The Amazing New MacBook Air M1 Almost Cost Me My Marriage

A review, of sorts, of the Intel-killing/relationship-ending new laptop

“If I were a ballerina, you’d not complain if I bought a new tutu. If I were a rock star, there’d be no problem with me owning a nice guitar. I’m a writer, so I could do with a decent computer.”

This conversation took place in the summer of 2020, back when the UK lockdown meant we were saving loads of money by not going out. (A further bullet point in my PowerPoint of reasons why I should be allowed to get a new computer.)

I’d shown her articles about the nightmarish butterfly keyboard, reminded her of the time when the sticky spacebar had caused me to cry, the tears clearing the keys of dust and temporarily solving the problem.

“I don’t want to piss off editors with errant spaces. You know how much they hate errant spaces.”

“But what if there’s a problem with this MacBook?” she’d said. “What if, in six months time, you want to get the better, newer version?”

“Not going to happen.”

The five-star reviews of the 2020 Intel-based MacBook Air spoke of its new keyboard. A keyboard that didn’t stick, that worked. They spoke of how fantastic, if a little underpowered, the new computer was.

I bought one, feeling only a little guilty.

Email sent to ‘contactus.uk@euro.apple.com’ on November 11th, 2020

Hello,

I’m a teacher and author of children’s books (How to Rob a Bank and That Time I Got Kidnapped — out with HarperCollins!). This year, I invested in a new laptop, the 2020 MacBook Air.

So, and I realise it’s the nature of the tech world, I’m a bit disappointed to have bought a brand new laptop five months ago to find that yesterday’s announcement makes it almost feel obsolete — the new MacBook Airs appearing so much better. It’s true that I’ve suffered a little from noise from my fan when using the laptop. I realise, though, that I’m way past the date where I can return my laptop, so I assume that my only option, if I were to want one of the new computers powered by the Apple chip, is to exchange my five-month old version? I’ve looked on the Apple website and there doesn’t appear to be an option to trade in a 2020 version.

Any help/advice you could give with this would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Tom Mitchell

The new MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is fantastic and I love it.

There are three things I predominantly do on my laptop:

a) wasting time on the internet, in particular accessing social media that I’ve blocked on my phone using the Freedom app and can access on the MBA by quitting the Freedom app.

b) writing — in particular, correcting the latest manuscript of my WIP, in which my ever-patient editor has highlighted how, for instance, a character’s name has changed halfway through or that using the word ‘fuck’ is inappropriate for MG readers.

c) playing Football Manager, gifting a virtual Sheffield Wednesday FC the glory that in reality they lack and have lacked for twenty years.

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My MacBook Air (M1, 2020) pulls at the lead like an over-eager Labrador, desperate to please its master/fetch sticks. Applications, even those not designed specifically for the M1 chip, open instantly. Gone are the days of bouncing icons on the task bar: everything is instant. The litany of tracked changes in Word would make my previous, six-month old, MBA pant like an asthmatic jogger. Playing Football Manager, like supporting Sheffield Wednesday, was once an exercise in masochism and patience — I’d taken to reading novels during the long waits for matches to be processed. No longer. Seasons pass in hours.

The new MBA has killed time. The new MBA has collapsed the universe. The new MBA lives in the instant. It’s as responsive as an iPhone or iPad or, even, one of those high-powered PCs that people who know stuff about computers say you should buy instead of Apple.

My favourite thing about the new MBA is that it looks exactly like the old MBA. I wouldn’t have been able to buy one if that hadn’t been the case. My deceit relied upon my wife not being able to tell the difference.

Because I knew what she’d say if I asked her, if I dared wonder out loud that I was considering buying a new laptop.

“What’s wrong with the one you bought in the summer?”

Email sent to ‘contactus.uk@euro.apple.com’ on November 14th, 2020

Hello,

I have not received a response to my email of 11/11. Your acknowledgement email said I should expect one within a business day. To summarise, I was expressing my disappointment that I’d bought a 2020 MacBook Air five months ago to already see it superseded by a new model. Additionally, in considering whether to exchange my current computer, I was wondering why there wasn’t a 2020 trade-in option on the UK Apple Store website.

Thank you.

Yours,

Tom Mitchell

And so I’d decided not to buy a new MacBook Air, despite the wealth of laudatory reviews trembling across the internet like seductive whispers. I wasn’t rich enough to justify spending £1000 on a new laptop, six months after spending £1000 on a new laptop. In the context of the lockdown economy, of food banks and friends losing their jobs, it was obscene.

