It’s strange really, now that the Macintosh is part of my personal life as well as my professional, I’ve started to think of how computers affect my immediate family.
Previously, I was only professionally tied to the Macintosh from a work standpoint, and I didn’t take home the thoughts and computing bias that I clearly show at work.
I knew that some members of my family had computers, and I knew they were not Macintoshes, but it didn’t bother me. When these family members complained that their barely one year old PC was barely useable due to constant pop-ups & crashes, I just shrugged, smiled and kept my thoughts to myself by saying, “Sorry, but I use different computers at work, I haven’t a clue how to fix yours.”
But all that has now changed, and it’s changed for a specific reason.
Most of my family members bought PC’s because that’s what the staff at PC World told them to buy, they were not shown the Macintosh, they do not even know that the Mac even exists. As far as they are concerned computers mean Windows. I pity them, but I feel that it would be of little use to try and convert them to the Mac. Their view of computers is permanently tainted. As far as they are concerned, all computers act like this. When you do point out that there are other computing platforms out there, ones that are reliable, crash-free, virus, spyware & pop-up free they just look at you blankly, or if they know about the Mac, they scoff, giving all the usual FUD and misinformation.
You see, the Windows environment affects the user in 1 of 2 ways. The first lot simply accept the fact that this is the way computers act, and put up with it. They don’t wan’t to learn how to manage Windows because (quiet rightly) they’ve better things to do (such as actually using the computer). They expected their computer to be like their TV, simply switch it on and it should work. Add a printer from a different manufacturer should be as simple as adding a DVD player to a TV which is 10 years old. It’s a big disappointment to them when they realise this isn’t the case. The PC simply gets used less and less, until they replace it with a new one. They buy all the hype from Microsoft/Intel and part with their money yet again. They think (wrongly) maybe, just maybe ‘a computer’ will do all the things they say, and change their life for the better – this time. These users go back every couple of years, time and time again. The Wintel monopoly doesn’t care, because well, it’s a monopoly. A whole PC industry has built up around this simple process.
The second lot act differently. They actually try to fix their PC. For some reason it doesn’t occur to them that they were sold a faulty product. They learn about the intricasies of Windows, the registry, viruses, spyware, adware, trojan’s, patching their system etc.
Slowly they can coax their PC back to a semblence of useability. It’s during this period they learn of the Mac, usually from the PC press and their colleagues, and all the FUD gets laid down in their mind. This does tremendous good for their ego; they have triumphed over the complexity of Windows, they learn respect from their friends and they are brainwashed into believing that the Mac is a toy, and they DID make the right computer choice after all. Over time, this is what ‘using a computer’ means to them. They’ve forgot that they actually wanted to use it to create something. They become, for want of a better word, ‘a geek’.
In my family we have both of these types of users. The first type had a PC that was next to useless. It barely crawled along, it had constant pop-ups, porn sites would jump out at you every few minutes (for some reason). So what did they do with it? Instead of throwing it away, (or as they should do, take it back to PC World and demand that they replace the faulty goods with a real computer, i.e. a Mac), they sold it, YES SOLD IT, to my mother (78 years young), who has never used a one in her life and had heard about computers, email and the internet and wanted to simply ‘surf’ to find holiday information and to send emails to her grandchildren.
Of course she quickly realised that the computer was next to useless and quite unbelievably offensive as well. When receiving a phone bill for over £200, we realised that there was some dial-up malware on it that was calling premium rate lines. Of course, other members of my family (the 2nd lot, the computer experts), jumped up and offered to fix it, using spyware removers, and all sorts of tinkering under the hood, but after several attempts, the computer is now a £200 doorstop.
Does this make me angry? Does this, as a Mac user who knows full well that my mothers first contact with computers has been tainted by the second rate rubbish that Microsoft offers? You bet your life it does. All she wanted was a simple computer to send emails, write letters and surf the internet. She didn’t want to learn all about maintaining it, she expected it to work. We all know that a Mac would have been a perfect choice for her. But because she’s surrounded by macho PC users, who want to sell her a crap PC, and want her to call them up when it needs fixing so that they can show her how clever her boys are, she’ll never get near one.
The relationship between my mother and her relations, the so called computer experts, mirrors the relationship the PC vendor’s have with their customers. They sell you something they know is defective, but they know full well you’ll have to come back to them to fix it, or have to replace it in a couple of years. It’s a great business plan.
Which brings me neatly back to the change of heart I have had concerning recommending the Mac. I owe it to my mother (and people like her) to show her that computers can be fun, useful and can change your life. Had she had a Mac, she’d probably be creating her own DVD movies by now, because that’s what the Mac does for us all, it’s so easy to use, it empowers you to create, whilst at the same time get’s out of your way to allow you to create. You don’t have to worry about maintaining it – that’s not what you bought it for.
But because of the PC, my mother now thinks all computers act like Windows does, just like all the other 95% do.
I’ve started to bring her round to the Macintosh way. It’s early days and she still doesn’t quite understand the differences between the Mac & PC, but as soon as I see a second hand iMac advertised I’m buying her one for Christmas. She’ll then be able to use a computer for the reason she wanted one, to surf the internet, write letters & send emails to my kids, and she will never, NEVER have to ask anyone for help when her computer breaks down, because it won’t. This is the reason why PC users hate the Mac so much, it takes the so-called experts out of the equation completely. It destorys the reliance that the geeks want us to have on them, and it destroys the PC vendors business plan. And that can only be a good thing.