A little spring cleaning led to an unexpected discovery. Under an old couch I ran across something I hadn’t seen in years, an old black polycarbonate 13-inch MacBook. Originally released in 2006 and discontinued in 2011, these plastic laptops were incredibly popular in their day, starting at $999 for the white model and $1,199 for the black model. These were also among the earliest MacBooks to switch to Intel processors from the PowerPC architecture, helping make Macs truly mainstream.
This particular MacBook was purchased by my wife sometime around 2007 at Apple’s flagship Soho store (which was the first Apple store in NYC when it opened in 2002). It served her well, despite getting a little beat up in the process, and was eventually retired sometime around 2010, after which I lost track of it.
The MacBook surfaced occasionally after that, usually getting moved from one closet or storage bin to another without being turned on. At some point five-plus years ago, I must have brought it into the office (I think we were all comparing retro tech we had lying around at home), where it ended up under a sofa.
Having run across it for the first time in years, covered with dust, I decided to see if it would even turn on. Opening the lid, the keys and touchpad showed signs of wear and heavy use, an issue with plastic products like this. There was a large crack in the polycarbonate body along the left side, leaving a piece of plastic hanging loose from the chassis.
Just a few minutes of searching around the CNET Labs turned up an old school MagSafe MacBook charger. I closed the lid, plugged the power cable into the magnetic power connection on the side of the laptop, and was pleased to see a green light on the connector after a few seconds.
You can see it boot up successfully in this raw video shot on my phone, below.
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Opening the lid, I was pleasantly surprised to see the screen come to life. It sat on a light gray for a few minutes, then added the familiar circular “boot-up” animation, eventually resolving to a retro OS X home screen.
The MacBook advised me that it couldn’t find any of its normal Wi-Fi networks (understandable), and that the system date was set to sometime before 2008, which could have adverse effects. Looking at the date, it had reset itself to December 31, 2000.
The battery was completely shot, the system didn’t even see it, which is understandable considering how long it had been sitting dormant. Fortunately, this is one of the few MacBooks with a removable battery, so I may be able to dig up an aftermarket replacement. That means it has to remain tethered to power to stay on, at least for now.
If you want to read the original 2006 polycarbonate Macbook review (yes, I wrote it), it’s here and says:
These 13.3-inch notebooks, available in the standard Apple colors of black and white, are nearly as powerful as their 15- and 17-inch Pro cousins, and they include a lot of the same features, such as the built-in iSight camera and Front Row remote … The MacBook is a no-brainer for anyone who wants to step up to an Apple laptop or upgrade their older MacBook.
It was also interesting to look back at the old review and see the following: “In our battery tests, we got an impressive 3 hours, 30 minutes out of the MacBook–beating the 15-inch MacBook Pro by half an hour.” When we tested the latest 12-inch MacBook from 2017, battery life was over 10 hours.
Now, with only an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU and a mere 1GB of RAM, this is not going to end up back in my regular laptop rotation. It’s also incapable of upgrading to recent versions of the operating system, now called MacOS, and Apple even officially relegated the classic MacBook to “obsolete” (or “vintage”) status in 2017.
But: I was able to connect it to Wi-Fi, the touchpad and keyboard still work fine and I was able to do some basic (if slow) web surfing, all within minutes of booting it up.
Not too shabby for a laptop that’s been fighting dust bunnies for almost a decade.
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