Monday, May 2, 2005

What's going on here?

I'm about to do something I thought I would never do.

For a couple of decades now, I've watched the Apple Macintosh phenomenon from the sidelines. I vaguely remember the first time I saw one, and I looked on in wonder with everyone else. It sure was neat. But I certainly couldn't afford one.

The financial barrier to entry kept me away from the Mac platform for many years. The importance of a few other barriers waxed and waned over time:
  • The technical barrier. When I reached the point where I was interested to know how computers worked, I couldn't understand why anyone would want to buy one that wouldn't let you find out.
  • The zealot barrier. Mac users love Macs, and they always have. What Mac users never seemed to understand, as far as I could see, was that the wider computing community isn't really convinced by pseudo-religious fervour alone. "Sure," I found myself thinking, "you like your computer, but do you have any hard facts to go along with the mantra 'It just works'?"
  • The user interface barrier. This is going to sound counterintuitive, but the Mac user interface (UI) was a barrier to entry for me for two reasons. Bear with me. Firstly, people that didn't use Macs got tired of hearing "It's so easy to use!" As an occasional Mac user over the years, I just didn't buy it. Sure, the UI was alright, but it was hardly mind-blowing. The desktop metaphor seemed broken to me in several significant ways. (Think of ejecting removeable media by dragging the icon into the Trash can. Inexplicable.) Secondly, the first time I saw MacOS X, I thought it was a joke. It looked like some kind of bizarre lolly shop motif, designed by a pre-schooler. To people who prefer function over form, that much eye candy just screams out "We're hiding something you're not gonna like."
  • The academic snob barrier. Once I started using Unix in a big way, the distinction between doing things the Right Way and the Wrong Way started to become painfully obvious. Without getting too Eric Raymond about it, hiding your operating system behind a GUI is the Wrong Way to do things.
Anyway, here's the punchline: I am about to buy a PowerBook G4. I'm about to lose my Mac virginity. Obviously a sufficient number of those barriers to entry have been overcome, and I am now sufficiently curious about some of the others to make the move. I won't spoil the ride by nominating which ones are which.

This blog is an attempt to chronicle the adventures of a Unix user into the world of Macintosh. It will probably be of most interest to the Mac-curious, and hopefully of some interest to Mac-lovers and Mac-haters. Comments will be left open to all unless spam becomes a problem I cannot solve.

1 comment:

  1. As the first customisation, I'd suggest moving the Dock to the left, reducing its size, and turning animations off.

    I'm also a Unix type, and would never have touched a Mac before the change to OS X. I still won't touch a Mac installed with OS 9!

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