On the night of making this final, absolute decision, my son asked if he could borrow my MacBook to practice his times-tables. Within three minutes of opening a single tab on Safari, the computer’s fan was blowing a merry storm.

“It sounds like it’s poorly,” said my son. “Can computers get Covid?”

When he was in bed and my wife was watching Bake Off, I took to research, hoping not to offend my laptop with the search terms entered. Apple still weren’t listing the 2020 Intel model as a trade-in option. I found one website, with gifs and a garish colour scheme, that offered £724 for the computer. It averaged a 2-star review on Trust Pilot — the main thrust of complaints being that the generous offers for second-hand technology were lowered as soon as the company took receipt of the tech.

Obviously, I wouldn’t use eBay — 1) it was too much effort and people are awful and self-entitled and, having watched one episode of The Apprentice, they’ll demand 100s of £££ off as soon as they noticed the scratches around the USB-C ports AND 2) my wife might spot the activity on our shared account.

A high-street ‘tech exchange’ shop offered close to £500. That meant I could buy a new M1 MacBook Air (all those amazing reviews from bona fide experts!) for £500. Could I afford it? No. But there had been talk of getting my son a new Xbox for Christmas — if I persuaded my wife that this was a bad idea (we don’t want him paying Streetfighter and ending up as a street fighter), I could better square the expense.

It was decided. All I needed to do now was to buy the new computer, migrate all the files from the old one, trade the old one and all without my wife noticing.

“I’m thinking maybe a new console for D next year?” I messaged. “We don’t want to spoil him.”

Email received from ‘contactus.uk@euro.apple.com’ on November 16th, 2020

Dear Apple Customer,

Thank you for contacting the Apple Online Store. My name is Ray and I will be happy to assist you today.

I understand you wish to wish to be informed about your web order status.

Kindly provide us with your web order number in order to proceed with your request properly; and also, I will need to ask you for some of your personal details to help locate your order.

We will handle them as described in our privacy policy.

As soon as these details are received, I will be able to assist you.

Kind Regards,

Ray

Email sent to ‘contactus.uk@euro.apple.com’ on November 16th, 2020

Hello, Ray,

Thanks for your response. I’m not emailing about a web order. As explained in the previous couple of emails:

To summarise, I was expressing my disappointment that I’d bought a 2020 MacBook Air five months ago to already see it superseded by a new model. Additionally, in considering whether to exchange my current computer, I was wondering why there wasn’t a 2020 trade-in option on the UK Apple Store website.

Thank you.

Yours,

Tom Mitchell

Have I mentioned the battery life? A couple of hours of light use with the Intel one and I’d have to begin worrying about where I’d left the charger. It’s 11:44 on a Sunday morning as I type this. My new MBA (M1 2020) wasn’t charged at all yesterday. I’d watched the opening of a documentary about volcanoes (I fell asleep) and did some internet browsing and quitting of Freedom. It’s currently on 74% charge.

I can’t get enough of this new laptop. I won’t let my children go on it. I may even buy a case, some cleaning fluid to wipe off the grease left by my profane fingers.

They’ve changed the function keys, getting rid of the shortcut to dim the keyboard. I miss that. But, in the same way that getting fit might reduce your ability to rest a pint on your beer belly, minor sacrifices must sometimes be made for the aggregate good.

Sometimes, when I’ve exhausted things to do, I speed the pointer over to the Apple icon and click through to ‘About this Mac’. I’ve got a first-edition Raymond Carver collection. It’s signed. I sometimes take the book from the shelves to stare at his signature in the same way that I admire the beauty of “MacBook Air (M1, 2020)”.

I don’t think I’ve even emphasised how quick the thing is. Websites open instantly. INSTANTLY. It’s like the computer is charged with cheetah blood. Honestly.

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I ordered the new laptop during a break at work. As I received emailed notification of my decision, I considered possible justifications.

Covid.

I’m stressed. We’re all stressed. How couldn’t you be stressed?

As a 41-year-old, I have few vehicles for self-fulfilment. I’m not into golf or cycling, like other men my age. I don’t have pets. Sure, spending time with my kids is LIFE AFFIRMING but we all need a few moments of quiet, singular contemplation. I don’t even watch that much TV. I like music but, having only recently bought some new speakers, that area of middle-life was sorted. Why shouldn’t I spend £500 on a computer? I’m sure some people spend more on artisanal coffee across a year. I had a modest car. People (men) spend obscene amounts on cars, leather seats and all.

Trump.

