Things Macintosh

The 10 Commandments of the Church of Macintosh

I. Speak No Ill of the Mac

Rodney O. Lain - 2001.02.12

Red Skull: "I'm God"
Captain America: "Then I'm Nietzsche."
From Earth X graphic novel (issues 1-12),
Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, and John Paul Leon

Commandment #1: I am the Mac, thy Computer. Thou shalt have no other Computers before me, nor shalt thou speak ill of Apple, the company that maketh me.

When a new Mac user discovers this collection of web sites, discussion groups, and mailing lists known as the "Mac Web," he is probably overwhelmed, since there is ostensibly a Mac Web site for nearly any aspect of Mac usage that you can imagine.

There is another aspect of the Mac cyberworld, however, that is also quickly encountered: the fact that many of us display an almost religious fervor about Macintosh computer, as well as all other things Macintosh.

As with any religion, there is a concomitant collection of religious accouterments, for better or worse:

  • Like the Muslim world, the Macintosh religion has its Mecca - situated at 1 Infinite Loop, in Cupertino CA.
  • Like the Jewish world, we have our laws defining what is considered kosher or not; many Mac users avoid PC-related hardware and software with the same levels of fear and loathing that an orthodox Jew would eschew smoked ham at a bar mitzvah.
  • And like the Judeo-Christian's traditional laws of described, prescribed, and proscribed behavior, we Mac users have our version of the 10 Commandments - albeit unwritten - which must be scrupulously adhered to, at risk of being branded a heretic. Deviate even slightly, even unknowingly, from any commandment, and you will be shunned and excoriated quicker than Jimmy Swaggert can scream at his parishioners, "I have sinned" (even quicker than he can whisper to a prostitute, "come here and let me lay down the Law").

Many believe that if you stray outside the black-and-white rules laid down by the early Church of Macintosh, then your feet shall slide, in due time, towards the Dantesque circles of hell. Heck, you may even buy a Wintel PC.

Lately, one particular commandment has surfaced repeatedly, wielded as a figurative bludgeon over the heads of the Mac faithful if and when they should stray from established dogma:

Thou shalt not criticize Apple Computer.

To break this first commandment is a great offense in the eyes of the Amen Corner, not to mention the eyes of Apple's PR department.

There is something gross about groupthink among parishioners/consumers concerning their favorite product/religion, and there is something equally gross about groupthink that perpetuates the belief that a corporation/priesthood can do no wrong.

Let's not criticize the priests, heaven forbid! Else, God will smite thee!

I've often tested rabid Mac users by raising a complaint about Apple or about the Mac to see how they handle the criticism. There are those of us who feel Apple can do no wrong. I've been argued down by Mac users, and this helps me to better understand the frustration PC users have with our ardent belief in the Mac religion.

A disclaimer: I believe that Apple is uniquely positioned to bring to market the next evolution of the personal computer (that's a future column). Including the less-than-stellar-selling G4 Cube, I believe the company has hit home run after home run with each product introduced since the original iMac.

Nevertheless, I believe that the law of averages is bearing down on Apple's winning streak, not even counting the latest downturn in computer purchasing. Maybe that's why Mac users are prone to offer their two cents towards solving Apple's problems o' the day. If I may mix metaphors here, I believe that Mac users intuitively know that no company can nimbly steer the ship across the troubled waters, while staying alert for every iceberg lurking ahead in the fog.

For example, OS X presents a crossroads for Mac users everywhere. It's not a stretch to state that pre- and post-OS X comparisons will be far more significant than before-and-after pictures painted of the 68k-to-PowerPC switch of 1994. This is one reason why the latest criticism (good and bad) being leveled towards Apple should not be taken lightly. Yet we bash those who have criticized Apple of late.

(I am as guilty as anyone for putting down those who have criticized Apple for the upcoming revision of the venerable Mac OS - my criticism isn't that OS X is radical, but that it isn't radical enough. But that is a story for next time.)

From reading and listening to what Mac users are saying and writing, I am learning things I never considered. Many of the critics have valid criticism! Yes, there are many things that should probably be taken from OS 9 and ported to OS X (I leave it to you to discuss those features). Regardless, I am no programmer, so I have no idea what design considerations are being weighed, what trade-offs dictate features included in or omitted from the OS X final feature set. I have no idea what thoughts lay behind the OS foundations being set forth.

Yet that is no reason to discount and discredit what we Mac users are saying - even the bad stuff. Yes, Apple is ultimately responsible for charting its own course. But there is some validity to the criticism. Yes, a corporation is not a democracy, but our collective purchasing dollars represent some powerful votes in such a "democracy," n'est-ce pas? There is no government without the governed.

I'm excited about Apple's future. No other computer maker is even close to putting flesh to such an ambitious vision inferred from Apple's recent direction. But no company is omniscient. I believe that Mac users' criticism - or feedback, whatever you call it - will be partly responsible for Apple's success.

The story of the personal computer has just started, contrary to the industry's wags. For example, it will take drastic paradigm shifts in the PC industry to make a truly easy-to-use computer (don't speak too soon when you say the Mac is that easy-to-use computer, until you've had to teach newbies).

This is one reason why I believe that we should, from this point forward, break this "first commandment" and continue to level criticism towards Apple. In a way, this will help Apple to grow and help us prepare to be more receptive to computers as they evolve beyond the current GUI (OS X included).

Next time, I want to look at another a commandment that is a pitfall of the Mac religion.

Rodney O. Lain (1968-2002) called himself a fashion victim: He liked wearing socks with his sandals. When he wasn't dispensing fashion advice, Rodney wrote for Low End Mac, The Mac Observer, Applelinks, and many other websites. Rodney lived in Minnesota. His own website was iBrotha.com, and we have collected as much of his writing that has since disappeared from the Web as possible in The Rodney O. Lain Archive.

The most widely read Things Macintosh columns:

  1. Apple is a company, 10/4/1999
  2. The main difference between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, 1/17/2000
  3. The $600 iMac, 12/24/1999
  4. Apple will rule the computer world, 11/17/1999
  5. I'm not paying $20 for my OS X upgrade, 2001.07.25.
  6. A Mac is like Prozac, 10/13/1999
  7. I'm a drop the funk bomb on ya: Milking the Macintosh for all it's worth, 2001.03.20.
  8. More links and links to memorial articles in the Things Macintosh index.

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