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History of the MacBook Air

The Apple MacBook Air was first introduced by Steve Jobs during his Macworld 2008 Keynote Address. At launch, the Air was billed as the world’s thinnest notebook. Weighing in at just 3 lbs and sporting a slim profile that ranged from 0.16 inches at its thinnest to 0.76 inches at its thickest, the first generation Air was significantly thinner and lighter than competing laptops. Despite the slender package, the first generation Air packed relatively powerful internals and a full-sized keyboard.

Two years later, Apple updated the Air with a second generation model. In addition to a spec sheet bump, the second version was available in an additional screen size and with smaller dimensions, making the Air one of the sleekest ultraportables on the market. The third generation MacBook Air was released in October 2018, featuring a much higher resolution Retina display, Touch ID authentication, and more.

As the Air entered its third generation, it also went on to replace the vanilla MacBook as Apple’s mainstream laptop for those who want a lightweight and affordable Mac but don’t need the additional power of a MacBook Pro. All three generations of MacBook Air are thin, light, and feature all-day battery life. This makes the Air ideal for students, mobile warriors, and pretty much anyone who spends a good amount of time on-the-go.

MacBook Air Display

The MacBook Air received several display updates over the course of its three generations. The first generation MacBook Air featured a 13.3-inch screen at 1280 x 800 pixels. Apple increased resolution and added a second screen size option with the second generation model. The second generation Air was available with an 11.6-inch screen at 1366 x 768 or a 13.3-inch screen at 1440 x 900 pixels. The third generation MacBook Air featured a major overhaul to resolution and panel technology. Available only in the larger 13.3-inch size, the third generation Air comes with a much sharper Retina display at 2560 x 1600 resolution. It also uses IPS panel technology for better color accuracy and viewing angles.

MacBook Air Storage

The MacBook Air has been available in various storage configurations throughout its three generations. The first generation Air came with either a traditional hard drive or a solid state drive, with capacities ranging from 64GB to 128GB. The second generation Air was only available with solid state drives, and could be configured with up to 512GB of internal storage. The third generation Air is only available with a speedy PCIe-based SSD, and comes in capacities ranging from 128GB to a whopping 2TB.

Keyboard and Trackpad

Despite its diminutive proportions, the MacBook Air has always featured a high-quality keyboard and trackpad. Sporting full-size keys, the MacBook Air never feels cramped or burdensome to use. The third generation Air launched with butterfly keyboard switches, which were later improved in the 2020 model to the new Magic Keyboard also found in the latest MacBook Pro. However, unlike the MacBook Pro, there is no Touch Bar above the MacBook Air’s keyboard.

All three generations feature expansive multi-touch trackpads, allowing for streamlined gesture navigation throughout macOS. The third generation takes things a step further by adding support for Force Touch, a pressure-sensing technology that allows users to pull up contextual menus and additional information more easily than ever before.

Ports and Connectivity

Connectivity is important in any computer, and the MacBook Air is no exception. But in order to keep the Air’s enclosure thin and streamlined, Apple kept physical ports to a minimum. The first generation Air features a Micro-DVI or Mini DisplayPort connector for display out, a single USB 2.0 jack for peripherals, and a MagSafe charging cable. The second generation features either Mini DisplayPort or Thunderbolt for video out, two USB 2.0 or 3.0 ports, a MagSafe or MagSafe 2 charging cable, and an SDXC card slot (13-inch model only). The third generation Air streamlines connectivity with two Thunderbolt 3 ports over USB-C Gen 2 for charging, display out, and peripherals. All three revisions offer robust wireless connectivity, with the latest version supporting Wi-Fi 5 (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac) and Bluetooth 5.0.

Camera and Audio

All three generations of MacBook Air feature a built-in webcam, speaker(s), and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The first generation Air came with a 480p iSight camera and a single mono speaker. The second generation initially shipped with a 480p iSight and two stereo speakers. Later iterations of the second generation and all third generation models come with a 720p FaceTime HD camera and two stereo speakers.

Security

Apple takes data security seriously, and the MacBook Air is no exception. Aside from robust protection against viruses and malware baked in at the operating system level, the third generation MacBook Air packs the Apple T2 Secure Enclave chip to keep your Mac safer than ever. This security-focused coprocessor enables features like Touch ID, secure boot, and hardware-encrypted storage. In other words, the T2 chip lets you log in, automatically fill in passwords in Safari, and make purchases using Apple Pay -- all with a single touch.

Accessibility

All computers running macOS come with a robust suite of Assistive Technology features to help individuals with vision, hearing, motor, literary, and learning difficulties. Vision assistance includes VoiceOver support, customizable zoom levels, scalable cursors, and display adjustment. Hearing assistance includes visual alerts for system sounds and closed captioning in QuickTime media player. Motor assistance includes slow keys, sticky keys, mouse keys, speech recognition, and keyboard navigation. Learning and literacy assistance comes in the form of text-to-speech, an audible calculator, and more. These accessibility features ship with the operating system, and are available at no extra cost to the consumer.


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