Gizmodo Agrees: Apple Fans Are Status-Seeking Beta Monkeys

Thus, its entry today lamenting the fact that with the latest iteration of the Apple product line there is no longer any meaningful technological or design distinction between the expensive, top-level Apple products the hipsters flash about in coffee shops and subways to signal their reproductive fitness, and the plebian-level Apple products common trolls use to sign into MySpace and/or listen to their Nickelback MP3s:

A leveling of class distinctions in Apple products is going to sting people who valued the affectation of elitism that came with using Apple’s top-of-the-line products. Even subtle differences—like the premium paid for the matte black MacBook over the otherwise identical shiny white one, were signals, beamed out to the others in the coffee shop, declaring who was “da boss.” You know, the guys who wore the white earbuds with pride five years ago…

Maybe Apple is trying to create good design that works for anyone and everyone. I can respect that. Still, the question remains: Does this make rich people look like poor people, or poor people look like rich people? The privileged must know.

Gizmodo is getting its snark on, obviously, but it also hit the nail on the head as to why I, at least, have a mild allergic reaction to the Cult of Apple. It’s not that Mac laptops and iPhones aren’t nice pieces of equipment; they surely are. It’s just that they’re also the tiny coke spoons of the early 21st century — a bit of déclassé ostentation flashed by people who think they’re signaling one thing when they’re in fact signaling something else entirely, and that thing is: I may be an asshole.

To be sure, the guy with an Android phone and a Toshiba laptop may be no less of an asshole. But you’re not necessarily going to assume that from his technology alone. This is why I’m always vaguely annoyed when someone smugs at me that I should get a Mac for my next computer: part of my brain goes, yeah, it’s a nice machine, but then I’ll be indistinguishable from all those Williamsburg dicks. Next will be a canvas manbag and chunky square glasses, followed shortly by leaping in front of the G train. Thank you, no.

Yes, yes: Not everyone hoisting a MacBook Pro or soon to be flashing an iPhone 3GS is a vacuous hipster status monkey. But then, not everyone who drove a Trans Am in 1982 was a beefy, mullet-wearing Rush fan, either. Yet when you picture a 1980s Trans Am owner in your mind, is he not today’s Tom Sawyer? Does he not get high on you? Well, see.

By John Scalzi

I enjoy pie.

316 replies on “Gizmodo Agrees: Apple Fans Are Status-Seeking Beta Monkeys”

Hey, some of us silver laptop carriers are Park Slope dicks, thank you very much. Just for that, I think I’ll grow my goatee back.

And the G never runs. It is a fake train. Fake, I say!

The analogy isn’t quite right. To make it right, you’d have to assume that the Trans Am, while more expensive, was a lot easier to maintain than its competitors.

Don’t get me wrong…there is certainly a “cult of Apple”. But in nearly all meaningful respects, Apple products are easier to use for both novice and experienced users.

I say this as an employee of a large electronics company that directly competes with Apple in a number of areas, including cell phones. Hell, I spent a year on an ultimately doomed project to create an “iTunes killer” and am currently working on a product meant to directly compete with an Apple offering.

Honestly, you should get a Mac for your next computer. Everyone I know who did never looked back at Windows. My own first OSX experience was buying my wife an iBook. It cut down the time I spent on spousal tech support by half while her computer use went up an order of magnitude.

(Me, I’m too cheap to spend $400 on a cell phone… I use the Google dev phone I got for free at work. It’s not bad…but sadly the iPhone is better.)

From the instant I first saw the “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” commercials, I was amazed how vehemently Apple was saying that I was not their customer. I mean, are there really people who would rather hang out with Justin Long than with John Hodgman? (Who, I understand, actually uses a Mac, but I’m ignoring that fact.)

I don’t know. I had a Mac Mini for a while, and used to flip back and forth between it and my PC. I used the Mini exclusively for months, then there was a period of switching, and ultimately I ended up just using my PC. The Mini is still collecting dust. So I don’t agree that once you try a Mac you’ll never go back. Both systems allowed me to do what I wanted to do and were enjoyable to use. I dunno.

You could always just try a Mac.

It won’t hurt, and the reality of using a Mac is likely to be different than your advance perception.

Thankfully, as a fiction writer, your “brushes” aren’t as broad as in the above article.

