A program is a process, not a thing. This also applies to life, the universe, and everything.

2005-02-17

Why Macintosh?

I admit it, I'm a bit of a Mac bigot. What I'd like to talk about briefly is why. I've used Macintoshes since the very early days of the 512K Mac and enjoyed the experience mostly. I've also used DOS extensively, Windows since Windows 2.0, many flavors of unix and linux, BeOS, Commodores, and the venerable TRS-80. I've left out a few, for brevity. The only one which came close to being as day-to-day usable
for me as a Mac was BeOS, and that didn't work out because a) they never achieved good Java support (which used to be quite important to me), and b) they went out of business (although their DNA lives on in PalmOS, and their influence is quite active in both Linux and OS X). So I keep coming back to the Mac. At work I use Windows because I have to. At home I use a Mac because I enjoy it.

What is so different? Over the years Windows and Linux have become more Mac-like to the point where the differences are less grating. To some it is as if the differences have been erased, but that isn't so (on many levels--the programming experience is also quite different on different platforms). The same guys who sneered at the Mac in the old days because "real men use DOS and don't need pretty fonts or mice" now sneer at the Mac because "real men use Windows and can't live with one-button mice." I'm only exaggerating a little here, I've really had conversations along those lines.

Here's the deal: Computers aren't really ready yet. They haven't been made usable for real people and are only fit for extreme geeks with a lot of time to kill. The past decade or more has seen more backsliding than progress on this front. Of course, computers are cheap now, and can be made to do useful work if you are willing to try hard enough, and they're sexy toys, so everyone buys them and uses them. Some progress to make them more useful has happened (email and the web, mainly), but what progress has been made has been mostly in off-the-clock, non-authorized ways.

One of the very few companies to at least try to make computers more usable by normal people has been Apple. They don't always succeeed, but they consistently try, and they consistently do better than the rest. By a large and growing margin.

I'm happy to see Linux becoming more usable as a desktop computer. I use Linux and I recommend it for many situations. And frankly, I don't care much for Steve Jobs as a person and feel kind of dirty giving him free advertising like this. But when I focus my time, my development efforts, and my creativity, I want to focus on the best. And right now that's OS X. It just is.

For more along this lines, see Ian Bicking's response to JWZ's highly-linked rant against "groupware".
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