What you're talking about is a hard drive failure. It can happen on both Mac's and PC's, as they both use the same type and, usually, brand of Hard Drives. The reason it was going to cost $1k to fix has nothing to do with it being a mac. It has to do with the difficulty of getting data off of a dead hard drive. It's not as simple as plugging it in and copying it off. Apple can't do it because it requires a clean room and special tools. Essentially, the drive is taken completely apart, the platters are removed, re-installed in a new "hard drive" case, and the data is removed then. The same thing could have happened to your PC. Hard drives are comprised of moving parts, and inevitebly those parts fail. Some sooner than others, but it's mostly the luck of the draw. Mac's are generally more stable software wise, as any more the hardware is all about the same (mac's use Intel chips, etc., big name video cards, etc.).
Like one of the above posters, I have a MacBook Air and I love it. I had a 12" iBook before and I loved it as well. As a former hard-core PC guy, I made the change and never looked back.
I would not suggest buying a Mac. I was always under the impression that they were worth the extra $$ because they never had problems (didnt get viruses & all that). I had a Dell laptop during undergrad that was always having problems so I thought I would be much happier with a Mac. Well I've had it for less than a year and the other day it decided to freak out and would not turn back on. Take it to the Mac store and they tell me its the harddrive, to get any of my 1L files off I need to send in the harddrive to someplace where they will charge atleast $1,000, awesome & Apple wont do anything for me, even though I bought the extended warranty, & say it happens all the time (obviously since they had a pile of the other companies business card available and since each of the people I talked to told me the same thing). IMO crap can happen with Macs (2 of my friends laptops also broke during the year) or PCs, since PCs are generally cheaper the best bet is to get a lighter PC and make sure to backup your crap every day.