A couple years ago I needed a new computer. I tried to avoid past mistakes and get the smallest, simplest machine I could. I wound up with a 12-inch Apple iBook; the operating system and user interface seemed more straightforward than the latest version of Windows, and I was pretty tired of computer crashes as a daily fact of life. I’ve liked the iBook and have never regretted paying the premium that goes along with buying an Apple product (working on a Windows XP laptop now, which is so damned helpful you just want to slap it, reinforces the feeling). I don’t do anything complicated on it — glorified word processing and a ton of Web research mostly, along with some photo processing. Until the past few weeks, it worked flawlessly.
Then it started hiccupping a little, at one point simply not responding to any keyboard commands any more. It came back to life, went weird again once or twice, and then late last week really stopped working. No big deal; we’re not talking about a person here. But the computer is just two years old, and if I’d paid an equal amount for a bicycle or a used car — not necessarily less complicated machines — I’d have been disappointed to have them go dead after so short a time. In a rare example of foresight, though, I bought a three-year product guarantee when I got the iBook. That meant I could call Apple’s customer support phone line and bend their ear as long about the problem for as long as I wanted and maybe even get it fixed for free.
I phoned and got a very patient and helpful guy somewhere in Canada who walked me through the problem and all the troubleshooting stuff he could, most of which I had tried already. After about an hour, he said he’d done what he could and that I ought to bring the computer into an Apple Store. We’ve got one of the outlets just a few miles away, so that wasn’t a problem. On Monday morning, I went online — on Kate’s Windows PC — and booked a 10:50 a.m. appointment at the Emeryville store.
If you’ve experienced an Apple Store, you know the deal: You’re not going into a retail store, you’re entering a boutique. And instead of dealing with a customer service desk or repair department, you’re dealing with a Genius Bar. Fine. I suppose I don’t care what they call it as long as I can get my problem taken care of — and I did, sort of. When I walked into the store at 10:48, my name was first up on the Genius Bar monitor. At 10:56, the harried Genius working the bar, a guy named Carlos, called my name, then asked what my problem was. Within about 15 minutes, he’d determined my hard drive was failing. Since I had the three-year "AppleCare" plan, I won’t have to pay for it. Of course, since I resolutely ignored common sense and hardly ever backed up the machine, I may lose everything on the drive; some writing, but worse, two years’ worth of pictures.
So: No backup — that’s my bad. The hard drive dying after two years — well, that’s digital life, I guess. It’s just a little hard to swallow from a company that insists on telling me how much smarter they are than everyone else.