombed back into the stone age and have no idea what any of this means.

We interface with our objects in a number of ways. The obvious way is to use them, but they become such a larger part of our life than that. We plan around them, we work to buy them, we dream about them. Our lives are shaped by our capabilities, and our tools alter our capabilities in a way that can have a fundamental impact on everything we do. The true nature of our tools comes from a desire to fill our needs and complete our tasks better.

We use our physical tools to do mental work. We have an image of how the world should be shaped, and we try to do what we can to make it work. Humans have gotten where they are because of their ability to improve their own lives through tools. We created the written language as a way to quickly spread information, and we created the Macbook Air as a way to spread it faster. Using a Macbook Air is a method to the madness of reaching out and accomplishing our goals. We can organize, communicate, view, send, and pull from a litany of different sources.

Combining the usability of a computer with the portability of a book, a laptop is a versatile tool and a way to significantly impact our lives. The experience of being able to quickly alter the information of someone on the other side of the world, or view the combined life works of any number of geniuses is a life changing tool. We can become more productive to the extent that we can do the life’s work of an office full of people in a few hours, or we can distract ourselves to the point that we forget what work is. We find the the laptop is a useful tool not because of what it can do, but what we can do when we are in front of it.

Our minds are a unique machine on this planet. We are capable of creative problem solving and rapid, complex interpretations that no computer can replicate. We have the ability to look at a bird and say, “That is a bird.” The most advanced Google algorithms still haven’t caught up with this ability. They can compare pixels on images and create a search tool that has a statistical chance of returning what the majority of search users call a bird, but the minds inside processors are no closer to understanding what a bird is as we are to understanding how to build them.

What a computer can do is speed. It is a tool that can almost instantaneously sort and build, following instructions that took years to write in less time than we can enter the command. It can fly down a list and sort it into whichever method you desire in a heartbeat, it can send a long page of information around the world in the blink of an eye. We have extended our reach and our speed to such an extent that this golden age of information has no comparison to anything that humans have ever seen. The library of Alexandria would fit on a few floppy disks, we dedicate more writing to arguing over children’s cartoons than the philosophers of old did to the entire human condition.

But we still need to apply our creative problem solving to most of the work we do. We are constantly faced with challenges that a few premade algorithms just can’t tackle. When we build a program, we need to consider the usable experience, the functionality of the machine instruction we are writing, and how we can solve the issue that we face. We visualize the end goal along with every step we take to get there.

But laptops are not just for work. I love watching all kinds of entertainment on my various screens, but since my Macbook Air is already in my hands, it ends up being my source of distraction. I can bring up an endless supply of video from a multitude of free services, such as Youtube. Every minute, nearly 300 hours of video are uploaded to the site. With the sheer amount of content to sort through, we can be sure that there are one or two videos to hold our attention.

The internet is woven into our lives to such an extent that it is hard to imagine a world without it. A few years ago, I needed to move a long distance. While on break at work, I looked up listings for apartments, found reviews, took a virtual drive through their neighborhoods, and called the managers to set up a series of viewings over the weekend. All in about 20 minutes, sitting in my car in a dirt parking lot. Now, the question is how exactly would I have done this before the internet? I can’t imagine how to start on this problem. Did travellers move to their new cities first, and then get a hotel while they searched the newspaper classifieds for homes? Were there rental travel agents, who would do the legwork for you? When we have access to a powerful tool, it can be hard to imagine life without it.

Computer components are made by a number of tech companies all over the world. There is a high demand to smaller and faster machines, so billions of dollars are invested into research and development of computing methods. The supply chain for electronic parts is one of the most complex organizational problems we have on the planet. The mind boggling number of functioning parts inside of a Macbook Air all need to come from somewhere, and they need to come to the consumer. Even a corporation as big as Apple doesn’t make every part themselves.

It can be frustrating when our tools break down on us. Even when ninety nine percent of the Macbook Air is working fine, one small component can bring your work to a standstill. Even a single bad electrical connector, such as a pin in a USB port, can stop you in your tracks. It’s really a miracle that computers work at all, considering the billions of small pieces they are made of. But they are designed to break a bit, because they constantly run self diagnostics. They can’t fix themselves just yet, but they can deactivate broken parts so that the rest of the machine can do its work. Hard drives for example are divided into sectors, and if the magnetic bits lose their place and become corrupted, only the sector becomes unreadable, saving the rest of the disk. Sites like iFixit are valuable for repairing these small breakages. I love how they have little bits and pieces of things that I never knew I could buy on their own.

The various components in a computer are all organized and controlled by the system BIOS, which is a root operating system that operates at the lowest level. When the system powers up, the BIOS is the first set of instructions to run through the processors. This system performs checks on all the various bits of hardware connected to the machine, and verifies that the connected storage drives are readable. This basic series of checks is similar to what I do in the morning. First I need to remember who I am, where I am, and what I’m doing today. I fall into my daily routines before I even fully wake up.

 I never fully knew the history or the mechanics of the Macbook Air until doing this project. It had its ups and downs and as revolutionary as the Macbook Air was, it probably may never fit into Apple’s future. We now have the Macbook Pro, IMac and various Apple products that continue to be hot on the market.. However, despite all the evolutions this computer has gone through and will continue to go through, it is still my number one device of choice. Who knows, that will probably change within the next year or so. I know others seeing this 50 years from now may laugh, especially with some of the enthralling visions we have of technology in the future. But until then, I will continue to take advantage of all this tool has to offer.