Today marks a major life change—I got a new Mac laptop. I named him Ernest, and will be naming the iPod Touch that’s coming tomorrow Zippy. I’m sure we’ll get along just fine after I climb the steep learning curve and adapt to such a dramatic change. But I refuse to stop preferring the adorable, erudite, and creative John Hodgman over the cool and with it, but smug and has-yet-to-prove-his-brilliance Justin Long.
Much as I prefer Hodgman to Long, I don’t think either computer system is measurably better than the other—they’re just like English and French, with proponents of each thinking theirs is superior. The designers I work with at the Lab use Macs, and there’s a certain amount of garbling when I save an InDesign file on a PC and they open it on a Mac, so we need to be on the same system. Going back and forth is rather like writing something in English and leaving it to Babelfish to translate it to French—there will be subtleties that don’t come through. But that goes both ways, and in no way, shape, or form indicates that either language is superior.
It’s interesting that as I switch, Mac owners, like techno-evangelists, are congratulating me and telling me how much I’ll love it—how EASY Macs are, how STABLE, and how they NEVER CRASH. To hear them talk, Macs are the Mary Poppins of computers—practically perfect in every way. But then I go to the Mac threads on my beloved TableTalk where the term “crashed” appears in quite a few posts, where the posts themselves are incomprehensible, and I find out how difficult it seems to be to upgrade operating systems (and Macs have changed their operating systems a LOT during the lifetimes of Windows XP and Vista—right now they seem to be on OS 10.5.4, and there’s a huge amount of hype on the Mac website about Snow Leopard, a whole new system coming out next year), and I start seeing all the complaints about running this program or that one on a Mac platform. And I can’t help but think, “Wait just a doggone minute—why do so many Mac owners use Boot Camp or buy special software so they can run Windows on their machines while PC owners would never want, much less need, to run a Mac operating system on their computer?” And “how can you say the computer is stable when it can’t run the software you bought the computer to run? I mean, hello? One doesn’t buy a computer to run a platform—one buys it to run software.” Hmmm. Makes a girl think.
My Gateway desktop, bought in 2003 with Windows XP, has never once crashed, and is still a wonderful, reliable machine that has fully lived up to its name, “Dreammachine.” My Dell laptop, bought in 2005 with Windows XP, has just as good a track record (Her name is “Scout”). It will be instructive at this late date in my lifespan to try out this whole new thing. I’ll let you know how it goes. But I’m keeping Dreammachine and Scout nearby, even as I keep reminding myself that in real life, John Hodgman uses a Mac.