Urban Legend or Urban Fact? – Steve Jobs and the squishy MacBook - Macenstein

Urban Legend or Urban Fact? – Steve Jobs and the squishy MacBook

Urban legends are usually thought of as pretty cool, quite often involving escaped maniacs and hook-hands stuck to the side of car doors, but even we geeks have urban legends. I learned one such tale today, told to me by a Mac Genius on a trip to the Apple Store, and if you think you are brave enough, pull up a round bean bag chair, and I will tell it to you now.

About 5 hours after I opened my new MacBook (purchased 2 weeks ago online) I noticed that the lower left side of the unit (the side with the ports) seemed to be loose. When I pressed on it, the two securing screws moved in slightly, and a slight clicking sound could be heard. It just felt kind of “squishy”. I showed it to Helper Monkey at the lab the next day, and he confirmed that it appeared as though those two securing screws had been stripped. They were not catching into whatever mounts they were designed to, so the whole area from about the security lock hole to the lower corner appeared somewhat loose, whereas the right side (with its two matching screws) appeared rock solid. We’ve only had the pleasure of using Apples Pro laptops up to this point, the MacBook being the first consumer model either of use had seen up close. We checked out his old PowerBook and a new MacBook Pro, and both of those sported tight screws on both the left and right. So, we decided I must have gotten a lemon or some sort.

Off to the Genius Bar.

While waiting for my appointment, I decided to check out the floor model MacBooks and see if I actually had a problem or if this squishiness was a design issue. I’m not sure if I was relieved or saddened to find that every last one of the 15 or so MacBooks at the store had the same “squishy” left side as my MacBook. When the Genius called my name, I sheepishly went to the counter and said “Well, I don’t think you can help me as this seems to be a design flaw of these new McBooks”. I showed him my problem, and he verified, yes, that’s the way all the new MacBooks are made. The two screws closest to the trackpad on the left are purely cosmetic, they do not “catch” into anything.

“Cosmetic?”, I said. “Who thinks extra screws look good?”

A second Mac Genius (who seemed to outrank mine) overheard our conversation, and grinning, walked up to me and said “There’s a good story behind that”.


The two geniuses exchanged a quick glance, as if knowing they shouldn’t be telling such things to a lowly muggle, but then Genius 2 grabbed my MacBook, held a flashlight to his chin, and began his tale…

“The story goes, the MacBook’s engineering team had just finished the new MacBook’s design, and were presenting it to Steve Jobs.” The Genius flipped my MacBook over, revealing the underside, with its perfectly centered screw. “In that prototype,” he continued, pointing to the screw, “the processor was slightly off to the side, and the screw in the center of the MacBook was off-center by about 2 inches. Additionally, the designers decided there was no need for any securing screws on the left side of the MacBook, and by omitting them, it would help create a cleaner appearance to the somewhat messy-looking “port” side. However, two screws were still necessary on the right side to hold the thing together.”

Genius 2’s voice lowered as Genius 1 and I leaned closer…

“Allegedly, Steve took the new MacBook, flipped it over, tapped on the off-center screw, and said ‘Center that’, then he looked at both sides of the laptop, and said ‘put two screws on that side’, then handed the MacBook back to the team… without… even… opening… it.”

Just then lightning crashed and the 1st Genius and I jumped, hugging each other in terror.

“And there was a hook on it!” Genius 2 shouted. Genius 1 and I wet ourselves.

Ok, I made (most of) that last line up, but the point here is that for whatever reason, “allegedly” Steve Jobs thinks that the two screws used to fasten the computer on the right side need to have left sided counterparts in order to achieve some sort of visual symmetry, even though they serve no purpose, and their lack of functionality actually hurts the MacBook. This idea seems both plausible and preposterous given Steve’s reputation. On the one hand, yes, having a computer look almost the same from all sides does create a nice “intentionally designed” feel to it. On the other, you cannot physically look at both sides at the same time, so it doesn’t seem like it should be an issue (I’ll give him the “center the bottom screw” thing). Also, one side has a long optical drive slot, and the other has a boatload of port holes, so does having 2 more screw heads to “balance” that side make sense? Not to my mind, but hey, who am I to question Steve?

Above: Not sure why Apple thinks adding 2 non-functioning screws is better than either adding 2 functional ones or removing them altogether, but there they are.

Whether or not the story is true, the fact that this little urban legend of Steve and the MacBook’s design is circulating the Genius bars means that the “squishy left side of the MacBook” is an acknowledged issue that Geniuses, if not Steve, seem to have noticed. I have since verified this issue is affecting other new MacBook owners, and even some older MacBooks going back as far as June 2007, so I am even more surprised that this was not cleared up with the latest update. Unfortunately, for now, it seems to affect all new MacBooks, and Apple Geniuses claim there’s nothing they can do about it.

To be honest, I don’t care how many screws they slap on the MacBook, I just want the thing to feel solid and not make the clicking sound. This design “decision” makes the MacBook feel cheap (which it certainly wasn’t). I’m hoping when Steve said “put two screws on that side” he meant for the engineers to put two securing screws there, not just two useless cosmetic ones, given that they technically are needed. Unfortunately, whatever he meant, that just didn’t happen, and now my perfectly new MacBook just feels… squishy.

[NOTE: if you find you too have this issue (and aren’t happy about it), please let Apple know in this thread.]

60 Responses to “Urban Legend or Urban Fact? – Steve Jobs and the squishy MacBook”
  1. Shakes head says:

    You Mac cultists are a pathetic lot.

  2. A genius... says:

    Danger Gates,

    Those are not cosmetic, you should make an appointment at an Apple Store and have a Genius replace those for you. It’s free and should take less about five minutes, less if he forgoes the paperwork.

  3. Sebhelyesfarku says:

    Jobs is a fuckin retard, but the dumbass Mactards are even more retarded.

  4. Ken says:

    Heh. I noticed the “squishiness” when I first got my Black Macbook. In a previous life, I had the pleasure of using a Macbook Pro, and it was much more solid feeling. It’s good to know that it’s normal (or at least, the same for a few hundred or so others!)

  5. Jake says:

    I wish I had bought a mac. Beautiful machines. My friend has one and I so covet it. I practically drool on his macbook I called him about this “squishiness” and he confirmed it, though he had never noticed before. I bought a Toshiba Qosmio, and its nice, but now that I’ve had a taste of sweet sweet apple…. sigh. Squishiness and all. I won’t be able to afford one till I’m done with school, and I dont want to wait that long. What’s ole Jobs’ email, I’ll trade him my Toshiba and some of my moms cookies! 😉

  6. Josh says:

    I just want my spinning CDs to not scrape when I pick my MacBook up one-handed.

  7. LXC420 says:

    *a genius…*

    get your sh!t together before you mouth off you moron

  8. mark says:

    and thats why we call you mac losers

  9. randy says:

    Same issue on my Black MacBook from Dec 2006, but honestly I hadn’t noticed it until this story.

    I agree the cosmetic screws are kinda stupid.

  10. Jos8ua says:

    you guys are crazy… i, like mac genius, didn’t get what you were talking about till i saw the video. i guess i have the “problem” too. but come on, folks. aren’t there better things to worry about?

Leave A Comment


Click here to inquire about making a fortune by advertising your game, gadget, or site on Macenstein.