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Macbook Air

There were a total of four Macbook Airs on display, as well as a bunch of other shiny things that I wanted to touch

Today I was out at a mall and to seek refuge from the smells that assault me from the nearby Bath and Body Works, I stepped into the Apple store. Like a cool breeze carrying with it the scent of brushed steel and beautiful electronics, the Apple store welcomed me home into its bosom and I was happy.

There were a total of four Macbook Airs on display, as well as a bunch of other shiny things that I wanted to touch. At first, I wasn't really all that interested in the MBA. I had previously done some number crunching and determined that for me, the price-per-feature was too high to justify the purchase of the device. However, as I've discussed with multiple people, if you are one for whom laptop size and weight are more important than true horsepower, then the MBA is your ultimate device and the answer to most of your prayers (no, the MBA will not answer the prayer you have that involves supermodels, Jell-O, and 80s hair bands....)

Out of curiosity, I stepped over to the MBA and started screwing with it. The first thing that struck me was that the device seems to be molded out of a single solid piece of steel. It has no visible seams. On my Macbook Pro, I always have to hold back a little when I'm typing because it feels like the pressure from my wrist is bending down on the top piece of the chassis, which you can see through very visible seams on the top and sides. The Air is one sturdy, solid little laptop!

Once I touched it, I had this dramatic vision of it being used in a James Bond movie. You could probably use the device to slit an opponent's throat with the lid open and then close the lid and beat a second opponent to death with it. When done, you could flip the lid open and e-mail a witty one-liner to someone. While I don't condone killing people with the MBA, it seems to support such behavior quite well if you happen to be in that line of work.

When you look at it, you think "that thing would probably bend or snap if I picked it up." But when you pick it up, it's like you're holding this super-light slab of some kind of material that they probably used to build the Stargate with. To test it out (do not try this at home folks), I put my hands (palm-down) onto the resting area of the keyboard and proceeded to lift myself off the floor. I realize this probably voids the warranty, and might get me kicked out of all subsequent Apple stores, but that laptop held ALL of my weight with the single-mold (I don't know if it's single-mold, but I couldn't find any seams) chassis.

So then I started typing. I realized that the keys are freaking huge, and there are these massive mile-wide moats of goodness surrounding each key, so that your fingers don't ever contend for space with each other and you don't ever feel like you're going to press adjacent keys. I get that feeling from my 17" Macbook Pro, and it's got a supposed full-sized keyboard. The effect could be entirely in my head, but it's a potent effect nonetheless.

After I walked away and plotted my path directly from the Apple store to the nearest Gamestop (that is the next logical location within a mall, isn't it??), I noticed a really weird feeling. My hands were literally craving the feeling of the keyboard. It was as if they missed the physical experience of resting on that keyboard. 

I have never before in my life ever experienced that. I didn't feel like that after I tried the Wii for the first time, and I didn't even feel like that after I tried the N64's analog control for the first time (though I came damn close..that controller was nearly as revolutionary as the Wiimote). The true hallmark of good design is design that you don't notice, it's just there. I didn't notice anything particularly breathtaking about the design of the MBA when I was looking at it. Sure, it looked pretty, but I've seen pretty computers before. The fact that I physically missed the experience of using the device once I left it, to me, means that someone got into my DNA and asked it, "So, if there was an ultimate keyboard and laptop chassis, what would it look like?" and my DNA responded with the Macbook Air.

There is a word in Japanese, 'kirei' (???). This word means both beautiful and clean, and can be used when referring to the state of your room or the beauty of a woman. I think there is no single word in the English language that can do justice to the feeling of the Macbook Air, so I will close this blog post with a Japanese phrase instead:

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More Stories By Kevin Hoffman

Kevin Hoffman, editor-in-chief of SYS-CON's iPhone Developer's Journal, has been programming since he was 10 and has written everything from DOS shareware to n-tier, enterprise web applications in VB, C++, Delphi, and C. Hoffman is coauthor of Professional .NET Framework (Wrox Press) and co-author with Robert Foster of Microsoft SharePoint 2007 Development Unleashed. He authors The .NET Addict's Blog at .NET Developer's Journal.

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