Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Hidden Virtues of Apple

A couple of months ago I wrote a Sunday Times article about Apple computers. I was celebrating their 30th birthday. Reactions to the piece - which was broadly favourable since I have just returned to Apples myself with delight - introduced me to an underworld of Apple chat on the net. As I said in the article, Apple faith is a religion. Here was yet further evidence. Anyway I just received this from Julian Lawton (blogs underJules / Jules LT), a worthwile correction to a point I made.

Bryan - just a quick comment on your article on Apple's birthday. Firstly, like your web pop one, I have to say that I liked it - it helps explain something to the general reader. Anyway, one of the comments in your Apple piece is 'Apple systems are much moreopaque than Microsoft?s, going to greater lengths to conceal the machine?s inner workings'.
I'm not sure whether you mean the hardware or the software, but if it's software then that is really no longer true.
For a long time it was - for software developers like myself, Apple Macs were systems we admired, and maybe used for DTP, but unless you were in the business of writing Apple software, you wouldn't buy a Mac. Even back in the 80s, that was true, with hobbyist programmers preferring the likes of Atari and Commodore systems. After Jobs left even that admiration declined. Those of us looking for the sort of innovation Apple were known for looked towards Sun, Next and BeOS - notably all Unix derived systems.
Like yourself, I started hearing good things about Macs. My father is an art teacher, and has never got on with PCs (a step backwards). I was aware that Apple had acquired Next, and that the new machines were based on Unix. I was also aware that Powerbooks were beginning to show up more and more amongst IT pros, and the people who owned them had good things to say.
From the point of view of a degree-educated software developer, it's a dream machine. Most of us know Unix - well enough to get nitty-gritty with the OS X Terminal from day one. Not all of us are so committed as to use Linux. (From a car maintenance point of view, I like the fact I can diagnose what it going wrong and understand what is going on inside my car - but I am not the kind of person who wants to spend my weekends rebuilding cars for the sake of it).
I can get much further 'down' in terms of taking a look at what's going on than I can with Windows - and of course each Mac comes with all the same tools that Apple's software developers have access to. This is a huge change for Apple (To program the first Macs you needed an Apple Lisa).
The news is taking some time to get round developers, but it is beginning to - I notice Mac's turn up more and more in demonstrations and technical books, and colleagues at work express an interest when I mention I have one. They are 'intrigued' rather than dismissive.

1 comment:

  1. Unless you are developer, the OS and machine should be more than opaque - it should be invisible - it just gets in the way of what you want to do.

    See Archy -http://rchi.raskincenter.org/index.php?title=Core_Principles