I can’t remember how old I was when I used my first IBM PC clone. If I recall, it was a ‘luggable’ Panasonic with an orange plasma CGA screen. I played an ancient version of Ghostbusters, and Microsoft Flight Simulator, perhaps version 1 or 2. My whole world seemed to involve hacking config.sys and autoexec.bat to clear enough of the 640k memory to load games.
Time moved on, I gained an education, and continued hacking on PCs. I’ve developed and managed developers of Microsoft software. I spent quite a bit of time running Linux servers, but still on PC hardware. I spent more time than I’d care to remember hacking various config scripts and iptables commands in Vi.
Throughout this time, I’ve been completely aware of Apple. I remember playing Dark Castle on a friend’s Mac Classic. I remember distinctly when Steve Jobs announced the Intel switch. I think I blogged it in fact. It was at that point that I seriously considered a Mac as a genuine option for day-to-day work. I never went so far as to buy one for myself, but here I sit tonight, typing this on a 15″ MacBook Pro, kindly supplied by my new employer.
I’m not sure if I was expecting some sort of epihany, but here’s my conclusion after several days of using a Mac: It’s a computer. That’s it. A computer.
I like having a Unix-esque terminal. I like the industrial design and the interface design. I don’t like the tendency to end up with a cluttered mess of windows and running programs. I like VMWare Fusions “Unity” mode. I like the clean behaviour of sleep and shutdown versus Windows Vista. I LOVE the easy way that programs are installed and uninstalled.
There’s a lot to like. But there’s also random System Preferences windows that never appear until you close and re-open System Preferences. There’s also still crashy and flakey iTunes (or perhaps the iTunes mobile manager thingy) just like on Windows.
So yeah, just like any other computer, it runs, and it crashes, and it computes stuff. But it’s a hunk of aluminium and silicon that can cause rooms full of geeks to cheer, queues around the block, and incredible online fanatacism. That’s what makes it special.