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On The Flip Side
by Michael Munger




The Macintosh Platform, It's So Irrational!
August 8th, 2000

Irrational: Not endowed with reason. This is one the definitions that you can find for the word if you do a quick search at Dictionary.com. It is probably the best way to describe Macintosh users, their platform and their overall feelings about computers.

Do not get me wrong, I do not mean that being irrational is necessarily a bad thing. Au contraire. This world bases so much of its existence on rationality and logical thinking that, sometimes, behavior based on a bit of emotion or gut feeling can do a lot of good.

If you think about it, rationality would almost force us to use PC's since everybody uses them and their street price is lower. It is probably a good thing that Macintosh users are different from the masses!

Back to my point. I said that the Macintosh platform is not rational, and I talked about emotions and gut feelings. This is an excellent way to depict our interest in computers as Mac users. There are so many facts to back this up that while reading this, you will say "ok, I'm guilty of that myself" at least once.

Mac users take their computers more seriously than other computing communities and they do things that you do not see everywhere.

The first element is the acceptance of a rather charismatic leader at the head of the movement. You can say that on the other side of the fence, Bill Gates is the uncontested leader, but is he accepted by his platform? Not really. At the same time, Jobs was welcomed when he came back in 1997, with everybody labeling him as a visionary who would save the Macintosh from highly probable extinction. We could say that he did his part to save Apple, indeed.

People praise him for his work when writing on the Net and even in Mac related magazines. People welcome him with warm applause as he comes to deliver his keynote speeches. People show, almost without restraining themselves, how they appreciate him. You do not see this on the PC side and I wonder if you see that in any other computing environment in the first place.

The second element of my argument is how Mac users treat their computers like pets. Really! They give them names. The hard disk drives and partitions always have a name, instead of the generic "My Computer" on the dark side. Speaking of which, why do we call PC's the Dark Side? Is that some kind of religious connotation? But I digress. Oops, sorry Tim! :-)

Some name their disks after cartoon characters, some after their favorite artists... You can imagine that anything can become a Mac's name. Me? Oh, I just name my disk partitions after historical leaders who literally changed the world with their actions. You see, I am guilty too. I prefer to give my partitions names instead of the default "Macintosh HD" or "untitled."

In a similar aspect, Mac users personalize their computers like nobody else does, in part because the possibilities are there. All those icons, Kaleidoscope schemes, desktop pictures and other elements make almost every Mac totally unique while on other platforms, you do enjoy a degree of customization but you cannot find it as refined and as widely adopted as on the Mac.

On to the most radical or at least the most visible behaviors of Mac users.

Let's start with stickers. You know, those Apple stickers that I got with the two machines I bought since I switched to the Mac. I have no idea if they still ship with current machines (you can tell me, I would like to know), but I know for sure that people use them. I saw those on office doors, cars, walls, etc. It is only my experience, but I saw Mac users showing pride that they were Mac users. In fact, even though I know more Windows users than Mac users, I see more of the latter displaying their stickers and t-shirts than anyone else. Coincidence?

Another interesting aspect is the emotional tie between the users and the machines. If some Windows user says that Macs suck, imagine the face that the Mac user will make and the reply that will come out. I saw it time and again, Mac users will defend their choice vehemently. If I tease a Windows user, I usually get some "whatever" answer, rather than witnessing a knight getting ready for war. Why? Because Windows users do not care as much about this than Mac users. This does not mean that you will never see PC bigots insulting the Mac. I would never deny or dismiss that...

If you "defend" your platform, it is highly possible that you will advocate it too. If there is one word that represents the Macintosh well, it is advocacy. Mac advocates are everywhere. They do all they can to convince everybody that the Macintosh is the right choice. This is a perfect example to illustrate my point. This supreme conviction that we are right and that others are wrong could only be found in a movement where the interest in computers goes beyond productivity.

You can witness it in computer stores if you are there at the right moment. There are people who like to go in every once in a while and advocate Macs to the customers. They use some of their free time to do this...

You still doubt about what I just said? Fine, here is more. Did you see all those old Macs in other people's houses, some as old as the first Mac ever released? They keep them like collectors would keep old cars and cherish them like nobody else does. You probably saw those old Mac Plus units transformed into aquariums, for example. Imagine. Once out of date, the thing becomes a decoration!

All of this practically shows that for its users, the Macintosh is more than a computer. Mac users consider the people to be a community, the machines a point in common, and the two combined almost a religion. The Mac is very irrational.

Again, this is not a bad thing, but it demonstrates how something like the Think Different concept is not just a commercial use from Apple, it simply bases itself on the very attitude and commitment of its users to its machine.

Mac users behave in an irrational way because of their close (sometimes emotional) ties to their machines. There is so much evidence of it out there that I could not squeeze it all in this column :-)

Your comments are welcomed.

Michael Munger is a French Canadian living in Montreal. He discovered the Mac in 1994 while studying journalism, the profession he loves and practices. He also studied history and communications. In addition to his work at The Mac Observer, he authors the iBasics tutorial column at Low End Mac, and cofounded MacSoldiers in 1998.

You can find more about him at his personal Web site.

You are welcome to send me your comments or you can post them below.

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