I should be a Apple fan but I’m so not

People keep getting at me about my Apple hating. “Why is it I'm not a Mac fan?” On paper I should be a fan and should own some of its hardware. So what happened? Here's some history which you may find interesting, even from the point of pure nostalgia.

So with a background in design and running a ST computer back in the early 90's I really wanted to get a Mac. I mean the mac as symbolised in that famous 1984 advert was about breaking the mold, not being a boring grey suit, yadda, yadda. Well at that young age, I was amazed and wanted one. In school they only had boring RM PCs running Windows 3.1 and trust me that added to the myth that PC's were so boring. After leaving school, I had pushed my ST to its limit and I landed a job working for a local newspaper working with Adobe Photoshop 2.x and Quark Express 3.1 while at college. The work place had macs for most of its output and the college had macs for the design school, and pcs on the other side of the campus to this thing called the internet. So there was this dilemma, should I want to do any work, I'd have to use the macs if I wanted to download or check out the web I had to go across the road to the business school and use there pcs. After about a year or so they finally hooked up a sub-powermac (think it was a quadra) with a 28.8k modem and you use the internet on that one machine, but only a few months later they also put in a load of 486's in the room next to mac design suite. They were unlocked and we were able to find software like paintshop pro to put on the pcs. So although the macs could do some amazing things like video editing (we had a couple of powermacs 132's with miro dc030 cards in them, they were no match for the lure of the open internet.

About this time I was big into POV Ray and being able to run this on the pcs was great. I was even able to run it on the PC's really easily, plus late at night I could run super complex scenes over many machines in parallel. It was really liberating. I also discovered with other friends that the UWE (University of the west of england) had a 24hour computer lab with 486's and super fast (at the time) internet over 2 rooms and 40 machines in each one. And security was really lax, so lax that after a while we got to know the security guards and we would just pop in and out without being asked for ID ever. Anyway, this is about the time I also got into PC networked gaming with Quake and learned how to build myself a PC with the help of a guy from the Newspaper called Mike. I need a new computer as the ST really wasn't cutting it any more, and I did crazily consider getting a Silicon Graphics 02 with all the money I could scrap together but thankfully couldn't afford it with everything I had, So the next best thing was a mac but it didn't happen because it was so much cheaper to buy and make a PC. But the Mac had a lot going for it. Quicktime for example was untapped features in it which I'd wished I had more time with at the time. I remember being so amazed with QTVR, that I ended up buying a book on it, which I still own today. At one point I borrowed a Mac from my friend Carl while he was on holiday somewhere and although I did enjoy it and never felt like quite like my own. But I digress,

At the time Intel and AMD were neck and neck but Intel was seen as the enemy, so I made a 200mhz AMD K6 because only the Microsoft fans would pick the expensive and slower Pentium chip. (I also remember this was not long before the whole CPU benchmark thing where Apple compared the G3 to a Pentium 3 but never a AMD. This further fuelled my dislike for Apple, I mean the AMD's were beating the Intel chips on everything non MMX or SSE based. Once I learned how to build my own, that was pretty much it. I customised my PC, by pained the case black replaced the leds with blue ones and played with stardocks object desktop to create insane hacker (the film) type startup screens etc. Software was easily available and sharing it was currency. Life was all good.

So running Windows was my prefered choice but it gave me more alleged freedom that a mac. I did try switching over to linux at some point but decided it was too command like, and I wanted something more visual like the mac desktop. So I choose BeOS which was around at the time and was still a viable alternative. Obviously that all went down the pan, and I only ever installed it on a spare machine thankfully.

I can't remember exact times or dates, but here's a few things which put me off Apple even more over the last ten years. I remember the imac, it was loved by everyone in the community but when I tried to actually use it, it was shockingly slow and troublesome. The round pluck like USB mouse really got to me, I think it was about then I become aware of the Steve Jobs approach to design and products. Maybe it was also the software OS8 and 9 but I saw people on there knees over the look of the imac and general use was anything but good. Apple sold this and all other mac since as aspirational machines, when frankly there anything but. The religion of the Apple Mac really rubbed me up the wrong way, even with the serious mistakes of OSX/Classic. It wasn't till OSX.3 when things starting getting good enough again. But back to the cult of the mac, remember those Mac vs PC adverts. Apple totally shot themselves in the foot with me. And to double back Microsoft's advertising campaign, I'm a PC is pure genius.