Before my wife got a Mac laptop, I thought all those Mac people were elitist cultist bastards. Now, two years later I wear a goatee and just pre-purchased not one, but two iphone 3gS models. In the sexy/back black finish.

After reading this post, I’ve realized just how far down the slippery slope I’ve fallen. I’m going to turn out the lights, get out the handle bottle of jack and sob myself to sleep.

You’re not entirely wrong, but you’re going to get some backlash on this because you _seem_ entirely wrong from certain perspectives (while seeming entirely right from others.)

I think the truth of it is that Apple products appeal to multiple sets of users that have almost entirely no overlap. The ‘hipster’ trendsetter faction is one of them. Another is hardcore geeks, the kind who otherwise would install Ubuntu. I’ve noticed the Open Source crowd _really_ likes Apple laptops. It’s a great desktop environment, with a terminal right there, a Unix heart, and some nice polish that Linux lacks. And this crowd is split between the willfully ignorant (noticing that a lot of their very geeky friends have Macs and not knowing any hipsters to compare them to, so concluding that the argument is without merit) to the perpetually annoyed at being lumped in with the /other/ Mac crowd.

I think the reality is, for most people, it really _doesn’t matter_. For web, email, word processing – any of Mac, Linux, or Windows will do just fine. Macs are even fine for games for most people (who want to play the Sims, Warcraft, and have a few choices from the other genres. Not Actual Gamers, they have good reason to be on Windows.) And even the price isn’t that different if you compare apples to apples (er, no pun intended) and not Apples to cut-rate hardware that doesn’t have similar specs. So, for 99% of the population, status is all that’s apparently different, and either you care or you don’t.

Which really annoys the 1% for whom it does matter, and the argument is on a set of merits that’s entirely irrelevant to everyone else. Professional software engineers, system administrators, serious gamers, digital musicians, graphic designers – this kind of crowd, yeah, they all have needs that are not typical.

There is a “non-Apple tax.” It is paid in time, frustration, and lowered expectations.

I am 99th-percentile-proficient with Microsoft products, but
I decided I valued my time more than anything else, and gradually removed Windows from my life. It’s not perfect, but it’s much better.

Personally: I’ve always been fond of “the right tool for the job”. So I have a Windows machine downstairs for gaming and heavy-duty processing work. (If I need an overpowered machine for gaming, it’ll get used for anything else I need an overpowered machine for.) And a Linux box whose job is storing and transferring bulk data.

And I’m typing this on a Mac laptop, because (for me) it does the best job of being a primary Internet interface.

I don’t do this out of a desire to spend more money, or appear to have spent more money. I’m an overweight geek in may late 30s – I gave up on looking trendy years and years ago. I do this because it’s what works for me.

I don’t try to sell it to others – my wife got a Mac because it makes my life easier. The kids still use a Windows machine, because they need gaming capabilities.

Use the tool you need to use to do the job you’re trying to do. And ignore anyone who tries to tell you that any one tool is right for everything.

But, what if you and Gizmodo are wrong and the Mac and iPhone really are superior to all else, the users being tasteful and discerning connoisseurs? That makes the whole rant sound suspiciously like sour grapes.

Dude. If I went by advertising, I wouldn’t own a computer now.

No, I got the iBook way back when because my office was a Windows shop, and I needed something on which a writing assignment could be done right then, and the whole set-up thing in Windows would have taken too long. (Previous office had Mac SEs.) My iBooks have been remarkably glitch-free (yes, I know some people have trouble, and I’m sorry) and comparatively steady. Although the hard drive does fill up.

I understand my mother’s accountant was impressed when she hauled out her MacBook, but that wasn’t style points.

Has Williamsburg turned into the trendoid capital of the world? Because it was still in Brooklyn when I last checked. And as Bob Weir might say, only the Dead know the last exit to Brooklyn.

I’m with DonBoy on the Mac-vs-PC ads. I love John Hodgman, while my only exposure to Justin Long (that I’m aware of) is from those ads and I think I’d cross the street to avoid him – his character seems like a distillation of all the supercilious hipster poseurs Scalzi is complaining about.

I’m also a cheapskate and sort of an anti-Mac person from inverse snobbery, dating in particular to the 90’s when the Macs were just ludicrously overpriced and underperforming. But Apple has improved and I’ve mostly gotten over my animus – I might even buy one one day if Apple would learn that real mice have two buttons (yes, you can now usually get support for a two-button mouse, but it remains a striking example of art-design-over-practicality) and that real software has keyboard access to the menus.

