They just don’t make ’em like they used to

By Aren Patel

I purchased my first Mac, a 15 inch 2010 MacBook Pro, on April 21, 2010 for $2,478.94 CAD at the Apple Store in Sherway Gardens.

Receipt for my 2010 MacBook Pro

A little more than a week later on May 3, 2010, I had started my summer engineering internship at Xtreme Labs in Toronto. We built mobile apps for our customers — mainly BlackBerry and iOS. The Apple App Store had only been released two summers prior in 2008, and with it the first iPhone availability in Canada (we didn’t get the original that Steve Jobs unveiled in 2007).

This internship was very exciting to me; as an iPhone 3G user I could see how everything would be changed by these “apps”. With this internship I intended to learn how to build these “apps” such that one day I could perhaps build my own.

One thing that was unique about Xtreme Labs was that we exclusively practiced pair programming — where developers share a computer to complete their development tasks. Farhan Thawar (one of the leaders at Xtreme Labs) put it best with his analogy to rally driving — one person is driving while the other is navigating. This collaborative coding style would help me learn a lot of useful new tools faster than I’d be able to by myself. I was all for it.

Growing up I was lucky to have been exposed to computers both at home and at school. However, they were all of the Microsoft Windows variety. My new MacBook Pro and the iMac I used at work, would be my first real exposures to the Mac OS X environment. I hated it. It was different. It was especially embarrassing in a pair programming environment where my colleague would witness my struggle. I didn’t even know how to copy/paste; coming from Windows it was CTRL+C and CTRL+V; I didn’t even know what the Command (⌘) key on my keyboard was for. I spent most of that first week fumbling around like a complete idiot with a witness to it all. Great way to start.

A large part of my purchasing decision was that I wanted to learn Mac OS X at home so I could operate more effectively at work. I didn’t want a desktop as I wanted a machine that I could haul to class come September. I didn’t want the regular MacBook — the white plastic unibody made that model feel cheap. I chose the aluminum 15" MacBook Pro as I wanted this machine to last. To me it had the right balance between power and portability and I would still also be able to do some light gaming.

To future proof the machine I had pretty much fully spec’d it out:

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 (dual core)
  • 4GB (two 2GB SO-DIMMs) of 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
  • 500GB 5400rpm HDD,
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M with 512MB GDDR3
  • 1680x1050 high-resolution (for the time) antiglare display
  • 8x SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)

The only two upgrades I could not justify were the option for 8GB of RAM and the option for a larger HDD or even an SSD. I knew both of these were user upgradable and that over time their sky high prices would come down.

This was a lot of money, in fact it was all my money at the time. As a result I felt obliged to purchase 3 years of AppleCare. I needed a computer and I needed it to work. I couldn’t afford a replacement anymore. This added around $400 CAD to the total cost.

Unboxing photo — excuse the photo quality, it was taken on my iPhone 3G

I felt very uneasy in the weeks after my purchase. I was thinking to myself that I should return the machine. I was thinking I was stupid for having wasted all my money on that computer. My previous laptop a $700 CAD Toshiba from BestBuy that my parents had got for me in February 2009 was already failing only after a year of use. I’d regularly experience blue screens of deaths, freezes and a variety of other thermal related issues. As a result I had little confidence in my new Apple MacBook Pro. The warranty at least afforded me some peace of mind.

I’ve had my 2010 MacBook Pro ever since. I’ve used it almost every day since purchasing it. It’s worked beautifully. After 8 years, 5 months and 5 days, I never had to exercise the AppleCare warranty. I haven’t had any hardware issues. I now feel a lot better about my purchasing decision.

With that being said, I’ve also elected to make some upgrades along the way to extend the life of the machine. In March 2011 I replaced the factory 4GB of RAM with an 8GB kit from Kingston — this was $118.06 CAD. In April 2014 I replaced the factory HDD with a 240GB SSD from Crucial for $155.92 CAD. Both these upgrades were worth every penny.

Now, 3080 days later, I am able to reflect on how much value I’ve gotten out of this poor 2010 MacBook Pro. I’ve used the machine to learn a variety of stupidly complicated electrical engineering subject matter that I would go on to mostly never use (cough ECE 471). I’ve learned how to fix my car on it. I’ve learned how to edit videos on it. I’ve learned how to mine Bitcoin on it. I’ve figured out how to prepare and file taxes with it. I’ve played too many games on it. Most importantly I’ve learned how to build applications on it — and not just for iPhones. I’ve learned Ruby on Rails with it, Python, Go, Docker, Kubernetes and a wide variety of other tools. This machine enabled me to develop the skills that allowed me to help build BufferBox, which after being sold to Google also landed me a job there (and I’m still here today).

Fast forward to yesterday, September 24, 2018, the release date of macOS Mojave (10.14). As a developer it comes with one feature I can really get behind — dark mode. I use dark themes for everything: Reddit, Chrome, Atom, my IDEs — everything, and finally its coming to macOS. I took my 2010 MacBook Pro to work yesterday excited to download and install Mojave. Much to my dismay, it was not intended for my machine. “This version of macOS 10.14 cannot be installed on this computer”.

“This version of macOS 10.14 cannot be installed on this computer”

This machine came with Mac OS X Snow Leopard (10.6). I upgraded it to Lion (10.7) and remember being excited for FaceTime and AirDrop. I upgraded it to Mountain Lion (10.8) and remember being excited for iMessage. I remember when I upgraded to Mavericks (10.9) and decided to take the clean install route rather than the upgrade. I remember upgrading to Yosemite (10.10) right after having moved to California (to work at Nest). I remember the upgrade to El Capitan (10.11) and Sierra (10.12) — these updates are roughly where I started to notice my MacBook’s signs of aging. I’ll also remember last year’s High Sierra (10.13) upgrade, as it will be my machine’s last.

I’m not sure what’s next for this machine. I don’t think it’s really worth donating as it is very sluggish by today’s standards. It is still capable of daily use though. I feel compelled to continue using it to complete a decade of exemplary service. This is a testament to the machine’s build quality; which in my opinion is unrivaled by anyone today — including Apple themselves. They just don’t make ’em like they used to.

Ubuntu upper left , Fedora upper right, ElementaryOS lower left and NixOS lower right

I guess my continued usage will just soon have to be without Apple’s operating systems. I’m not a fan of Ubuntu’s or Fedora’s visual style. I kind of like the looks of Elementary OS, but need Juno to come out of beta to feel confident enough to install it as a daily driver. I like the approach of NixOS but don’t really know how to get it all installed on my 2010 MacBook Pro. I guess whatever I decide I’ll have to learn something new, and that’s the most important thing this machine gave me.