Apple enthusiasts are in the rare period where we know something new and big is definitely coming, in that an architectural shift is on its way but isn't here yet. And for all the talk about Apple Silicon and various ways it can shape future Mac models, I think there hasn't been enough time spent looking back on one of the winners of the previous transition: the original MacBook.

The original MacBook was the successor of the iBook; white, plastic, budget laptops that were still Macs, but that were almost comically uncapable at every point I evaluated them. I got into Macs for my own use with an aluminum PowerBook G4, and the G4 had a famously slow "front-side [system] bus" at 167 MHz that bottlenecked it. Every iBook was further bottlenecked with smaller screens (including a choice of two screen sizes with the same resolution), limited optical drives and lower specs overall.

The MacBook, in contrast, announced in spring 2006 out of nowhere and without any fanfare, was a revelation. It boasted the same dual-core Intel Core Duo (opposite speculation that the iBook successor would surely get the Core Solo that eventually ended up only in the Mac mini), and at about the same price range and a far more solid build, it was enough for me to upgrade without scare quotes from a reasonably full-featured PowerBook G4 to a base model MacBook. It also introduced the first chiclet-style laptop keyboard in Apple's lineup, a magnetic hook-less latch, as well as picking up MagSafe and a built-in webcam from its bigger sibling. The top-of-the-line laptop becoming markedly faster was huge news; the piddling mass-market model becoming a bona fide competitively priced speed demon may have made a difference to more people, and done a lot more to expand the Mac market base.

The Apple Silicon transition holds many potential effects, some of which don't bode well for extensibility, modularity and people's general day-to-day dependencies on the x86-64 architecture in practice. But Apple wouldn't make this transition if it couldn't bring this sort of overhaul or comparative before-after difference to at least two or three of its lines. It may not be the case that an Apple Silicon SoC can run circles around a 64-core, 128-thread AMD Threadripper, but it is both plausible and achievable that it can deliver a faster processor that runs cooler while sipping battery and break free of the oppressive thermal equation of recent Intel chips. When you suddenly have room to breathe, it becomes a platform to build a better product around. You can swap some of the battery space for other componentry, use the battery space to achieve significantly longer battery life – or (knowing Apple) just make the whole thing smaller/thinner, which is still a good choice for some products even if it isn't the best choice for every product.

Whether or not the new "original MacBook" will be the return of the MacBook (2015), only-this-time-it's-a-good-idea, is anyone's guess. But the only thing anyone saw coming about the original MacBook, working backwards from the already released original MacBook Pro, was the name.

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