Sunday, July 17, 2011

End of a Generation?

An Homage to the "White Plastic" Generation
In the past few weeks there has been conflicting information about the future of the white macbook.  Initially a new part number was thought to belong to an upcoming refreshed macbook as 9to5mac reported here.  I was somewhat surprised by this as I expected the refreshed MacBook Airs to spell the end for the white macbook.  Now with a leak on apple's own site, it would appear that the part number did not refer to a refreshed white macbook, but rather to a new Thunderbolt equipped cinema display (Reported on TUAW here).  The reason I'm mentioning this is because this site has been dedicated to modifying the iMac G4 so that it can be used with modern hardware.  The iMac G4 represents the beginning of the "white plastic" era for Apple's consumer line.  It continued in the desktops consumer as the iMac G4 transitioned to the iMac G5 and even through the transition from PowerPC to Intel processors.  Similarly it started with second generation iBook before the consumer notebook line converted to Intel.  But, even as iBooks became Macbooks, they retained their white polycarbonite design.  Before this Apple products were quite different.

iMac G3

Clamshell iBook

In the early 90s, Apple computers, for the most part, looked just like the "beige boxes" of their competitors. Following Steve Jobs return to Apple the design aesthetic became very colorful, almost whimsical.

Designs included bright pastel colors and translucent plastic.  Multiple colors were available.  Although more interesting than other computers at the time, I was never a huge fan of this design. Though interesting, it wasn't as elegant as Apple's later designs.

The iMac G4 ushered in the new polycarbonite white design for computers (likely taking cues from the newly released iPod).  Although I love the design of the iMac G4, I also loved the G5.  That's why I am using that design as my second display.  They were simple and clean.  Their industrial design still looks "futuristic" despite the fact that they are several years old.  They were both radical designs for computers back in the day.  LCD all-in-ones really didn't exist.  The iBook to Macbook followed this design aesthetic despite the addition of unibody construction and the glass trackpad.

As the line between consumer and professional products becomes more and more blurry - traditionally "higher end" materials such as aluminum and glass have now become standard across Apple's entire product line - even the "low end" mac mini is aluminum.  I love the newer designs and think the Macbook Air in particular is extraordinary.  However, if this is the end of the white macbook it is a little bittersweet for me as it marks the end of an era.

Courtesy of iTechSoup