Archive for July, 2011

Pretty Good Looking (for a machine)

July 4, 2011

I said it once before but it bears repeating now.

Whenever a friend or acquaintance pulled me to one side and offered a rare glance at their latest purchase (most always some up to the minute technology or vintage instrument) my response was typically polite interest. A head nod, a somewhat knowledgeable inquiry, an acknowledging smile that indicated that I too appreciated the coupling of functionality and form.

I have owned great guitars, average guitars, microphones, digital four tracks, about a half dozen PCs, laptops, cell phones, amplifiers, and a host of other technological staples. I genuinely appreciated the results of the better examples, and was frustrated by and subsequently derided the less than adequate cheapies by which I muddled. But there is an adore felt by some device owners that strikes me as roughly akin to that experienced by the cat and dog keeping sect. A love not as powerful as that felt for a close relative or friend, but definitely more acute than the feelings for strangers. Yes you do love your new Les Paul more than Jack the Hobo…

Eye twinkling at the thought or mention or unveiling of new toys invariably failed to manifest in me. Again, I did appreciate them, but I did not adore them. This all changed when the good people of Fed Ex delivered to my door (and in excellent time) my Ipod Touch (as I wrote here). The perfect marriage of intuition and grace and function and reliability and beauty resulted in polyamorous wonder on my part. And now, with a highly anticipated delivery of a new iMac, I can barely muster the resources necessary to maintain my concentration.

I have used Macs in the past, and while I was reasonably impressed with them, and thought the BETA-VHS and MAC-PC analogy apposite and convincing, the negatives (price, availability of software, and the obnoxious manner Mac people gloated about their machines) added up to tried and true (if not trusty) PC purchasing. Simply put: what is a computer for if not to run software? And secondly: am I getting twice the computer for twice the price? The answer to the second I thought an echoing no.

World’s greatest living person, Stephen Fry, was an early adopter of Macintosh computers, and a current aficionado of Ipads and Iphones and all the other branches of the  great Apple tree. Stephen points out that the word environment, when referring to what fills your vision when interacting with your computer and the relative ease or difficulty one can complete tasks, is a particularly appropriate word. Much like how we are not indifferent to what constitutes the façade of our cities, and bemoan mere functionality when beauty is neglected, so should we with a device that we stare at and interact with for great lengths.

What has changed? Why now? Macs were lovely, but now they are simply gorgeous. Yes, one is likely paying at least a 50% premium compared to an equivalently powerful windows system, the mythical reliability of Macs is almost certainly just that, and the propriety nature of the technology bounds you to Apple in a way that the modular PC does not, but you do get to take the Harvest Queen to the prom, and you are the quarterback.

Robin Lindsay



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