Pictured: Mac Pro 2013
Today marks the end of Apple’s last user upgradable machine. Most users will probably see the Mac Pro as an overpriced curiosity but its nail in the coffin for user-modifiable computers. My Mac Pro from 2008 has had several upgrades over the years and is still standing strong, and still a very capable computer.
But that’s the point, 5 years later, my Mac Pro marches on. Apple has been on a slow war against the power user, slowly taking the user out of the pilot seat (tethering them from venturing too far from the mothership).
It started with the MacBook Air, which had soldiered on RAM. Then it migrated to the iMacs, which required a hack to prevent the fans from revving up if the user swapped out the hard drive. Apple then decided that it was time for the MacBooks to no longer have easily replaceable batteries. The final step was the MacBook Pro 15 inch Retina, which famously received a 1 out of 10 from iFixit for its complete lack of interchangeable parts. Apple pushed this same design to the 13 inch MacBook Pro a year later.
Only the red-headed stepchild remained in Apple’s lineup, the oft-forgotten Mac Pro, which received as much attention as such. Through sparse upgrades, it remained the only user upgradable computer, a throwback to an era of computing when users actually opened up their computers from time to time for maintenance.
Today is the day that ends. A Mac Pro purchased in late 2013 will not have the promise of transforming into a better computer in 2018 as my 2008 Mac Pro did. Instead, the separation between a Mac Pro and a Mac Mini or an iMac is that much smaller. Will the Mac Pro 2013 be nearly as viable 5 years later? Thunderbolt 2 is impressive, 20 Gbps (5 GBps) is a far cry from PCIe's theoretical bi-directional 128 Gbps (16 GBps) per 16x slot.
Planned obsolescence has been part of computing since the beginning, but now its embrace feels suffocating for Mac users.