There's a Big Problem With New MacBook, and It's Tiny

Essayist wants to know why one speck of dust can fell the computer
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 22, 2017 10:40 AM CDT
There's a Big Problem With New MacBook, and It's Tiny
Look out for dust mites.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Casey Johnston bought a new MacBook Pro that soon developed an annoying problem: Every time she pressed the space bar, it went two spaces instead of one. As she recounts at the Outline, Johnston brought it into the Apple store three times and got the same, surprising diagnosis: Must be a piece of dust. After the third time, she was ready with her query: “If a single piece of dust lays the whole computer out, don't you think that's kind of a problem?” Her essay explores that question, because the glitch does, in fact, pretty much slay the computer, or at least half of it: Because of Apple's construction techniques, the remedy is not a simple matter of replacing the space bar. The only solution is to replace the entire upper case. As Johnston explains, the reason for that involves a bit of tech known as butterfly switch keyboards.

In the beginning, keyboards were clunky things, with big plastic keys. Then came "scissor switch" keyboards, which allowed for lower-profile keys and thus sleeker machines. They also kept out more dust, and while they were difficult to remove if cleaning was necessary, it was still possible. Butterfly switch keyboards are "scissor switches taken to the extreme," writes Johnston. They allow for even lower-profile keys and block even more dust, but if an errant fleck does get in, it's all but impossible to get it out. Hence, Johnston's problem, and her research suggests the issue is fairly widespread. (Apple now has a how-to on dead keys.) Her MacBook, still under warranty, has been fixed. "But as I write this a shaft of sunlight is falling across the right side of the keyboard from the window behind it, catching on a half-dozen or so pieces of dust." Read the full piece. (More Apple stories.)

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