Apple wants me to be a Pod Person. Seriously. According to them, I’m the frumpy, square, humorless, uncreative, stuck in biz-mode PC guy in the ads. I’m the one not wearing the coveted white earbuds with a microscopic music player clipped to my collar. And I’m not part of the crowd breathlessly waiting for the iPhone. And while I’ll ooh, and aah like any True Geekâ„¢ over an iPhone or any other juicy gadget that comes into range, I won’t buy one.
Why? Price and tinker-ability.
It was price, really, that put me on the PC side of the Apple/PC divide. My friends had Apple IIs and Mac Classics. I had hand-me-down Commodores and cranky 8086-series PCs. When the fateful day came when I could buy a new computer of my own, it was a no-brainer- the PC was cheaper. I wanted the lovely Mac LC, but it was $1000 more than the Packard Bell 486 next to it. I came home with the PC, and my fate was sealed. The price difference made the decision- and future decisions about the Power Mac, the Power Book, iMac, iPod, and now iPhone very easy. Hip people apparently get money for being hip. The rest of us poor slobs have to parcel it out with an eyedropper.
And there was the other thing that influenced my fateful decision: what I call the “Tinker Element”. Lots of PC geeks have a love of tinkering- tweaking, over-clocking, messing around, etc. Mac users do not. They want their machine to be a transparent, plug-n-go, no-brainer (and certainly no manual!) experience. They want to create stuff with it, not mess with the innards of the box. (Or the outside, either. Well, maybe there are rare exceptions…) It’s a definite cultural difference that is palpable. There really isn’t anything wrong with this, but the Mac people have a tendency to look upon PC people as the computer equivalent of car mechanics or nerdy stuffed shirts. OTOH, PC people can sometimes get a little snarky about the Apple-using ‘pony-tailers’ in their turtlenecks or too-casual workplaces with dogs as mascots- after all, PCs populate places that don’t let people wear flip-flops and play hall ball.
But the bottom line was that the PC invited tinkering- and the Mac was a sealed, untouchable, lollypop colored (iMac) work of art. Nobody I knew ever cracked their Mac open to mess around inside- they cracked it open to show off to the PC people how easy it was to get inside the darn thing. Fortunately, the PC makers got the hint, and the Era of Bloody Knuckles and Foul Language was mercifully short.
Apple touts itself as simple, plug-n-play and intuitive. Hey, I like intuitive- and the idea of tilting the device and it knowing which way is ‘up’ is a cool one. And simple, clean, un-mess-with-able interfaces are nice too- for about five minutes. Then un-hip people like me want to open the case or fiddle with the kernel. It’s a geek thing.
“Marketplace” made an observation about the sort of people who use the stuff Apple cranks out- they’re “orderly, sleek, graceful creatures who always know which way is up.” And they add, “Who’s not eager to buy that?”
Not me- I’d look strange with a Nano clipped to my belt and white earplugs in my ears. I have enough trouble with the hands-free headset I use for my phone when I drive. The pushing of the hip, young image and the proliferation of iPod accessories to the exception of everything else makes me think that I am living in some sort of electronic Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I am almost expecting some hip young iPodling to catch me with my teensy little Creative Zen V Plus hanging around my middle-aged neck and start screeching at me. Or frantically dialing their iPhone to get the Square Police to remove me from sight.
I’m not sleek and hip. I’m not beautifully organized, either. My work-desk looks like a computer store and a library exploded all over it. The glowing screens in the middle aren’t Macs, they’re boring old, much tinkered with and cussed-at PCs. If there are any lollipop colors, they’re the result of the fringe of post-it notes I’ve put around the screens.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I’d picked the Mac over the PC? Would I be richer today? Would I have a better job- or a job at all? You see, all that un-hip tinkering and messing about became what I do for a living. I got good enough at it that I became an expert, and now someone pays me to mess with them. I’ll admit to having a bit of envy at seeing the Xeon powered Mac Workstation and the 30-inch cinema display boxes in the hall of a fellow agency, but they’ll eventually invite me in to admire their new gear. Then we’ll exchange PC war stories.