January 2001 was not the highest point of my writing career. I’d just been fired as a business reporter, getting the news while one of my bosses unplugged my computer to ensure I would never use it again. Even worse, my now ex-employer had sponsored the visa that had brought me over from England. I was now no longer allowed to live or work in the U.S.
That month, being the Mac nerd I was, I tuned in to the live stream of Steve Jobs’ annual Macworld keynote. After 90 minutes, Jobs put up a slide saying “Power + Sex.” He was unveiling the Titanium PowerBook G4. Encased in solid titanium, the TiBook was bigger and thinner and lighter and indeed all-around sexier than anything that had come before.
Sitting in my apartment with my ugly old beige Mac clone, I knew I really, really wanted a TiBook. I also knew that given my circumstances, and given the $2,600 price ($3,500 in today’s dollars), I could never justify buying one.
Then fate intervened: I got a freelance assignment to go to Chile to cover the annual meetings of the Inter-American Development Bank. Obviously, I needed a laptop. And if I had to buy a laptop…
My TiBook, I think, was the very first in Chile. It certainly drew attention: I was approached by a Wall Street analyst—also an Apple nerd—who later became a helpful source. “Don’t worry about the cost,” he told me. “Buying Apple hardware is an even better investment than buying Apple stock.”
He was right.
Yes, if I’d bought $2,600 of Apple stock instead of that TiBook, the shares would be worth $200,000 today. But I’ve never regretted the purchase. My TiBook improved my life, every day, for years. The care with which it was designed—evident in its smooth graphics, the tiny bevel around its screen, and the perfect flatness of its case—made sitting down and working a pleasure. The stories I wrote on it led to more freelance business reporting assignments, a full-time job, and a new visa.
A fast, sleek computer, Mac or not, is a vital tool for turning ideas into digital reality. Replacing an old, clunky machine might cost you plenty. But it will improve your output. And, likely, your income.
Felix Salmon is a senior editor at the TV and digital network Fusion. He still gets nostalgic about Word 5.1 for Macintosh.
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