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On Computer Machines

  Let me tell you a story.

  Hey! Get back here!

  Alright, my senior year of high school, I signed up to be an assistant for the AV Department. Why? Because I was that cool. It was a lot of fun – I got to hang out with one of my friends for an hour, set up televisions and DVD players, and just in general have the run of the school. But a lot of our time was spent just kind of sitting around doing nothing in particular. Well, I did nothing in particular.

  You see, my friend liked making movies, so he would work on editing his footage in our off hours. It was a good place to do it, too – the computer in the department was a huge bastard, from the era of Apple products where consumers had the choice between the colorful iMac and a towering monolith of dread silver.

  Now I don’t know who started it, but as these things are wont to happen, the two of us started bickering about the PC vs. Mac thing. It was playful – he had his preference, I had mine – but the part that always sticks out to me is him turning to me in defiance after I commented that I liked being able to play games on my computer without waiting the requisite six-and-a-half lifetimes for them to be released.

  “Yes,” he said, ready to play his trump card. “But Macs never crash.”

  And then, as if on cue, the obelisk behind him crashed, apparently just as fed up about the PC vs. Mac debate as anyone with eardrums is.

  “Well, that sucks,” I offered in my truly winning ability to understate minor tragedy. I did after laughing, anyway. “But maybe it auto-saved. Let’s just turn it back...” I looked at the front of the silver goliath. “Where’s the power button?”

  “I... uh...” He coughed.

  “Oh, good lord,” I snickered. “Is there only one button? On the back?

  Cue watching my friend crawling on his hands and knees beneath a table, through a nest of cables, to physically restart the computer. Luckily, the project had a backup file, so there was no long-term damage wrought by technology-based hubris.

  Hilarious as it may be, this is not why I refuse to buy Apple products.

  Flash forward a few years, and I’m working at UW Milwaukee’s Mac labs. Loaded with the shiniest computers (with power buttons on the front) and the forefront of Adobe media software, I was happily editing away. You see, because I’m not a colossal moron, I can work with both PC and Mac computers. As such, transitioning between them for this scholastic exercise was hardly an issue warranting discussion. This class is just one of the many reasons why I have such indomitable Photoshop skills.

Fear my power.
Fear my power.

  It didn’t take long before the usual sniping came up from my other classmates. One angsty dweeb would start talking about how much easier it is to work with graphics, then another loser would get all bent out of shape because their preferred data-entry tool was maligned, and they would just end up trading the same barbs that are always traded on forums and message boards about this shit.

  And the biggest and silliest part of the whole argument was that I was walking proof that the whole thing was just spittle in the wind. After editing in Photoshop at school, I would go home and mess around with my copy of Photoshop Elements, the stripped-down version. There was no sudden reduction in quality, my four-year-old PC didn’t burst into flames at the influx of some mythically perfect OS. No, I just got extra work done.

  At home. Away from (most) nitwits.

  See, Adobe products are available – with all their functionality – on both operating systems. You can do everything on one that you can do on the other. And if not, you can probably patch it in. There is nothing inherently special about one system or the other in their capacity to do anything involving graphics, and yet you will hear this argument trotted out in almost every single dick-waving contest about the things.

  Now, as then, the only thing that runs through my mind when I hear grown children scream this is, A poor craftsman blames his tools. It’s the manifestation of being limited in an area and firmly believing that you could be great if only you had the right tools. I am a terrible artist – you know it, I know it, there are colonies of sentient squid people in the deepest recesses of the Pacific that know it.

Carrot Top knows it.
Carrot Top knows it.

But it’s not Adobe or Bill Gates’s fault that I suck at art, and owning an Apple product isn’t going to change it.

  It always bothers me when people have this kind of weird allegiance to corporations that clearly give no fucks about the individuals who buy their products. And I’m not saying that the individuals running the companies or working there are soulless monsters, I’m saying that the corporate entity itself is a horrible husk that seeks to devour all money. They don’t need defending, but people still do it. Maybe they think they will get a puppy out of it, I don’t know.

  Perplexing as this is, it is not the reason why I refuse to buy Apple products.

  Flash forward a few more years. In a stretch of one week, I have encountered no less than three people (one of whom was a direct supervisor) who proudly proclaimed to me that they only worked with Macs. Which wouldn’t have been an issue except for the fact that it fell to me to be their trainer. I would try – very patiently – to show them how to use the very same fucking mouse that they used with their computers to navigate the same fucking websites and use the same fucking alphabet when typing the same fucking grades.

  As mentioned above, I am not colossal moron. Which is why it is infuriating when Mac or PC users pull this shit. I fail to understand how anyone could spend more than five minutes with either intuitive interface and not know what the hell is going on. And I’m sure that PC-only dimwits pull this, too, but I’ve only ever encountered it with Mac loyalists.

  This entire situation leads me to two conclusions. First, loyalty to a brand has literal intelligence ramifications, but not in the way people think. Rather, people lose IQ points the more dogmatic they are about a product that ultimately is no different than others. Second, people wear massive dickhead blinders when it comes to their personal choice in computers.

  Infuriating as this artificial helplessness is, it is not why I refuse to buy Apple products.

  No, the reason I refuse to be i-anything is because the company has spent millions of dollars making damn sure I know that they think I’m stupid.

  Do you remember those godawful “I’m a Mac” commercials? Of course you do – where Justin Long plays an obviously pretentious but we’re-supposed-to-find-him-endearing Mac and John Hodgman as the hilariously out-of-touch, useless, and unattractive PC (which is really not fair, because the guy is pretty good-looking when an entire makeup department isn’t making him look like a dorky middle-manager). They stand in a sterile white room, stripped of humanity, and the PC makes an idiot of himself while the Mac plays the cool aloof douchebag. Oh, will that bumbling moron ever learn that he is inferior to the obvious übermensch that is Mac?

  See, the thing is, I’m okay with advertisements selling me discontent. It’s their whole MO. Advertisements have long been dedicated to making life seem devoid of meaning unless you buy this one product which will change your world. I get that. An advertisement wouldn’t work if the message was essentially “You are doing just fine without us, but maybe you should consider buying our product so you have a little bit more stuff.” Even entertainment strives to give our lives have meaning through the magic of manipulated emotions.

  But I have a special hatred in my cold, black heart for smug advertisements that insult their viewers. And just like I won’t buy a deodorant that uses casual misogyny to move product, I won’t buy a computer from a company that calls me and most of the people I like morons.

  And you can say I’m being thin-skinned about this, but I’m really not. This isn’t the kind of personal insult that I would expect from people who know me personally; it’s the kind of horrible accusation that political pundits use. And calling me mentally deficient is a terrible way to make me see your point as valid. But there’s another layer, too. A company so wealthy there is a website dedicated to things it’s worth more than is really the kind of monolithic entity that doesn’t automatically warrant my undying devotion. And the temerity to suggest that I am an idiot does nothing to endear me to them and their mountain of cash.

  So, no, I will not buy an iPhone, iPod, iBrator, or anything of the like. I don’t expect an apology, because that would be silly. My feelings aren’t hurt, so they’ll need to either try harder or continue not caring. No, they drew the line in the sand and now my money is permanently out of their reach. Nyah, nyah, nyah.

  Also, there’s that whole nasty human rights issue, which really puts the whole ‘We’re totally the good guys!’ thing into question.

Purchase Project Northwoods at Amazon.com.   Purchase Washed Hands at Amazon.com   Purchase Improbables at Amazon.com.

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