So back to Goodwill for another scraptop. This time the best looking candidate was a 13” 2012, again missing HD, RAM, and battery. This time, I went for a full upgrade. 16GB RAM. A 2TB SanDisk SSD. A 2TB WD hard drive in place of the DVD burner. A new battery. In all, about $400 in new parts and $40 for the scrapped laptop. This is a very responsive and fast machine with lots of storage space for uncompressed audio. It has FireWire 800 for my old Apogee interface, USB 3 and Thunderbolt ports for my modern interfaces. That makes it a good fit for almost any location recording gear. It has a slot for an SD card for importing sound and movies from a Zoom or GoPro. It plugs into my Thunderbolt display. All without dongles and adapters.

A week later a check of the scrap pile found the unicorn I was looking for, a 15” i7 quad core 2012 non-retina MacBook Pro. It got the full treatment like the 13” one. 16GB RAM. Two 2TB SSDs. It had a good battery. But it turned out the HD cable was damaged when the drive was stripped out. A new cable from iFixIt cost more than another scraptop, so back to Goodwill for one with a good cable and bottom cover, but cracked screen and damaged keyboard. So the net result is three nice Intel laptops and one parts machine. I spent more than intended, and I really don’t need three more laptops. I can probably sell a couple of these and recoup some money.

I really like the construction of these. Milled from an aluminum billet, they’re a machinist’s delight. You can trace the tool paths on the inside.

The sweet spot for cheap computing is around 10 years old. In 2008 we were hacking and upgrading G4 Cubes and Towers. Before that, Wallstreet laptops and G3 iBooks.

It can be cheap fun, but it’s easy to get carried away building the ultimate example of a particular machine.