fighting the shopping frenzy

Dear fellow writers,

do you know this horrible feeling of lust for a new computer, even if your old Mac is in perfect working order and does everything you want and need?

Well, out of the blue it hit me right now with the $ 700 price drop on the Macbook Air at WWDC. My Powerbook 12" is more than five years old and I really, really like this small, portable and reliable machine. There’s nothing I could do with a new MBA that I couldn’t do the the notebook I have right now. Yet, instead of progressing with my novel, I surf the forums, read reviews and compare specs of something I shouldn’t even be looking at.

If you know any pychological tricks to successfully fight the shopping frenzy - please do not hesitate to let me know. Thanks!

Gotta go, check the Macbook Air discussions on macrumors …


Get married. :wink:

Interessante Variante …

This advice has worked for me. A friend of mine found that getting “un-married” was even better at curbing his spending. Something about alimony.

Works already. Damn it, getting married could actually be more thrilling than buying a new notebook.

Hmmm. Having done both, perfectly happily, I’m not sure I can agree with you. The only thing that is potentially more thrilling than buying a new notebook is… actually, no… I was going to suggest buying a new pen… or a new laptop… or some lovely, lovely shoes… but now that I come to think of it, the notebook wins every time (even for someone like me, whose writing is now confined solely to the computer).

The great thing about notebooks is that you can buy new ones as often as you like, without fear of getting a sordid reputation in the gutter press. The same cannot be said for getting married. :slight_smile:

Edited to add: It’s just occurred to me that you were referring to “notebook” in its computer sense. As a shady habituée of stationery shops, my subconscious took over and made me think of “notebook” in the form of a bound collection of pages crafted from the finest wood pulp with as smooth a finish as the paper industry can muster.

I have a complicated relationship with this topic.

When I was in my 20s and was a creative director at a fairly large ad agency, I bought myself a Bondi Blue iMac. A year or so later, I was in an audio session and fussing to the audio engineer/Mac nerd about the new graphite iMac AV – a MASSIVELY inconsequential upgrade. He said these fateful words: “Hey, if it makes your environment more creative, get it.” While I understood that his rationale was about 90% bullshit, it was the excuse I needed. It led to four straight years of indulging my Mac lust – yearly upgrades that ended with a white G3 iBook.

That was when I decided to change my life. I quit my job, moved to L.A., got out of a not very happy relationship, decided to spend some time (and lots of savings) writing my own stuff. I was poor, I was hungry, and I went around town with a giant binder clip on my iBook – those machines had a flaw that caused the screen to blank out, and only constant pressure on the left side of the casing kept it on. It was, as I was constantly reminded, a Ghetto Piece of Crap.

Predictably, it was one of the most productive periods of my life. Inspired by the epiphany that Preston Sturges wrote The Lady Eve on an old Olivetti portable – so who the hell did I think I was – I wrote four screenplays, three TV spec scripts, made a short that went to Sundance and Tribeca and South By Southwest (I sold my graphite iMac for the money to go to Austin.) Never once thought about getting a new Mac. Didn’t even occur to me.

When I righted my economic ship by writing trailers and optioning a couple of those screenplays, I was once again able to start drooling over new Macs. The thing is, I’d discovered that the part of my brain that coveted new Macs seemed to anesthetize the part that did a lot of work. The thought that there were new and more powerful ways to do things took up the RAM I used to actually do those things. So I’m taking it a lot slower these days.

And yet, the old MacLust still rears its head. A quick search for my posts in this forum will reveal a lot essays on the wonders of various applications that provide new and powerful ways to do things. Very, very long essays, which seems to indicate that I’m not spending much time actually writing. And that’s a horrible way to go through life.

That said, given your specific circumstance, here’s the advice I really want to give you: If you can afford it, get a new Macbook Pro 13", get as much RAM as you can afford, and make a deal with yourself that that’s your last Mac for 4 years. It actually makes sense in your case, as a move to an Intel Mac will actually make a difference for you. DO NOT get the Macbook Air, which is an idiotic purchase for your workaday Mac. The Air is a luxury item, and isn’t suitable to be the only Mac you’ll have for years to come. Get a real machine, and be done with it. Make the new machine a challenge: I don’t deserve a new Mac until I write ___________________ on this one.

But then I read the above back and realize that I’m using words like “deal” and “challenge” – which is patently fucked up (and very nearly alcoholic) advice.

I guess where I come down is that buying a new computer when you need one is no crime. Fetishizing a new computer is unproductive. Decide accordingly?

Best of luck, and thanks for an interesting post.

Edit: I posted this, leaned back in my chair, and idly clicked the MacZot bookmark in my browser. Yikes.


A great post, and I empathize. My basement would be full of abandoned Mac junk, except that I learned long ago to pass to schools and non-profits any model more than 2-3 years old.

We should all take to heart Henry Thoreau’s advice: Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.

Now, about that new iPhone 3gs…


That’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years. The good thing is that Macs - in general - are capable of delivering that. I used my iBook G4 1,0 for 4.5 years, and my iMac CoreDuo is already 3.5 years old. I found it (psychologically) helpful to sensibly upgrade minor or major peripheral things - extra RAM when it becomes cheaper, a bigger external HDD, a bigger display. Gives you that warm feeling of having something new without having to spend too much.

And my favourite excuse doesn’t concern my creative environment, but rather: “I need some expenses in my tax report.”

