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The expensive and consequential task of choosing a computer involves a wide range of considerations, including compatibility, aesthetics, cost, comfort, and performance. A year or two before his celebrated return to Apple, Steve Jobs stirred up considerable turbulence when he revealed to the New York Times that, on a shopping excursion to buy his daughter a laptop for college, he was so disappointed in the PowerBooks, he bought her an IBM ThinkPad. Today, I think Jobs would buy his daughter a PowerBook, and not just because he is (as of the writing of this story) de facto chairman of Apple, but because the current line of PowerBooks is sensational. They are attractive, comfortable, quick, and mobile. Yesterday, I bought one myself-the new four-pound 2400/180c. I’m still getting used to the slightly cramped (but intelligently designed) keyboard; aside from that, it is everything you could ask for in a laptop: light enough to take everywhere and fast enough to keep me from rolling my eyes, with a vibrant active-matrix screen that can adjust to any angle even beyond 180 degrees, a long-lasting battery whose life can be enhanced in a variety of ways, and a case that is easy on the eye and to the touch. And in ways that only fellow Mac users will understand, it both expresses and evokes the fundamental human desire to create works that are not merely functional, but beautiful. With this machine, I expect to enjoy the ride for another several years.

Of course, few readers’ considerations will be identical to mine. As a freelance writer, I work alone in a freestanding home office. If I were thrust into a Windows-based office environment tomorrow, I’d probably be more inclined to use that platform. And I could do so, as I’ve discovered, with few regrets.

Still, Mac has that special “look and feel” that makes it worth the loyalty. In fact, my brother called the other day to say that in defiance of his workplace network, he is switching back to the Mac. He’s figured out that all it will really take is a little extra disk-swapping from time to time.

Computers connect us to each other in important new ways, and no one would go out of their way these days to buy a computer that’s truly incompatible with other computers. But for many of us, the far more important type of compatibility is that between the user and his or her machine. We spend an awful lot of time-most of our lives-trying to wrestle some creativity and intelligence out of these plastic boxes. We owe it to ourselves to try to make the enduring experience as fulfilling as it can possibly be.

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