Why The Dirk® vs Mac Project?

Hello there. Let me take a moment to explain who I am and what this blog will be about. My nom de cyber is Dirk Belligerent. The reasons for the nickname are unimportant other than it sounds cooler than my birth name, Todd de la Soulananskiowicz.

Why am I blogging about a Mac as if it's a war? Because for some reason I have garnered a reputation as a "Apple hater" or "Mac hater." Despite my protestations otherwise, people are utterly convinced that I would never, ever own an Apple product. I'm not quite sure where this impression came from other than the frequent instances where I've gone after people on the Internet and cast aspersions upon their intelligence, mental health, marital status of their parents, capacity for independent thought, general willingness to be herded and fleeced of obscene amounts of money, and basic ignorance of the proceeding facts. And that they're poofsters.

First some background: I'm old enough to remember when personal computers were a new idea. At my high school, the Computer Sciences class had us on dumb terminals with acoustic coupler modems - younger readers, ask your grandparents about these and be a sweetheart and open their Ensure can for them - connecting to a mainframe at the other high school in town. We were learning BASIC and mostly it was code like this we were writing:

10 INPUT "What is your name: ", U$
20 PRINT "Hello "; U$
30 INPUT "How many stars do you want: ", N
40 S$ = ""
50 FOR I = 1 TO N
60 S$ = S$ + "*"
90 INPUT "Do you want more stars? ", A$
100 IF LEN(A$) = 0 THEN GOTO 90
110 A$ = LEFT$(A$, 1)
120 IF A$ = "Y" OR A$ = "y" THEN GOTO 30
130 PRINT "Goodbye "; U$
140 END

If the rotary phone lost the connection, we were to get the teacher to dial the secret phone number to the mainframe modem. Of course, we sneaky kids learned the number and would hang up the line and dial into proto-BBSes like The Twilight Phone and play ASCII art games. America Online was over a decade away.

In the corner of the lab sat a lonely Apple II computer. We used it to play games like Choplifter. A couple of years after I took the class, I passed by and look in and saw that the terminals had been replaced with a bunch of pizza box Apple IIc units. When IBM introduced the IBM PC in 1981, I remember reading the headline on the front page of the Detroit Free Press and thinking, "Why bother? Apple's already got the market cornered." (I was 14; what did I know?) Even with the revolutionary Macintosh in 1984, Apple simply didn't have a chance in the market due to some critical mistakes.

All along, Steve Jobs goal has to been to have a monopoly on the hardware and software. Bill Gates had offered to secure licensing deals for Apple with manufacturers; Apple would make the OS and computers, Microsoft would make applications for them, everyone gets rich. Because Jobs was too greedy, Apple squandered their technical advantages by pricing their wares out of the reach of the vast majority of people and as time went on, they managed to sink the company to the point that 19 of 20 personal computers sold are non-Mac OS and the attendant ecosphere of applications didn't develop; since all the programs, games, etc. were on PC, people bought PCs. (This is why the irony of Apple touting their tens of thousands of apps for the iPhone is so amusing.)

What saved Apple wasn't their computers (too pricey) or their slick Mac OSX (nothing to run on it) but the creation of the iPod when MP3s were the hot new thing and the iPhone which made smartphones slick and usable. Both were introduced at Apple's traditional OMFG price points - iPod was $500; iPhone was $600 - but as they yielded to market realities, they rapidly garnered market share and tons and tons of money. So radically had they shifted their priorities that they took the "computer" out of their corporate identity and are now known as "Apple Inc."

As Apple computers remained niche items, lauded for their technical excellence and snazzy industrial design with some exceptions (the G3's ergonomic war crime of the "hockey puck" mouse springs to mind), a curious and increasingly frightening "Cult of Mac" grew around the sheer unpopularity of the computers. Sycophantic in their loyalty to Steve Jobs and uncritical of the failings of the products to catch on with the public, they exhibited seriously contradictory pretzel logic where in one moment they boasted of the Jesus Phone's towering market share as proof that Apple was the acme of tech and then proclaim that the utter failure - what else do you call 5-10% market share? - of the computers as further proof of superiority.

When challenged on this cognitive dissonance, they usually fall back on specious reasons like, "I'm willing to pay more for a work of art," or "I'm willing to pay extra to not have viruses; something that just plain works." But that just shows that the Mac is a status symbol, not an unassailable piece of wůndertech. I have a friend you defriended me at least four times in reaction to my comments about the non-divinity of Apple products. Simply put, a lot of Mac users are crazy.

So, with the products overpriced and the users largely unhinged maniacs - to be fair, I have a couple of friends who own and use Macs without wrapping their identities up in the damn things - why the unholy heck am I buying one? For starters, the price suddenly became right. Micro Center was offering a $200 instant rebate on the 13" MacBook Pro dropping the price down to the eminently reasonable $999 price point. (Note: This means "reasonable" for an Apple product; a Dell Studio 15 laptop with twice as much RAM (4GB vs. 2GB) and hard drive capacity (320GB vs. 160GB) as well as a bigger, higher resolution screen (2" and 25% more screen pixels) can be had for the same price.) I had some mad money to spend on a nerd toy and frankly, I knew I'd have a better time slapping the Mac loonies around if I could take the "What do you know? You've never even used a Mac!" argument off the table.

Now, this could lead to charges that I'm going in predisposed to hating the Mac and intend to just bash the thing mercilessly, but there's a problem with that: I've dropped over a grand on this experiment and by the time I add on software and AppleCare (a $250 extended warranty) I'll be a few hundred more in the hole and it's not like I'm going to make money off this project. I could've kept supposedly hating Apple and Macs - even my girlfriend reacted to my plan with, "Doesn't this go against everything you stand for?" - for free and been done with it. I don't need a Mac for anything I currently do. The only program that Mac has that PC doesn't is Final Cut and I wasn't about to buy a Mac to get one program just as I wouldn't buy a Playstation 3 to play a specific game.

One last bit of info about me; I'm more technically adept at computers than most users and specifically the total newbies that Apple is targeting. I've built my own desktop - actually under-desk towers of power - for over a decade and know a lot about troubleshooting and repairing hardware and OS issues. That said, this has all been in the PC world, I will be coming to the Mac as green as the schmo who wanders in off the street and leaves with his wallet a lot lighter, his head filled with the illusion that he is somehow a better person due to his purchase.

I don't know where this journey is going to end up, but sometimes you just need to take a trip. Follow along, won't you? Feel free to comment and/or offer tips in the section below.

Thanks for reading!