Consider the world. It forces you into self-indulgence. How was anyone meant to stay stable? Maybe buying a MacBook Air (M1, 2020) was my mental breakdown. Maybe it could be a medicinal purchase?

I wasn’t convincing myself. I just needed to buy the thing without getting caught.

After work, I picked it up from a shopping mall in East London, near where the 2012 Olympics had been held. Despite all shops being closed and the government instructing the public to only leave home in emergencies, the place was busy. Like the zombies in Dawn of the Dead, people came here through instinct rather than purpose. The email said that the Apple ‘express queue’ was outside the ‘Watches of Switzerland’ store, on the ground floor. This took some finding. What you’d expect to be the ground floor, i.e. the bottom floor that opened out into the world outside wasn’t the ground floor but the lower ground floor. I had to take an escalator up to the first floor AKA the ground floor.

I showed my QR code, my driver’s license. A cool, young man gave me the computer, said the benchmarks looked amazing. Smiling, I nodded, not entirely sure what this meant. I went home, swapping out the Apple Store bag for a large Lidl carrier bag.

For my marriage to survive, it was paramount that my wife didn’t discover that I’d bought a new laptop. Recently, she’d wondered whether we hadn’t ought to replace our washing machine — it sounds like a constipated elephant when it reaches its spin cycle — and I had said that we couldn’t afford to and, anyway, what did noise matter if the clothes end up clean.

“What’s in the bag?” my wife asked a few seconds after I’d opened the front door.

“Books,” I said and rushed upstairs.

I set up the two computers (the replaced and the replacement) alongside each other on the carpet by my side of the bed. I started Migration Assistant on them both. I angled some discarded clothing, the Lidl bag, in such a way that a casual glance wouldn’t reveal the skulduggery.

I popped back up after ten minutes. The computers reported it would take another two hours eleven minutes to complete the migration. That left an hour or so of messing about before fatigue would force me to bed. It would also mean having to prevent my wife from deciding to go to bed early and so discovering the bedroom’s expensive secret.

An hour and forty-three minutes later, and with our boys asleep, my wife stretched, yawned and said it might be time for her to turn in. It was only just gone nine — a late night for teachers. Without responding, I rushed upstairs to inspect the pair of Apples.

Two hours twelve minutes remained, said Migration Assistant.

I swore.

Hearing my wife’s footsteps on the stairs, I closed the two computers and, collecting the beautifully designed detritus left over from my careless unwrapping of the new one, forced them both in the Lidl bag. Passing my wife on the landing, I said I had some marking to do and headed downstairs.

What happened next, in short:

  • the migration failed.
  • the new MBA failed to boot to the desktop.
  • the new MBA failed to reinstall the OS, claiming a problem with user authorisation.
  • I contacted Apple tech help and they asked whether I’d tried turning it on and off again (genuinely), then suggested I try Googling the problem.
  • I found the answer on the internet, having to download an app called ‘Apple Configurator 2’.
  • My eldest son came into the kitchen and asked why I had two computers “It’s all a dream,” I said. “Go back to bed.”
  • At a little after midnight, using a USB wire for migration, rather than wi-fi, the new MBA was finally ready.
  • Six hours later, my bedside alarm sounded. My first thought on waking: I’ve got a new MacBook Air (M1, 2020).

Email received from ‘contactus.uk@euro.apple.com’ on November 17th, 2020

Dear Thomas, you will find all the detail about trade in.

I kindly advise you to visit our home page <https://locate.apple.com/uk/en/ .you will find all the detail about trade in.

Kind Regards,

Ray

Email sent to ‘contactus.uk@euro.apple.com’ on November 17th, 2020

Hi, Ray,

1. You’ve not really acknowledged my point about my new 2020 Macbook Air being outdated within six months. This is a complaint I’m making.

2. I have visited the page you’ve suggested. I’ve gone as far as entering my serial number for the trade-in. BUT THERE IS NO OPTION TO TRADE IN MY MODEL — only the 2019 version.

3. None of this matters. I’ve bought a new one.

Thanks for your help with this.

Yours,

Tom Mitchell

The next day, on my lightning-fast MBA, I read this article:

Its author said to hold off buying one of the new Macs because next year’s models would be even better, epoch-defining even. My stomach turned; I felt sick.

Clearly, I hope my wife doesn’t read this. But if she does, here’s my message to her:

  1. Why you’ve suddently taken an interest in my Medium account?
  2. How about we buy a new MacBook Air next year and you can have this amazing MacBook Air (M1, 2020) on which to do work and watch Netflix etc? It’s very fast. Honestly. Super speedy.

Written by

Dad, Writer, Teacher

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