Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Even the non-scientific people seem to learn early in life that magnets and data storage don’t go together well. That may be from people losing data on floppy disks thanks to magnets, or – more likely, I guess – from people seeing warning signs at shops to ‘not put credit card here’ where there are strong motors or those apparently magnetic devices they use to remove some kinds of anti-theft tags. Of course it is beyond me why exactly checkout designers thought it was a reasonable idea to put strong magnets even remotely close to the place where customers will want to put their credit cards, but that made warning signs necessary and thus may haven risen awareness for the magic that is magnetism – which isn’t a bad thing.

In addition, at least in Germany people may be even more aware of the magnets vs. computers problem because sometime in the 1990s there were some unfortunate accidents in trains: They had installed tray tables which were help up by magnets rather than mechanically. And for things to be safe, they used two really big and strong magnets which were part of the table rather than the seat it was supposed to fold up to. Apparently those magnets were in a position that coincided with that of the hard drives in many popular notebook computers at the time and a non-trivial number of people were said to have suffered from that.

And because knowing of the problems that magnets bring for your data, I have seen many people being extremely scared by the fact that the Powerbooks and iBooks used a little magnet to draw down that little hook securing the lid (a really neat and clever invention in my opinion) when you close the computer. That was just a tiny magnet and I never really worried about it – Apple’s quality control may be negligent, but people there aren’t stupid (I hope…).

And if one little magnet, doesn’t hurt, things can perhaps be taken further… leaving us with the MacBook, a computer that is full of magnets. There’s the well-advertised one to hold the power adaptor (quite a superfluous use of a magnet, I still think). Then there’s a weak-ish magnet on the left hand side of the screen’s bezel to hold the remote control (no idea why that should be useful and why there’ none on the other side) and two rather strong magnets at the upper corners of the screen to hold the computer’s lid firmly closed without needing a hook at all. That’s a great idea – although I think that those magnets are a little too strong because the force needed to actually open the MacBook can be a bit stronger that what you’d expect or consider comfortable.

On the other hand, I can use all those magnets now to go Pimp my MacBook:

MacBook with stuff stuck to its magnes.


That’s one of those situations where I really want to be a smoker. How cool would it be to turn that cashew tin into an ashtray and have a computer with a built-in ashtray holder?

Magnets are way cool. Even though their effects stopped being a real surprise, it’s still a bit ‘magic’ to move things without having to touch them. I think one of the coolest things I’ve seen was when I visited a chemistry lab where they had a NMR machine. Having a strong magnetic field is key for these and so they had some magnetic coil with a field-strength of several Tesla in there. To secure things they had a yellow line on the ground… behind the line they could use computers, not destroy their credit cards and keep their pacemakers running. Close to the machine, things weren’t that good. They gave us a great way to experience the magnetic field and its strength there: At some distance from the magnet, you could hold one blade of a large (30cm) pair of scissors and see the other blade move tangentially along the magnetic field when you moved around. I thought - and still think – that is fantastic.

August 21, 2006, 0:00

Tagged as macbook, macbook pimping.


Comment by clemisan: User icon

“Eintopfessen” — where did you find this dusty thing??!

Well, let’s see. Somwhere I’ve something simular, IIRC.

August 22, 2006, 12:18

Comment by ssp: User icon

In my pocket I guess ;)

Just like the image I used for the Stammessen I shirt.

August 22, 2006, 17:30

Comment by ME: User icon

The remote/money clip holder is actually the magnet used to tell the Macbook when you close the lid.

April 16, 2007, 17:25

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