Funny enough this Guardian Article sums up my thoughts till OSX.3, adding FreeBSD is the only saving grace.

I hate Macs. I have always hated Macs. I hate people who use Macs. I even hate people who don't use Macs but sometimes wish they did. Macs are glorified Fisher-Price activity centres for adults; computers for scaredy cats too nervous to learn how proper computers work; computers for people who earnestly believe in feng shui.

PCs are the ramshackle computers of the people. You can build your own from scratch, then customise it into oblivion. Sometimes you have to slap it to make it work properly, just like the Tardis /images/emoticons/laugh.gifoctor Who, incidentally, would definitely use a PC). PCs have charm; Macs ooze pretension. When I sit down to use a Mac, the first thing I think is, “I hate Macs”, and then I think, “Why has this rubbish aspirational ornament only got one mouse button?” Losing that second mouse button feels like losing a limb. If the ads were really honest, Webb would be standing there with one arm, struggling to open a packet of peanuts while Mitchell effortlessly tore his apart with both hands. But then, if the ads were really honest, Webb would be dressed in unbelievably po-faced avant-garde clothing with a gigantic glowing apple on his back. And instead of conducting a proper conversation, he would be repeatedly congratulating himself for looking so cool, and banging on about how he was going to use his new laptop to write a novel, without ever getting round to doing it, like a mediocre idiot.

The Mac and Apple always stood for creativity and thinking differently, even now there are some amazing software created by its insanely dedicated community which can't be found on other platforms. I've never even looked at development in Cocoa but there's certainly heard good things about it. I also think OSX is actually not bad with its BSD backbone but I'm not keen on the Gui. The whole iPod and iPhone thing drives me totally insane. Most companies create different versions of consumer electronic products to capture the market, but Apple don't do that. Fair enough but to argue that Apple products are better that anything else and thats why there's only one type or two types is simply arrogant. A while back I looked into getting a new laptop and did consider a Mac book but for me the size was a little too big, general ports very low and actual spec not as efficient as the many models by Dell, HP, IBM, etc. I'm not saying there better but I am saying my requirements are different to Steve Jobs. For example the iphone still has not got stereo bluetooth support, for most people this is a who cares? But when you already have 2 sets of headphones and a set of speakers at home with Bluetooth support, this is a deal breaker.

To finish, I already touched on the snobbery of most Mac users. But there's something equally strange about this snobbery. Maybe in the same way there's iphone socks and macbook screen protectors. Most PC users have a love/hate relationship with there machine. Well this seems to be less so with Mac users. Is this because the fisher price machine does exactly what its told to do or maybe because the Mac users have self brainwashed themselves into believing the hype? I think I know which one it is but thats for another post. I'll leave you thinking with this.

Cue 10 years of nasal bleating from Mac-likers who profess to like Macs not because they are fashionable, but because “they are just better”. Mac owners often sneer that kind of defence back at you when you mock their silly, posturing contraptions, because in doing so, you have inadvertently put your finger on the dark fear haunting their feeble, quivering soul – that in some sense, they are a superficial semi-person assembled from packaging; an infinitely sad, second-rate replicant who doesn't really know what they are doing here, but feels vaguely significant and creative each time they gaze at their sleek designer machine. And the more deftly constructed and wittily argued their defence, the more terrified and wounded they secretly are.

Ultimately the campaign's biggest flaw is that it perpetuates the notion that consumers somehow “define themselves” with the technology they choose. If you truly believe you need to pick a mobile phone that “says something” about your personality, don't bother. You don't have a personality. A mental illness, maybe – but not a personality. Of course, that hasn't stopped me slagging off Mac owners, with a series of sweeping generalisations, for the past 900 words, but that is what the ads do to PCs. Besides, that's what we PC owners are like – unreliable, idiosyncratic and gleefully unfair. And if you'll excuse me now, I feel an unexpected crash coming.

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.