Isn’t it GORGEOUS? Classic Minimoog – less of a control panel, more of an erogenous zone for synth nerds. Tell me you don’t want to feel up these knobs! The pure beauty of a one-of-a-kind electronic instrument. The design and the sounds are still in highest demand more than 50 years after its design – and I was pretty sure I’d never, never even be tempted to buy one.
I never even wanted a Minimoog!
Let’s be honest: Moogs are ludicrously overpriced, and overhyped. Not a single classic Moog ladder filter sound you couldn’t do just as well with a modern plugin, or almost any modern hardware. Hey, even the R3 – my most underdog synth – can do pretty decent Moog impressions. And if you are with the “Digital-will-never-sound-like-true-analog” esoterics, there is still the option of Neo Old School: Using the old design with the upsides of modern analog technology. Get yourself a Boog, for fuck’s sake. (And a life.)
Still… as we know, it’s all about the workflow – and about that unique combination of how an instrument looks, feels, and sounds. So when I saw a Moog enclosure and front panel on eBay for a couple of Euros, I could not resist and had to buy it.
“It’s aliiiiive!” – How to give life to an empty corpus
Suddenly, the Mac did no longer click with me: The trackpad in my MacBook Air M1 (end-2020) no longer clicked, seemed to have jammed, gave no haptic feedback. I could no longer click any objects on the screen; without an external mouse, the laptop was unusable.
It was quite easy to solve that problem; some short notes might help you if you have a similar problem.
Fast fix: Activate “Tap to click”. Get a mouse and go to the Trackpad settings and set “Tap to click”. At least you can use the trackpad now with selecting things bei tapping them instead of clicking them.
It might not be the hardware’s fault. I did not realize it at once, but the click you feel when you click the trackpad is not produced by a mechanical spring but by activen electric components – a couple of small electro magnets producing the haptic feedback. This post by pocket-lint.com does a good job explaining the techonology. This means that it might actually a firmware or OS problem. I read that some people had success temporarily disabling all haptic feedback settings; give it a try.
It is quite possible to replace the trackpad if necessary. It is not really easy to take a modern Apple device apart, but it is feasible, provided you have the right tools. Remember that Apples patronizing “Genius Bar” technicians might charge you heavily. But: get the tools!
The right tools for fixing a Macbook Air. You will need them. I had Torx bits for mobile phone screws anyway and bought some more on Amazon. This is what you need:
a Pentalobe-P5 screwdriver for Apples 5-star-hole housing screws
a Torx-T4 screwdriver for removing the trackpad cable connector clamp
a Torx-T5 screwdriver for the trackpad screws
a magnifying glass
a box with several compartments to keep the 6 different types of screws apart and safe
good workplace conditions – proper lighting, enough space, a workplace mat
Taking the Air apart, step by step.ifixit does a brilliant job at explaining and showing every step – have the tutorial on a second screen next to your workplace so that you can look at every step when you need it. Pro tip: Read every step thouroughly before you do it – I didn’t at one point and missed that there are distance shims on top of the trackpad which drop to the floor when you take it out. Some rather undignified crawling ensued.
Apple supports your Right to Repair. Seriously. A little bit. „Right-to-repair“ laws have forced Apple to move. If you insist on trying to repair your iDevice, Apple gives you information, tools, and parts – provided that the iDevice is rather recent, and that you live in the US. But to be fair: You can find the comprehensive Macbook Air Servide Manual (PDF) for download. You may also order a replacement trackpad for about $100 in the U.S. Apple’s Service Support draws some criticism for its pricing and for its rather complicated procedures, but it is a start.
In short: This is what I did to get the trackpad working again
Bought the tools.
Opened the Mac and detached the battery connector. My advice: do that, then reconnect and check whether the trackpad is already working again.
Took out the trackpad and gave it some menacing looks, carefully poked at the metal strips, and cleaned what seemed worth cleaning.
Cleaned the trackpad bay in the housing to remove any object that might cause problems
Reinserted the trackpad. The service manual states that a new trackpad comes with shims in different thicknesses, so I measured the thickness of those I had and found that some were .1mm and some were .15. I inserted the .15mm ones to the front, and the .1mm ones up next to the keyboard.
Put everything back together. The critical moments: Reconnecting the battery connector with minmal force. Reconnecting the trackpad’s flat cable to the ZIP connector: open, pull out flat cable, reinsert, close locking mechanism. Reconnect the PCB connector plug for the trackpad next to the battery connector.
Triple-checked the connectors, then attached Macbook to power supply and switched it on. Worked.
The global chip crisis has reached my humble shop: When trying to source new programmable ROM chips – nearly all of Bob Grieb’s firmware updates use trusty old Atmel-27C256 PROMs that are still in production – we discovered that they have become much harder to get, and more expensive. Eventually we succeeded in finding a supplier who could help us restock in time, but the chips cost us over one Euro more.
Until further notice we will raise prices for firmware updates by € 1.50 after taxes per chip.
In spite of that: have a good start into 2022, the Year of Hope.
I’ve won a Dreadbox Typhon in a sweepstake, and it’s bloody brilliant. Like, really, really brilliant! A fun machine with a monster sound and a great concept for real-time sound manipulation and editing. If there wasn’t that nasty problem with digital noise.
Just listen to it! It’s wonderful – but you will have noticed the nasty sound on switching it on, and the permanent high-frequency noise. (Oddly enough, it’s no longer in the recording as soon as the sequencer starts, but believe me – it’s there, all of the time.)
(No, this is not an affiliate link, I have no share in this. But I think it’s a great project.)
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