Wherein I Show You My Etching...


After our first MacBooks were stolen, Erin and I got a little bit protective over the replacements. And by “Erin and I”, I really mean “me”, and by “protective”, I really mean “kind of paranoid”.

But when you haul a thousand-dollar-plus piece of equipment around, you really ought to take some measures to prevent it from getting stolen. Putting a sticker on it with your name and contact information might help if the computer is lost, but it does you little good if somebody wants to fence the thing. A little bit of rubbing alcohol, and the evidence is gone. So, why not make the thing a little more permanent?

I happened to learn that there were places where you could have your laptops permanently etched, and resolved to do just that. And then I thought, if you’re going to take the time and spend the money to etch your device, why not make the design interesting and distinctive? So I did. Resell value isn’t an issue, because we’re running our computers into the ground and are more likely to recycle them than resell them when the time comes.

I did an elaborate etching on the cover of my new Macbook Air back in 2012, and I resolved to do another one when my new Macbook Pro arrived late last month. As I type this, I’m on the train coming back from Toronto where the deed was done. And, personally, I think it looks gorgeous.

The work was done by HiTech Tattoos, which is in the process of rebranding and relaunching its website, so I’ll post a new link once it’s ready. The technician involved took the design I submitted, copied it over to his machine, and spent a fair amount of time poking and prodding things so that the computer was aligned just right. As you can imagine, etching is permanent, so you don’t want to make a mistake. There are no do-overs. Once some tests were done on a paper mask, the real printing occurred, and it was fascinating watching the laser streak across the surface of my Macbook Pro, drawing up micro-sparks as it zapped one more line of my picture.

As for the design itself, I did it in Adobe Photoshop, taking the picture I snapped below (at the foot of Spadina Avenue, on January 31, this year) and manipulating it so that it looked like a pencil drawing, and then converting it into a black-and-white bitmap. Using the template HiTech Tattoos had on offer, I put the file together in Adobe Illustrator and mailed it out to them.

A number of individuals etch their laptops for the reason I’ve cited. It does not affect the operation of their machine, nor does it invalidate their warranty (though, obviously, if you have to replace the display due to another issue, you will lose the etching). I likely have reduced the re-sale value of my laptop, but I don’t care, because I intend to hold onto my laptop for a while, and it is my personal machine, which deserves some personality. Now it has it.

And my name and phone number so thieves can’t easily sell it.


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