When I ventured into an Egghead store in Pasadena, Maryland to purchase my first home computer circa 1990, I had a choice to make. Would I be a PC guy or an Apple guy? The choice was far from clear. There was already a plethora of PC manufacturers around, but the selection was basically the same. An Intel 386-based motherboard, a couple Megs of RAM, a 28.8 baud modem and a little TV-like monitor supporting a whopping 256 colors. Windows 3.0 was out in May, resolving many of the inherent problems with previous versions of the OS (while certainly introducing hundreds more) and you couldn’t truly call your computer a computer without some Lotus, some WordPerfect and some Borland for good measure.
My brother was an early Apple adoptee. He bought a Mac II that had Woz’s signature scratched into its surface. He was pushing hard for me to join the cult. “It’s been around forever, it’s reliable, the equipment is good looking and simple to use and you know what you’re getting with Apple because everything from Apple is Apple.”
I chose a different path for two reasons. First, my employer was using PCs on a Novell network and I was familiar with the software already. Second, and probably more important, PCs were a hell of a lot cheaper to purchase. So I became a PC user and Windows champion for years and years, buying PC after PC from manufacturers like Zeos and Gateway and Hewlett-Packard and Dell and Compaq and Sony and Toshiba, each time weighing the options in the Windows world to get me the most bang for the buck. I was confident in my choice, happy with the outcome and overjoyed to have the latest and fanciest and fastest new toy. I never regretted my original decision.
So it comes as a great shock even to me that my next computer purchase will be from the Cult of Cupertino. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m switching.
I’ll admit that I have always held a certain disdain for the Mac world, and its origins are best exemplified by the company’s current ad campaign featuring a frumpy, non-descript, awkward middle-aged glasses-wearing gentlemen representing a PC, and a cool, unshaven, jeans-wearing, 20-something “aw, shucksian” lad as a Mac. Whether or not this is actually how the company views me as a PCuser, it illustrates perfectly how I think they think of me — basically as someone too stupid and ugly to know the difference or be worthy of the pristine beauty and consummate perfection of their products. I had made a choice and look what it had done to me. I was now a pathetic, lonely, depressed oaf in tassled loafers who thinks Garfield is hilarious and wouldn’t know Lady Sovereign from Lady Di.
On a purely emotional level, I resented Apple Computer, Inc. and its minions of snotty egotists and wanted nothing to do with them. Join that cult? Pay for equipment that breaks down so often you’d think it was built by Jaguar in the 1990’s? Have an operating system that wants to protect me from myself so it hides all the workings behind a veneer of glassy floating doohickies? No thanks, I’ll be over here working on my machine that lets me see everything and do everything and never treats me like an untrustworthy imbecile.
Psychologically, this is a scary decision. I spend hours and hours (and, may I add, hours) in front of my computer. I am familiar with the intricacies and stupidities of Windows and the Microsoft mentality which is never innovate, always immitate. I had grown jealous of Apple’s continuous stream of hardware and software products, each one more beautiful and elegant than the last. I had looked in vain for some semblance of that attention to detail on the Windows side of the fence and never found it, and grown comfortable with the fact that I would need to wait a couple of years for those improvements and innovations to trickle down to me on my 5-year-old platform cobbled together fromlegacy decisions now too ingrained to easily dispose of.
Then I had a look at Windows Vista, Microsoft’s next big thing. I had high hopes that I would be shortly using a newer, better, shinier system more secure, more reliable and less finicky than what I have now.
And what do I have now? I have a system with so many memory leaks that rebooting is a daily chore simply to reclaim a few cycles of horsepower to be able to run Photoshop and Illustrator simultaneously with Firefox and Outlook. A system that freezes up for no apparent reason when I am doing something as unusual as saving a file or clicking a link in my browser. A system that needs another system to monitor itself because there are so many viruses, worms and zombies trying to wrest control from my grip that I am afraid that every word I write is being recorded keystroke for keystroke and sent to some Russian teen who wants to blackmail me so he can buy some cheap Chinese stock that’ll improve the size of his penis. I have a system where getting more than one monitor to work means telling the system “yes, I really do have two monitors! I do, too! Look, I do too!” and then buying a separate piece of software just to have the system dock appear on both of them.
So I gave Vista a try, and you know what it is? More of the same! As if I should be surprised at that after Windows XP and Windows 95 and Windows 98 and Windows ME and Windows What The Fuck? They’ve once again produced a bloated piece of software that still can’t detect what hardware I’m using, and when it can, it can’t use it. Now it wants me to tell it every time I start something that I really am starting something and I really do want it to start because it can’t police itself. It wants me to think a blue background and bigger, more 3D-like buttons is a vast interface improvement. And it wants me to spend multiple hundreds of dollars for the privilege.
So it’s time for me to unshackle myself from the tyranny of idiocy of the world of Microsoft and shift my allegiances to the blind belief in something better over at Apple. At last I will have a laptop worthy of other people’s jealous drool. At last I’ll have a 64-bit system built on something other than a dream and whispers of things to come.
And if all else fails, I’ll have a platform that’ll allow me to run home to Mommy running on Parallels any time I get homesick for my old, worn, awkward, fuddy duddy system that’s still falling apart at its bursting seams.
So please welcome me with open arms into your cult, oh Mac Addicts. I, too, shall soon be kissing the feet of the billionaire boy’s club at Apple HQ. My iPods will no longer be friendless, my iTunes will no longer look out of place on my desktop, and I’ll still get to use both my mouse buttons.
Okay MacPro Quad at 3.0GHz and 4Gb RAM. I’m ready! Come and get me!
January 12, 2007