John: If you wrote whole books on them, why would you presume that everyone who buys them are pseudo-hipsters…

Wait. Is that the Scalvi talking, again?

My favoritest Mac moment ever:

Several years ago, got my wife a first gen iMac when they were the new hot thing, after years of older macs. Came with OS X. She was having problems installing one of the software packages in the first night she had it. About 10pm, I heard a yell from her office. “Aha! I have root, you bastard! rm -rf …”

I knew there was a reason I married her.

My high-school history teacher drove an early-’80’s Camaro — but it was a special-ordered 4-cylinder (!) one, because when he road-tested a V8 one from the dealership, he floored it on a highway on-ramp and scared himself when he looked at the speedometer.

Don has it right on. Justin Long–or at least his Mac persona–is an obnoxious douchenozzle with whom I would never wish to socialize.

My second computer–and the one with which I first went online–was a Centris 650, so I do have some lingering love.

But the thing cost a FORTUNE, just as Macs do now. And ultimately, it became obvious to me that there was no real reason for me to choose Macs. Once Win 95 came out, I never went back, because I never needed to. The only exception was two years working in a Mac lab on one of my college’s publications. And it didn’t impress me then, either.

Yes, there are more things that can go wrong with a Windows machine, but that’s because there’s more you can do with it besides web browsing and drawing pretty pictures. Of course one’s going to have fewer problems with a cute little subcompact with a lawnmower engine, but it’s not something you really want to take on a cross-country road trip, y’know?

And really, I’ve definitely had my share of the spinny rainbow of doom, and I’m smart enough to know how to bring up Task Manager when something crashes on my Win boxes, so… yeah.

Plenty of experience with both, and I’m perfectly happy with my Windows machines. Yes, even with Vista (though I’m looking forward to 7.)

Also, don’t get me started on the protection racket that is the iPod/iTunes. They may have made the RIAA happy with OGG, but one of these days, people are going to realize that all the music they bought isn’t really theirs if they want to transfer it to something else.

Personally, my “always get a Mac” moment was when I upgraded my wife’s computer and I was able to transfer absolutely everything to the new machine just by hitting one bootup keypress, doing a couple clicks, and waiting a couple hours. That’s to make the new computer act absolutely identically to the old one. Same apps. Same settings. Same everything except new hardware.

Every time I upgrade my work Windows laptop (which I am sadly forced to use for exchange, Visual Studio, and certain other programming tools) it takes a week of downloading and tweaking just to get the damn thing to where the old one was.

Warren @21: How do you feel about the Apple mice like a friend was showing me, which still have only one button (which is actually the whole case), but have some sort of way of sensing whether you’re pressing the right or left side of it and translate that into a left or right click?

Aside from the fact that Jef Raskin would be spinning in his grave at the very idea, I mean. And not just because he was responsible for the one-button mouse.

My beloved ex tends to be fond of amusing people by demonstrating just how much one can get done on a Mac with keyboard only, just because that’s how she habitually worked; I think she said that one time it took well over a minute after startup before she realized her mouse was unplugged. (I am not entirely sure whether this was OS X or a previous MacOS, though.)

@Brooks Moses:

Yeah, the 2.5L Iron Duke was not the high point of GM engine technology.

As far as the Mac/PC conversation is concerned, I own and use a MacBook, but make no value judgments about what others use, as I am not them. To each their own.

To further the car analogy:

Macs to me are like new Beetles with the hood locked down, and only Official VW Techs are allowed to open it. Sure, they look cute, and they’ll get you from place to place in style, but if you ever want to do more with it than that, you’re at the mercy of someone else. Want to upgrade it? Forget it. You’re not smart enough for that. And you get to pay extra for the privilege of showing off that you’re too stupid to even check your own oil.

(Unix, meanwhile, belongs in the hands of hardcore gearheads who build their souped-up engines from scratch and then drop them into the rusted-out hulk of a 1977 Dodge Aspen.)

@22, George William Herbert,
“why would you presume that everyone who buys them are pseudo-hipsters…”

I don’t think John made that assumption.

It’s like the 1st-grade math lesson, all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares.

Almost all hipster douchebags are total apple fanboys, but not all apple owners are hipster douchebags.

