Technological ESP

“I’ve brought this here,” I said, “So that through the magic of booking a genius bar appointment and then bringing it all the way here, it will start working again.” I lifted the lid. Pushed the power button.


I was in the dog house a few weeks ago, because I (seemingly on impulse) bought myself a new M1 Macbook Air. I’d been thinking about it since they were announced, and just before Apple announced their new range of MacBook Pros, I pulled the trigger. For a while, I’d been waiting for these new MacBook Pros to replace my old MacBook Pro, because I definitely wanted an SD card connector and an HDMI slot. But then reality hit me between the eyes: never in a million years could I justify the spend, when the Air is as much computer as I really need.

So I bought an Air, and my OH thought I was insane, and I justified it by saying I had a feeling something was up with my (8 year old) MacBook Pro. Also, I spilled coffee on the keyboard during lockdown, and I’ve kind of needed to use my bluetooth keyboard whenever I had to type at length.

Daughter 2 has been using an iPad Pro for a couple of years, but she does sometimes miss having a proper laptop. So I told her she could have the old one, and passed it on to her.

Within a week, it died on her as she was in the middle of watching an online lecture. The symptoms were that the screen was black but that the internal fan (which almost never came on) was running wild. I tried to support her by text, offering suggestions as to keyboard combinations, but nothing worked.

She brought it home last weekend (reading week), and I tried all the keyboard combinations myself, but the screen remained resolutely black, even though the green light did illuminate on the MagSafe connector when it was plugged in. That the light was green made me suspect a power management issue, but all of those keyboard combinations failed too.

By the way: although it is possible to find the correct information for the correct model in the end, there is so much utter rubbish out there when you are seeking solutions. Much of it is out of date, and a huge amount of it just skims the info from the Apple Support web site and presents it as “an article”. And I hate, hate, hate YouTubers with their fucking channels and their padded out monetised videos. I just want to hit the internet with a large hammer sometimes and knock the cruft off it forever.

All of which is a longwinded way (talking of cruft) of me saying that, actually, my feeling that there was something up with my 8 year old Intel MacBook Pro was correct. I think this is the longest I’ve ever kept a computer, and the reason I could and did was that Intel seem to have been struggling to innovate for much of the past 8 years. They can do performance, or they can do low power consumption, but they can’t do both. So although its performance was still fine, it was showing its age in various ways. I’d replaced the keyboard/top case and battery a while ago, but even that particular repair was a few years ago. It had lost all four feet from its base. I even found one of its tiny little screws coming out recently. The last upgrade I ran on it (to Big Sur) was touch-and-go: to the point that I really thought I might have killed it. (It kept looping through the restart to the log-in screen.)

And more recently, I was just aware that it wasn’t quite right, and I was starting to worry I would lose the years and years of useful resources I’ve created for teaching.

So the guy in the Apple Store took it to the back, did some checks and came back with the news that the logic board was borked. A repair was out of the question (nearly the cost of a new MacBook Air), and so it’s farewell to the Late 2013 Macbook. And I do wonder: will I still be using this 2020 M1 machine in 2028?

2 responses to “Technological ESP”

  1. Black screen? I had a similar MacBook Pro problem which I decided (correctly) was power management, or more precisely, the battery. I blogged about it here:
    Although I managed to get my MBP running again (with a new battery) the internal and tiny power management cable doesn’t now send a battery status from the Zero Insertion Force socket.

    So I can leave it plugged in and it works fine, but interrupt the power and it dies. I knew there was something off about the robot level engineering inside the case of a MBP.

    I thought I blogged it, but obviously not, my MacBook Pro replacement was an Air X and it is brilliant. Fast, good compatibility, lasts all day and sips at the power, to the extent that several times I’ve wondered if it could still really have that much juice left in it. I looked long and hard at the MBP vs Air before acquisition but decided that a modern Air does just about everything that I needed in a portable machine. Instead I’ll get one of those iMacs when they finally release a big screen version. I never used that touch bar anyway.


    • My other daughter got a touchbar MBP and had a lot of trouble with the keyboard (of course) and also hasn’t got much use for the touchbar


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