After 14 years, Apple has finally abandoned the famous wedge-shaped shape of the MacBook Air.

Famous envelope image re-purposed for Apple MacBook Air advertising

MacBook More of the famous Air wedge design no, it was replaced by the square-sided M3. Long live the tilting MacBook Air.

Back in 1991, Apple introduced the entire laptop industry with one key design decision that was then forever copied by all its competitors. This was moving the keyboard from the front of the laptop to the back and turning the unused space into a useful palm rest.

As simple and even obvious as it may seem now, it remains the single best change to laptop ergonomic design — but then there was a second one. Some 17 years later, in 2008, Apple introduced the wedge that we've come to know and adore ever since.

Apple was not the first

As always, Apple was not the first a wedge-shaped design in which the front of the laptop is lower than the back, giving the entire device a slanted appearance. When Steve Jobs introduced the MacBook Air in 2008, he even illustrated that the Sony laptop measures 1.20 inches at the back and 0.8 inches at the front.

Jobs just then immediately showed how it compared to the Sony laptop. To the surprised applause of the audience, the MacBook Air was revealed to be 0.76 inches thick at the back, with Jobs calling it an “unprecedented 0.16 inches.”

“Now I want to point out something,” he continued. “The thickest part of the MacBook Air is still thinner than the thinnest part of the [Sony] TZ series.”

In what may have seemed like a clever bit of foreshadowing, Jobs also criticized existing wedge-shaped laptops for being slow. He said they had to do this because of what he called thermal envelopes: the shape meant they couldn't cool the processor running at full speed.

Throughout its life, especially in the early days, the MacBook Air was criticized for its shape hindering ventilation and therefore requiring a slow processor. But at that time we had the word “envelope” in our heads, and then, of course, Jobs did what he still remembers.

He showed off the MacBook Air, pulling it out of its in-office envelope.

Steve Jobs on stage in 2008 shows an image of a MacBook Air in an envelope

These envelopes are almost unheard of today, but for decades businesses have used them as reusable envelopes. They had several boxes on the front where you crossed out the last recipient, wrote a new one at the bottom, and then dropped the envelope into the internal mail.

In 2008, these internal message envelopes were still common enough that Jobs' audience knew them. And even now, the sight of a laptop taken out of its envelope remains impressive.

However, this is not in the specifications. While not unreasonable for its time, the original MacBook Air came with 2MB of RAM, an 80GB hard drive, and a 13.3-inch screen with a resolution of 1280×800 pixels.

For comparison, the new MacBook Air M3 has 8 GB of RAM, a 256 GB SSD and a 13.6-inch screen with a resolution of 2560 x 1664 pixels.

The original 2008 MacBook Air sold for $1,799, which is equivalent to $2,577 today. The new MacBook Air M3 starts at $1,099.

However, to put the original 2008 MacBook Air into context, it was introduced alongside the long-gone Time Capsule. The event took place exactly 200 days after the launch of the original iPhone, and to this point Apple had sold a total of four million iPhones.

2008 MacBook The Air's form factor was amazing

In 2008, AppleInsider praised the MacBook Air's physical design, describing it as a wedge that tapered to a “thin edge.” However, it also says that “physics simply limits the extent to which the Air can be reduced in size” while maintaining the same overall proportions as the MacBook Pro.

The curved edges make the tapering of the wedge less noticeable, but the distinct slope from back to front (from right to left) is still retained. Note the (open) drop-down door revealing the ports.

The New York Times frantically wrote: “You can't take your eyes or your hands off it… the thing looks like it came off a spatula.”

“When it's on a table, you might mistake this laptop for a placemat,” he continued. It also said that the wedge shape “wastes a little internal space.”

But for those who share Apple's admiration for elegance, the trade-off is worth it,” concluded the New York Times. “This laptop's cool aluminum chassis and smooth edges make it incredibly easy to store, carry, open and use. close”.

According to Engadget in 2008, archived by AOL, the MacBook Air was so unusual that airport customs officers detained a traveler with it. They were suspicious because it had no obvious hard drive, and apparently no ports – because the ports were hidden behind a hinged door.

Macworld also generally praised it, but noted that it is “the slowest Mac model currently shipping.”

This slowness became a problem, especially since, despite its speed, the MacBook Air still overheated. In August 2008, Apple released a fix for this problem — but it didn't work.

Towards the end of 2008, and throughout 2009, Apple updated the design of the MacBook Air. First, the processor and graphics options have been upgraded, and the price has been reduced to $1,499. And that USB-A flap is gone.

Then, in 2010, when Apple updated the 13-inch MacBook Air, it also introduced an 11-inch version.

Surprisingly, it is now almost forgotten that for six years there was an 11-inch MacBook Air model. It was replaced in 2016 by the 12-inch MacBook.

Last Rites for the MacBook Air Wedge

The simple wedge shape of the MacBook Air has truly made typing easier and more comfortable. This meant that users did not have to raise their wrists to reach the keys, meaning their palms could rest flat on the surface.

But this also always meant that there was less physical space for cooling air to circulate. This, in turn, meant — just like Jobs said about competitors Air — that there was a performance compromise.

Top: The original MacBook Air in profile. Below: The new MacBook Air M3 in profile.

The MacBook Air got faster and faster, but due to its thermal envelope it still lacked power. The move from Intel to Apple Silicon helped the 13-inch MacBook Air in late 2020.

But it was the 2022 redesign that was decisive – — and removed the wedge.

On the other hand, the MacBook Pro's straighter profile increased ventilation and allowed the device to run faster and longer. This meant that choosing between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro became more difficult.

But this also meant that the characteristic and beloved wedge-shaped design disappeared. At least for now.

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