I am usually of the sort who avoids politics in polite company. I’ve even made strenuous efforts to avoid it on Facebook, which is not easy these days. I know which side I favor, and I know that I have many dear friends who have contrary views. Usually I maintain the peace (again) by not bringing up the matter at all. Occasionally people learn of my leanings, and I’m surprised how often otherwise kind people have pinged me with accusations of being a Neanderthal or have even questioned my intelligence because of my viewpoints. And meanwhile I had some friends on my side who considered the others fluffheads or cult members for how they did things. What was it that caused people not just to celebrate what they do but denigrate what others do?
I am referring, of course, to the Mac vs. PC debate.
I have been a PC user for 20 years. I didn’t start out that way. My first experience with a personal computer was with an Apple II when I was in sixth grade (go ahead, do the math). From that point until I graduated college, the computers I used in school were Apple products. Of course I had an uncle who worked for IBM, so I started buying PCs for my home use. That proved useful when I started to work for Disney, and it was PCs all around (unless you worked in the Animation division–they all had Macs). So from 1992 on, I was a PC guy. I didn’t consider myself especially passionate about the machines, and would grouse like everyone else when I got a Blue Screen of Death, but I didn’t dislike PCs, either. Macs were just more expensive, I was poor for most of my 20s and 30s, so PCs won the day.
Sometime in the 2000s, I started encountering Mac evangelists. It wasn’t good enough, they told me, for me to admire Apple products. I had to admit that they were superior. That using a PC was the mark of an uninformed, uneducated, or even (yes, I heard this) brainwashed individual. Quite frankly, the Cult of Mac started to irritate me. When I got to the point where I figured I could afford a Mac for the home, I went with the PC, partly out of convenience (Mac/PC files, even for Microsoft products, don’t always play nicely together), and partly because the people who worshiped at the altar of Mac irritated me.
(Hint: if you want people to buy your product, don’t irritate them by insulting your audience’s use of their current product. Quite frankly, some people will stick with what they have even if you have a better product just because you insulted them. You may apply this wisdom to other matters as you see fit.)
So imagine my surprise when I discovered that I was coming to work in an all-Mac operation. Zero Point Frontiers buys only Apple products because of their robustness and reliability. As my CEO puts it, “It’s just a better machine.” And most likely he’s correct. But stupid as it sounds, I spent my first two days glaring at the shiny new Power Book on my desk, arguing with its rather unique methods of moving things around the screen and its almost completely different keyboard commands. Fortunately, the QWERTY keys are still where they should be, but I’m missing things like Pg Up, Pg Down, Home, and End–keys that allow me, on my PC, to zoom across the screen like I know what I’m doing.
My biggest hangup with switching over is that I’m going to lose some keyboard velocity until I get used to the new commands. Again, my Mac-using friends are very supportive of the machine, telling me how “intuitive” it is. However, if you’ve been using the PC for 20 years, as I have, and have gotten to know its ins and outs even when new models come out, you realize that working on a new keyboard arrangement is not precisely “intuitive.” For example, the first time I saw a mouse, I had no idea what it was or how it worked. I picked it up, examined it, saw the roller ball on the bottom, and then made the connection between the ball and the cursor on the screen (it moved when I poked at it). However, did that mean I put it down on its little mat and started zooming around the screen? No. I was trying to move the cursor around by nudging the ball around with my fingers. It was a bit like Mr. Scott talking to the computer in Star Trek IV. I walked away, ashamed that I just didn’t get it. I had to wait and watch someone else use the mouse before I understood how it operated.
In any case, I’ll be taking a class or two (maybe even buying a book or two) to get acquainted with the Mac. It’s a necessity for the job, so I expect I learn it as quickly as I can. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up my PC at home. And even if I get used to it, I will certainly not make the mistake of insulting my former PC compadres. That’s just rude, you know?