… it’s just enough of them that Apple feels it’s a lucrative business model to have their “I’m a Mac” guy be a hipster douchebag.

… and enough of them to give the Apple store a vibe that makes me look around for the granola and the rack of vintage t-shirts.

The first time I was presented with one of the Mac store’s backpack-shaped shopping bags I decided there were two kinds of people in the world: people who think it’s cool to wear your shopping like a backpack, and people like me.

@ #26
I haven’t seen the newest Mac mice. I’m in a workplace where I mostly use my personal PC notebook but sometimes use the workplace’s Macs for software I don’t care to purchase, but all of the Macs have had their mice replaced with cheap two-button mice.

At this point, if Mac has indeed switched to a two-button format (even if it’s accomplished through weird gizmos as you say), that’s a good thing, although there will be a big legacy software problem – the right mouse button has become incredibly useful because of conventions regarding its use (that it accesses the properties of the item clicked on, for example), but it seems a fair bit of Mac software still doesn’t follow these conventions.

RE the keyboard shortcuts, I know that Mac OS has them, but they’re like the 1980s WordPerfect ones: there’s an arbitrary list, and you have to know them. And many people writing software for the Mac don’t care about them, so similar commands are often different in different programs, and they’ve been inconsistent over the years – for example, when MacOs arrogated command-M to itself with a recent version iteration, messing up habits made using software written before that change. The Windows implementation of keyboard access, with a key to get into the menus and fewer obscure command-key combinations, is a lot easier to use.

The funny thing about the whole “Apple is about status/hipsterism” meme is that it seems that PC users are far more concerned about the status/hipness of Apple users than Apple users are.

A good test is the “I’m a PC/I’m a Mac” ads — I’ve heard TONS of people claim that Justin Long comes of as smug/pretentious/obnoxious/”a distillation of all the supercilious hipster poseur”/”douchenozzle”/etc. …. but if you watch the ads, it’s interesting: Hodgman (PC) does pretty much ALL of the talking. Long (Mac) usually has almost no lines at all, beyond “I’m a Mac.” And yet, PC users seem to ascribe all of these character traits to an almost entirely silent character.

There’s obviously some serious status issues going on, but perhaps not the ones that folks are most talking about.

Jus’ sayin’.

Tal@28: I upgraded both the memory and the harddrive on my wife’s powerbook. It was no harder than on any other laptop. I think it took me a half hour to do the hard drive and in fact because I could just hook it up to the original (using a USB enclosure) and do the automatic upgrade thing, it was actually far easier to do so than it would have been for a Windows laptop.

Warren@31: Here’s the secret to using two button mice with Apples: Plug them in. Right click is the same as option click. I use a logitech 5-button rechargable mouse and a Das Keyboard with my mini. Both work perfectly, out of the box, with no drivers. Pretty much any USB mouse or keyboard will. In fact, before I finally ditched my Ubuntu box, I used both my Mini and it through a KVM switch using the exact same keyboard and mouse.

It’s not quite that simple, because of two decades of people writing software for the one-button MacIntosh.
Sure, if you’re using software written for Windows, it will support your two-button mouse on a Mac. But there’s a lot of software still around that wasn’t, and all because someone in Cupertino thought that one button looked better (and remember the circular mouse that came with the early iMacs, the ultimate in making a mouse that looked neat and was horrible to use?)

JS: “… your presumption as regards my experience with Macs amuses me.”

Glad to oblige, and fair enough, but as a fiction writer, you did a good job of fooling me, especially this bit:

“… I should get a Mac for my next computer”

which could possibly have been written as “get another Mac” but wouldn’t have served the purpose of the article as well (which I believe was partially to get a reaction; again, glad to oblige :-).

All in the spirit of fun …

Apple apologist perplex me. I suspect the feeling is mutual.

I’m currently in the process of buying a new computer, which for me means buying a new motherboard, CPU and hard drive and attaching them to the case, power supply and peripherals I have at home. As far as I know, this kind of tinkering is not an Apple-supported activity. But that doesn’t stop the Apple fans of my acquaintance from pushing me to buy a Mac. It leads to some clumsy conversations.

I recently got very excited at work when I found out I could use our vacuum-forming machine to build a new fan mount for my computer.

“If you had a Mac,” mentioned a coworker, “you wouldn’t need to do that.”

