Thursday, March 20, 2008

Seduction of the innocent

OK, I'll admit it. I don't need a new laptop.

My 2-year-old MacBook works perfectly fine. It does everything I could ask it to do.

But Apple Computer has a way of exciting my itch for novelty. They consistently turn out products -- hardware and software -- that are irresistibly gorgeous, playfully ingenious. Like the new MacBook Air. Whisper thin and feather light. Some little voice at the back of my brain whispers, "You have to have it."

I've lived for 44 years in a century-old house with wood-rot in the gutters. I drive a car with squeaks and rattles. I wear clothes until they fall apart. But computers. It seems like every couple of years I have to have what's new. Three years is an eternity.

Yeah, I know. I'm doing just what Apple wants me to do. But, damn, those Cupertino folks are clever. Even their ads and packaging make the competition look like a bunch of bumblers.

It was Apple, of course, that brought computers to the masses. It was Apple that made computers user friendly -- point and click, windows, menus, icons, set-back keyboards, touch pads, the whole shebang. They didn't necessarily invent all of these things, but they were the first to put them in our hands. By rights, Apple should be running the world right now, not Microsoft. How Microsoft can find a market for a crap product like Entourage (Outlook for Macs) is beyond me. Vista? Puh-leeze!

Oh, well, who said the world was just? The reason Apple was trumped by Microsoft is the same reason we diehard Apple fans are diehard Apple fans. We don't have much of a head for business. Rather, we admire technical cleverness and beautiful design. We are artists, writers, musicians, or plain old computer geeks who just know class when we see it.

And that's why I want a MacBook Air, even though I don't need one. It would be my only concession to conspicuous consumption. Just look at the thing. It sighs, it coos, it whispers sweet nothings -- "Buy me. Buy me." This is consumerism at its best. Or worst. Oh, Lord, help me to resist.