Thanks, Sean, for your story – clearly one of this year’s most entertaining reads. I, too, wrote my first novels on a really crappy iBook G3 with a broken hinge – you could only open it without breaking it with a very quick, special movement of the left hand. I bought this thing in 2000 (2001?) after quitting a well paid job as a TV producer (and thus saying goodbye to the company’s Pismo I was using) to go completely freelance and wrote three novels on it (using Claris/Apple Works) that all got published. I then bought the Powerbook G4 I’m using now in 2004 after some emotional turmoil in the relationship compartment and wrote another 4 novels with it, using Ulysses, Jer’s Novel writer and, lately, Scrivener – in addition to a couple of radio plays, two stage plays, some non-fiction books and hundreds of radio sketches. I’m in the middle of my 8th novel now, things go well and my computer works, as always, absolutely fine – that’s why I was surprised by the sudden lust for a shiny new toy.

Now it really seems that talking about the phenomenon has taken much of its impetus away and I would almost feel like cheating on my Powerbook if I finished the novel on another machine (talk about writers and their autistic love for objects …)

I will, therefore, finish the book I’m writing on this computer (deadline is end of August), I will then wait for the next update and maybe by then all this crazy MacLust will be gone. The MacbookPro is out of the question, btw – that would be a much too reasonable thing to do, I don’t like the weight and I hate the glossy glass glare. The Air is attractive probably because it is such an unreasonable machine – super slim, no optical drive, SSD hard drive, prone to breakdowns of all sorts, seems almost as futuristic as buying a Citroen Limousine in the 60s.

Alright, back to work now and pondering the marriage thing …

P.S. - @ Typo: I know, my tax advisor always tells me off for not buying a new computer, but that’s another story.

He! He! Love the image! . . .

I hate to upset various and sundry apple carts (whoops! I did done do a pun! Sorry) but a five-year-old laptop has a very long, white beard and is undoubtedly a bit deaf with rheumy eyes and a goofy gait. It may be that your sudden frenzy is appropriate. (I trust you’re backing up religiously?)

That Air does look attractive doesn’t it?


I too have a permanent fight against the shopping frenzy. I have been giving myself arguments ever since they came out as to why I don’t need live on plain rice and water to save up to replace my Revision 1 17" MacBook Pro with the latest model. For the moment, I’m still winning the argument, but the lust is there.

At the same time, I do have my MacBook Air which reduces the pressure. I love it and it is fabulous for carrying around, doing presentations and so on … but I agree with Matt, I think it was, that it’s not really something to have as your sole computer, unless you do little more than write, spreadsheet, email, etc. For heavy work, for me the only substitute for the 17" MBP would be a new 17" MBP.

And then of course, there was the iPod Touch I convinced myself I needed to be able to be cool while controlling my presentations … I’ve just made a present of that to my wife, as I don’t need it at this moment as I have no teaching, but it’s given me the excuse to buy a new one at the first opportunity!


See? Order “The Wife™” today and get all these features for your shopping frenzy:

  • Get yelled at when you spend too much.
  • Get yelled at when you buy something she sees no use in.
  • Buy her stuff to make her fall in love with you again.

It’ll never get boring!

And while you’re at it, consider ordering the upgrade package “The Kid™”. You’re life will get even more expensive and interesting! :smiley:

You’ve got to be joking. My desktop workhorse is a 9 year old Powermac G4 with a clock speed of 400 mhz and that’s still 200 times faster than my brain (2 mhz). The powerbook is a young hipster compared to that, think about this mad processor speed of 1.3 ghz! And I back up all the time – I’m a writer, I’m paranoid by nature. I’ve installed the third HD already in this beast, they just keep dying on me. Another reason to be attracted by an SSD. Ever dis- and reassembled a Powerbook 12"? A very Zen thing to do.

Yes, children, a very good antidote to shopping. One shot and you’re good to go for thirty years (when you thought it might only be eighteen or so). Two or more shots - who knows?

So how would you calculate “computer years” (like “dog years”)? I’m thinking it’s somewhere along the lines of 1:15, computer to human. Which would make the aforementioned 12" powerbook a ripe 75, and that Powermac G4 135!

Apple should design the OS so that after five years, the startup chime yells at you to get off its lawn.

Well, er, no it’s not. Laptops don’t last as long as desktops. Period. They’re always pushing the envelope in laptop design to get ever more in them, you’re carrying it around, jostling it, taking it from heat to cold, and the result is faster failure. I have several G3/350 desktops, here, that are still working just fine thank you very much. BUT, every single laptop I’ve ever purchased has required repairs or died before 5 years and the count is past 30, now. Other system administrators, I know, would have even more gruesome stories for you.



Hardware is designed to last 5-7 years, but os obsolescence is no more than 5. As we see with both MS and Mac, the OS obsolescence of hardware isn’t quite working.

Mr Coffee, I think you need to revise your 1:15 to 1:11. Then again desktops are a different category and are more along the lines of 1:9.

Anyone want to take over the server I have here that is circa 1992? It actually has a 486dx with 72 pin simm.

If you want an interesting read, look up the specs on the space shuttle internal compute engines. You might begin to wonder how it gets off the ground at all.

A loose standard I usually go by for purchasing macs

Production (“Workstation”)
1-3 Year turnaround time (depending on workload)

2-4 Year turnaround time (depending on workload)

3-5 Year turnaround time (depending on workload)

In the end you have to ask yourself the simple question.
“Are you losing more money than you would spend using a slower computer rather than buying a new one.”

And when you consider the computing power behind the moon landing in '69 you have one of several reasons there is a “no-moon-landing-conspiracy” :wink:
I read somewhere a long time ago that it was the equivalent of a $1.99 pocket calculator or some such.