“But if I had a Mac,” I replied, “I wouldn’t GET to do it either.”

It was a perfect disconnect. Neither of us understood the other at all. He loved the…Appleness (I think this has something to do with the words “Easy” and “Simple”)…of his computer. And I loved the malleability and personalization of mine. Many of our tech-related conversations go the same way. It’s like we live in two different worlds.

Honestly, you should get a Mac for your next computer. Everyone I know who did never looked back at Windows.

Snerk. I know people who work for Apple. They have Macs. They also have Windows boxes. This is because, as Brad points out, you need the right tool for the right job, and a Mac isn’t always it. In addition, some of us like to be able to upgrade our hardware without having to take out a second mortgage or sell a kidney. (For example, I am typing this from a Mac attached to a Kensington keyboard and a Logitech mouse, because I am tired of paying the Apple tax to replace flimsy, awkward peripherals.)

But this is exactly the attitude John is talking about, and what drives a lot of Apple’s design choices – if Lenovo or HP came out with a thin notebook that was too small for an internal optical drive, who the hell would have bought it? Just about nobody. But make it cool and call it the “Air” and hipsters everywhere will take it to coffeehouses to indicate their Cooler Than Thou status.

Perhaps I’m biased – I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, but around here poser geeks tend to be harder-core than Apple.

Linux is popular that way here, in some circles.

You find subcultures where it’s a status symbol, but Apple products are generally so ubiquitous around here that they really aren’t status, they’re standard. You see iPods and iPhones and iMacs all over many Apple competitors campuses, for example…

The cooler-than-thou kids are doing stuff with social networking, or producing rich content, or Maker Faire (which Apple didn’t show up at… HP did, though, they had open internet access booths all over).

Apple isn’t content – it’s tools, and with iTunes a venue for content distribution, but they don’t make content. So in that sense, they’re like a telephone company or a water company. Keep piping me new tools for getting at my content. Oh, that’s a cool new tool. But you’re not doing content. So yesterday.

if Lenovo or HP came out with a thin notebook that was too small for an internal optical drive, who the hell would have bought it?

I would. In fact, I did, years before the Mac Air came out – the X-series Thinkpads have been around for at least five or six years (albeit from IBM rather than Lenovo until a couple of years ago), they weigh about three pounds and they don’t have an internal optical drive.
This persistent myth that Apple invented the subnotebook with the Air really puzzles me; there have been subnotebooks weighing three pounds for about fifteen years, even if none were quite as aggressively styled as the Air; amusingly, given your question, my family had an HP notebook fifteen years ago that weighed less than three pounds.

Both my father and my father-in-law are old school programmers (I cut my teeth on Cobal); my dad’s ultimate geek moment was attending a luncheon that Mr. Hewlett was AT, he didn’t even talk to him. Needless to say, they’re also Microsoft slaves. Going Apple was my way of rebelling, which I think is the best way of saying that I’m hopelessly uncool.

Used to be, you saw someone in a coffee shop with a Powerbook, you could go over and chat for a few minutes, knowing that Mac users were an endangered species and we were all happy to discover another one in the wild. It was a cult, but a friendly cult.

Nowadays, you see someone with a MacBook Pro and say hi, and half of them snap “What’re you looking at?” It’s a broader culture than it was. People seem to use the Apple logo to make a wall of “cool” around themselves, which seems alien to me.

I keep using my Macs because they do what I need (and what I need has adapted to what they provide, I think). If someone asks me what computer they should get, I soft-sell Macs because I know the pain of Windows and I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. Close second is Ubuntu, for those that seem to have a negative gut reaction to Apple. It’s becoming more and more common these days. Kinda sad, too, because the cranky posers shouldn’t really speak for the rest of us.

/yawn. Why is it that people who don’t use Macs have issues with Macs? You don’t use a Mac… fine. I’ve used Windows since 3.0, LInux, Mac since System 6… I write this on Macbook. I could care less what you use – why do you people have such a thing about the laptop I use? It’s open (Unix under the hood, I can install a LOT of open source stuff), it’s stable and it reasonably priced on 2 similarly configured machines. I get 4-5 hours of battery life, making my Thinkpad wielding friends jealous… I don’t worry about security software, virus scanners etc… and my right mouse menu works fine thanks (most mac software knows about context menus).

