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On The Flip Side
by Michael Munger




Why The Heck Do We Use Macs Anyway?
October 10th, 2000

This column is not for you. It is not for Mac users. As you read this, I request that you give the URL to your PC using friends. Spread it around; print it out for those who do not have access to the Net. Post it in a public place where targeted PC users can read it.

Windows users, Linux heads and Unix advocates wonder why Mac users are so in love with the Macintosh. I will attempt to answer their questions without the usual hate arguments, flames and other horrible means of advocacy.

Why Macintosh? Why are Mac users ready to spend more money on silicon-based intelligence when they could get a PC for a lesser amount? Why should we take the risk to adopt a platform that could fall off the face of the Earth one day?

The reasons are numerous and I am afraid that not all of them are rational. I am aware that many reasons may sound corny or even funny. The justifications are present in Macheads, though, and nothing that you can say will change anything about it.

Apple

We love and hate Apple. We will criticize the company when necessary, but we have to give them credit for coming up with a computer revolution in 1984 when mainstream PC users had DOS and its black screen filled with command lines. In 1984, you could just point the mouse toward elements on the screen and you can execute things that required complex typed commands in other operating systems. I know, the whole idea came from the Xerox PARC project...

At the same time, Apple is an icon of rebellion against conformity. If I believe what I heard over the years and if I take the jeans and turtleneck Steve Jobs as a prime example, you can work for Apple without wearing the conventional suit and tie. Why? Because beyond looks, there are people. Beyond looks, there is intelligence. It seems that Apple understands this. John Dvorak has a point when he says that good taste is rare in people's clothing, but that is another story and it is very debatable since no one enjoys a monopoly over taste...

Apple is an icon of revolution in its own way despite its corporate imperfections. Mac users identify with that. They do not identify with Gateway cows (with apologies to Gateway).


Moo!

Give US the power!

Anybody who uses operating systems such as Windows will know that when the company controls the system and many options are intentionally guarded against user control, it is frustrating. Maybe the populace (pardon the mean word) wants to deal with impersonal desktops, locked features and the lack of ability to get their stuff right. Mac users, however, want to be in command.

Of course, Windows DOES offer a degree of customization, but at a price. Change everything on your desktop and look at what happens if Windows has to restore registry settings. Kaboom! Your changes are up the wazoo! Have fun redoing it all!

Operating systems based on Unix and Linux will grant incredible control to their users, while the Mac does not allow us to stick our noses just everywhere in the OS. This power comes at a price too. You have to acquire an incredible amount of knowledge to master all the possibilities hidden under the hood of several Unix flavors, for example.

The Mac falls in between Windows and Unix. It allows customization but in the right way. We can do many things ourselves without becoming technology geeks.

The Macintosh will become a Unix-based system when Mac OS X (final) ships. The surprising factor, though, is that its simplicity will remain while unleashing amazing power. Doing something is not enough. Doing it right is what we want.

From computer idiot to power user

The Macintosh system's capabilities allow users to benefit from its simplicity to know the OS well enough to be power users without becoming full-fledged nerds. From computer idiot to power user, yours truly learned that computers were understandable after all... with the right system.

The unique combination of simplicity and power that makes Apple computers so unique makes many DOS, Windows and Unix haters knowledgeable by using their intelligence without requiring the skills of mathematicians.

It is user-friendly

Find a Mac and start it up. What will happen? A small 128K Mac image will smile at you, letting you know that "everything is fine"... The overall interface of the Mac OS is intuitive enough to understand at first sight for most human beings. While Windows illegal operations cannot help most users, Mac crashes can disappear by extension troubleshooting, in addition to other simple techniques.

You look SO good

Women will wear leather pants because they provide them a level of sexiness that they cannot find in other clothes. A guy will pick that shirt in his closet for a date because he knows that it makes him look better. Whether people do it to impress others or just to feel more comfortable with their appearance, they spend a great deal of energy to look good.

The same applies to computers. Someone will pick the Power Mac G4 Cube for its outer shell to impress others or to satisfy cravings for quality design. Power users will display their G4 tower with pride since it allies power and style. This whole deal about being hip with computers takes more and more importance.

Users want more than a beige box and Macs respond with ideal design offerings. A minority of users cares only about what is inside the box, but as I just said, this is a minority. Looks count and Macsters are, by tradition, elegance lovers.

The myths vs. the user community

The great thing about the Mac and its users is that they are all able to go beyond myths about the platform and enjoy their machines. Do you want an example? Is there a lack of software for the Mac? If there is, someone will have to explain how yours truly managed to install about 2.5 gigabytes of it without playing games, doing digital video or using most of the biggest Adobe, Quark or Macromedia titles...

The Mac does not let myths affect its existence. This is a good way to explain that its user community is strong. Macheads are ready to help each other at all times and they stick together for the sake of their favorite option.

I already know that Linux users are like that too and it brings me to my final point. What you have to understand is that while the Mac shares characteristics with other systems and user communities, it COMBINES the right ones just as we want them. Y'know?

For all of this and for many other reasons, Mac users will not stop believing that the Mac is the best computer platform on the market. Many motives are subtle and tough to understand, but who cares? Being a Mac user requires more than rational thought, technical punditry or obedience to market tendencies.

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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