Anyone who knows me is well aware that since 1984, I have been an avowed Macintosh hater. In fact, I would have hated the silly things long before 1984, except that there weren’t any Macintoshes until then. I hated the Lisa as early as 1982.
Why did I have such a bad attitude toward the brainchild of Steve Jobs? I think it was primarily a rebellion against the whole point-and-grunt nature of the operating system, combined with its stylish backwardness. My first exposure to computers was as a programmer, not a user, so I wasn’t in it for user-friendliness. I didn’t mind if a computer was downright user-hostile, as long as it did what I wanted, FAST, with a minimum of fuss. The constant typing that resulted from working through UNIX and DOS and RT-11 and VAX/VMS command line interfaces took my typing speed from 20wpm to a respectable 100 wpm in only a year or two. For a fast, accurate typist with a sharp mind, I maintain to this day that a command line interface is the faster way to get things done.
Eventually, like most people, I succumbed to the allure of the seductive graphical user interfaces, but I still appreciated the ability to step behind the curtain. Every version of Windows still carried a command line interface, hidden back between the solitaire game and the Paint program, that gave the the comfort of my old world whenever I wanted it. The evil Macintosh never had such a thing, and I pitied those poor fools who couldn’t see its importance.
Microsoft’s desire to be more mac-like grew with the releases of Windows 95 and Windows 98. Users embraced the changes with abandon, abandoning their Macintoshes in droves. PC’s were cheaper, more readily available, and now had eaten away the Mac’s only advantage — point and grunt ease of use.
Macintoshes gradually grew in power but waned in market share. By the late 1990s, Apple was clinging to about 8% of the personal computer market. Most of us were sure this spelled the end of the Mac. Everything Apple was doing seemed too little, too late. Still, in certain niche markets (mostly creative — graphics, music, film), the Mac held its footing. For many years, Apple’s market share held firm, and a few new products like the iPod and the Apple Cinema Displays gave people some dramatic new reasons to take a second look at Apple.
Several people tried to get me to switch. Some of their reasons were compelling, but most weren’t. Anyone could see that the machines cost more, the software cost more, the accessories cost more, the base of software available was far smaller, and the support was dismal. For all of Apple’s posturing, the reliability wasn’t much better than PC’s either … Macs crashed just as often, they just looked prettier doing it … instead of a blue screen, you got a little bomb and an apology: “Sorry, a serious error occurred”. Right, the one that occurred when I bought this thing. No thanks. I stuck to my PC guns.
To understand what happens next, you need to know that one of the first operating systems I learned, after CP/M, was UNIX. I first learned it as a guest on a computer system at the University of Virginia, and through a system run by a friend as an experiment in public-access UNIX. I eventually learned enough to become administrator of a group of UNIX systems, and grew to love it. Its cryptic conciseness and general geek-friendliness endeared it to me, for the same reasons that it raised the hackles of my less geeky friends. Like Windows, UNIX grew to embrace graphical user interfaces while maintaining its command-line nature for those of us who wanted or needed that edge.
When Apple introduced OS X, based on UNIX, something snapped in me. It had problems, it wasn’t quite right yet, but it was a move in the right direction. It would KILL the old Mac OS. I predicted that within a couple of years, it would be ready for prime time, and at that moment, the Mac would become a viable machine, a contender, worthy.
It happened early this year. Apple released OS 10.3, codenamed Panther. I took it for a spin, on a friend’s Mac. I was hooked! It had a snappy, intuitive GUI, easy access to the file system, good connectivity with the Internet and with Windows networking, and a decent security structure. It had a UNIX shell, too!
So, here I was, boxed in. Panther’s release meant Apple wasn’t going anywhere. My work as a consultant and engineer in the recording industry depended on my knowing the ropes, and my Mac knowledge was sadly lacking. If I didn’t get on the ball, people were going to start calling someone else, and I would be forced to admit that there was a sector of computing technology on which I was NOT an expert. That kind of indignity could scar a geek for life.
So, I (gulp) have BOUGHT A MACINTOSH. It’s a Power Mac G4, 1.25 GHz. I’ve been working with it for about three weeks now. My goal is simple. By the end of March 2004, my knowledge of Macintosh computing will meet or exceed my knowledge of Windows computing. I’m a pretty fast learner, so that’s not as lofty a goal as you might think, but it’s going to take some work. It should be fun work.
I’m already doing quite a bit of my work on the Mac at the command line prompt. 🙂