A history of Mac fanboyism, part 1

It is a long standing tradition for the “mac” and “pc” folks to berate each others’ chosen operating system (OS) and imply certain things about the others’ personality based on generalization and cliche.  Actually, the PC folks mainly insult the Mac fanboy’s slavish devotion to the cult of Apple because there are few bad things you can say about OS X. Apple people just make snide remarks about Windoze and its lack of security, Blue Screen of Death, ponderous and ever-present patching processes etc. The Apple perspective was brilliantly realized with the series of ads starring John Hodgman and Justin Long. Windows users deride Mac fanboys for lining up for the “newest” and “latest” device to be sold. But isn’t that how capitalism is supposed to work?

I thought I would write this history of my own conversion to show I am no simply fanboy, but a complex person with a history full both a geeky and practical influences.

When I did my undergraduate degree so many years ago I could not afford a computer and, in my last year, bought an electronic typewriter. It was so exciting that it stored three pages of memory and allowed you to compose/edit a two or three line sentence before printing it.  I stored all my quotes in the memory, so when I typed in the final version it printed each quote in its spot. It was not a world processor, but it was kind of magic. Used thermal paper! I photocopied the essays to hand them in.

In grad school my wife and I scraped together all our credit cards and I purchased a Zenith Z-181 “laptop” (which I still own, and it still runs) with 2-720 K floppy drives, no hard disk (the 10 meg external drive was too pricey, and who needed all that storage anyway?). At only 12 pounds it was uber portable. The keyboard was one of the best I’ve typed on and the blue LCD screen very cool. I ran a brilliant academic word processing program called “Nota Bene” and it was all very good. I even liked the grinding sound the drives made as they saved the data!

In my PhD program I was awarded a SSHRCC grant and bought an amazingly fast 386 machine! It was at this point that I could have bought my first Mac. This was the era of the original Macintosh which looked very cool but did not appeal to me for several reasons. First, the screen was small and I really liked the larger monitors you got with PC computers. Second, the GUI was pretty neat, but I primarily did word processing so I did not care about the “trashbin” and all the other toys that came with it. The WYSISWYG interface was good, but not that compelling when you were mainly working with academic writing. This was the era of dot matrix printers and I didn’t like the printing that came from the Mac users at all. It was larger and kind of phony looking, compared to courier and elite fonts produced by Windows printer drivers. Third, the price was very high for this device with such a small greyscale screen (when I marked my students’ essays it was easy to spot those that were printed on a Mac–they just screamed “wealth” and “affluence”. But my marking was fair!). Finally, the biggest issue was that it would not run Nota Bene, my amazing word-processing, bibliographic database software. At the time, WordPerfect was the main word processing software and it was limited to 2 editing windows; Nota Bene gave you 9!Plus it formatted your text into whatever style format you wanted (Chicago, MLA etc.). It was based on XYWrite and I even wrote some macros in XPL for grading and other uses.

Life went on: I used Quarterdeck’s Desqview for a couple of years until Windows 3.1 finally offered a decent environment to run multiple programs. Can anyone believe it only needed 2 megs of RAM? I updated from a 1200 to 3000 baud modem. Apple almost disappeared and then MS bailed them out (!!) and the iMac started to gain momentum and then the iPod came along and the rest is history. BTW, as a side note, and in case anyone is reading this, I strongly recommend viewing the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley. It’s a great (and mostly true) story of Jobs, Gates etc. and their rise to fame and wealth.

I was pretty much wedded to the PC through my Nota Bene software, Windows 95 was pretty cool and the hardware options were much cheaper and more flexible than those provided by the Apple. I switched careers and became a “Microsoft Certified Professional” and got a great job in the tech industry. I read some good articles on Apple machines and began to think there might be something to them, but my job and fortunes were tied to Windows and I had no reason to switch.

next: the conversion…….

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