Pretty Good Looking (for a machine)

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

rockrobinoff[at]gmail.com

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11 Responses to “Pretty Good Looking (for a machine)”

  1. Ben Says:

    Actually, Mac are so propitiatory as they once were. If you know some Linux/FreeBSD commands, there is a hell of a lot you can do with them in terms of scripting, getting things to run etc, which is one of the reason why mac osx was such a great thing … don’t get me wrong, you are staying paying over the odds, but they are nice machines! (I’ve got a MacBook Pro) ….

  2. Ben Says:

    I mean “aren’t so proprietary”….

  3. sarah Says:

    bah.
    people are paying for status and surface. it’s a cheap ploy that has served jobs and his ilk well.
    if it was only a matter of beauty i might be only derisive, but it’s that everyone wants the validation of the same aesthetic prop in their “unique clean modern live/work urban environments”. i think of macs much like high heels, there is a sacrifice that is being made for the sake of vanity by the wearer, which tends to denote a certain kind of herd mentality.
    but i have that same failing myself, just in different affects.

    • rockrobinoff Says:

      i dunno. i got a touch, and it was the first piece of technology i genuinely loved. nothing status related or lifestyle acoutrement related whatsoever. simply a joy to use.

      why assume such small minded and cynical mindsets on the part of the Mac herd? sure, there are all kinds of trappings with status, by why assume this is the default reason for a Mac purchase?

  4. sarah Says:

    i assume it because there is no inherent technological advantage, it’s more expensive than comparitive gizmos, provides no ethical or ecological benifit and the users have to pay for software more built in the interests of the company than the interests of the users! it binds users to cumbersome platforms such as itunes and people submit to this willingly and happily. how else can it be interpreted? i started out with an ipod touch which i thin upgraded to an ipod touch with camera. there was no fault in it but i recently bought the new google phone and it is as good and half the price.

    • rockrobinoff Says:

      “i assume it because there is no inherent technological advantage”

      that isn’t true if you edit video, which is simply faster for both real time editing and rendering. be that as it may, i doubt most mac purchases are for amateur video enthusiasts (like me) so i wouldn’t offer up the video thing as a counter to your point. that said, the design and ease of use of the operating system just might be far superior, though i will have to get back to you on that.

      some software is built in the interests of the company, but at least in the case of software (unlike the hardware) there are many third party options. adobe makes a ton, for instance.

      so, while i accept that it is quite possible that many people are throwing away good money for something that could be achieved at half the price, i think you must concede there are at least some good reasons to purchase a mac. hell, mac never went for market share, so this vast herd of macalites doesn’t really exist anyway. and that goes for iphones too; there was a piece just yesterday in slate about how for every 1 iphone activated in the world, 4 android phones are activated.

      • sarah Says:

        i’m only asking this out of sheer ignorance, but what’s the problem with having a publicly traded company(if that’s what market share even means)?

  5. rockrobinoff Says:

    market share doesnt refer to publicly traded. it refers to how much a share of the market a company has for its product when compared to similar products. Mac went (and goes for) small market share and big profits (i.e. fewer sales but more expensive ones)

    • sarah Says:

      and that’s an indication of integrity why? (again, not being a dick, just pumping you for information i should probably just google)

      • rockrobinoff Says:

        wasn’t offering it as evidence of integrity, but of evidence that

        “hell, mac never went for market share, so this vast herd of macalites doesn’t really exist anyway.”

        Macs *are* different. different enough to justify the price margin is for you to decide i guess. i am not wholly convinced yet either, but in a day or so, i am going to find out.

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