Using Gizmodo as any kind of support for some anti-hipster snark is highly amusing. A *gadget site* whinging on about technofetishism? Please.

Use what you want. I’ll use what I want. Deal with your insecurities in therapy.

Warren Terra@35: What software in particular doesn’t support two button mice on OSX? I’m just curious, because I have a lot of software on mine, including a lot of software designed explicitly for the Mac, and it all does something coherent when I right-click… (Or use the mouse’s scroll-wheel for that matter.) In fact, given that it is the OS that controls making the right click act like Option-Click, and it is the OS that controls making the scroll-wheel scroll windows, I am really hard pressed to understand, technically speaking, how an app would *not* support those features without jumping through massive hoops.

mythago@38: Since you are quoting me, I will point out that I use a Mac Mini at home, spend my days coding on an Ubuntu Linux box while using a Windows box for Exchange and because the Playstation development tools I require only support Windows. Yes, you are right…right tool for the right job. In my experience, though, Windows is only the right tool when the damn software won’t support something better or when someone is paying me to write Windows software.

Also, there are a ton of non-Apple computers without optical drives. The first was the Asus eee, which, far from failing, sold like hotcakes. Since then Dell has gotten on the bandwagon as has HP as has Lenovo. In fact, if Apple deserves fault in this regard, it is that they were late to the party.

Apple’s ad campaigns have often stressed elitism, e.g. the slogan “Think different.” Disliked it then, dislike it now. As a bystander in the Mac v. PC wars, I am sick of the vehemence expressed on both sides.

And yet I bought the elitist matte black Apple MacBook for personal use. It reminds me of the olden days of NeXT machines, whose chassises were so much sexier than the contemporaneous beige and bland PCs and Macs. I miss those black boxes with great graphics, GUI when needed, and easy access to the command prompts. Really, I’m not a big Steve Jobs fan, but the NeXT cubes eased my forced transition from UNIX boxes (with three-button mice) to Macs. Ah, to have a three-button mouse again…

Warren Terra: your experience is out of date. I can’t think of a Mac program under OS X 10.4-10.5 that does not have right-button mouse support. (I’m sure there probably are some, and I’m sure I’m about to hear what they are.)

As for why I use a Mac, it’s pretty simple: my workplaces for the past nine years have been Mac shops, and it makes life easier on the rare (ha!) occasions I take work home to have the same software and OS. Plus, I like them. I’m not a computer gamer, so that’s a non-issue, and I’m not a hardware hacker, so not being able to upgrade the motherboard easily doesn’t bug me. I tend to be a couple of models behind the upgrade curve, since pretty much all I need to do is run Firefox, Thunderbird, and Word.

The only thing Gizmondo says is that they want their Exclusive Grade A Asshole status confirmed visually like it used to.

I am glad anyone who cares can afford great industrial design.

(Though flashing the Powerbook Titanium at client meetings in 2002-2003 was a weapon I used.)

1. So I take it that Macs are the Sharper Image of computerdome?

2. The irony is blinding. In the 70s, PCs were the office machine for serious users and the good games were all on Apples.

Macbook now. Hated it (and still hate this particularly aspect) that Apple thinks they have a clue about keybindings. Also, the fac that there’s no mechanism for popping a menu bar item open automatically, the way that Alt+{something or other} typically opens menus in windows. But I’ve adjusted anyways, make the best of what I have, and next machine will be a Dell (business class, much better build quality than consumer-grade) with Ubuntu. As someone said, right tool for the job…

Like a Mini in the den, best media server platform I’ve dealt with. Which LaTeX rarely is. (That should rile up the hardcore nerds here :-). )

The Hodgman/Long commercials are a variation on Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. The PC is, of course, Wile E.: Eager, hapless, doomed to failure by the Acme corporation. The Mac is the Roadrunner: Smug, effortlessly zooming to victory.

We sympathize with Wile E., of course. We’re rooting for him. That doesn’t make him a good product spokesman for Acme, however.

That’s the story the Apple commercials are going for: The PC is a nice guy. Means well. Friendly. Just a bit hapless, not very good at getting things done. How about a Mac? They work.

Typing this on a 13″ MacBook that we bought as the emergency do-it-all laptop when my wife’s Toshiba Laptop went boom for the first time. (It’s since gone boom twice more. Always fixable, but we keep a copy of Fusion and Windows XP loaded in Boot Camp Just In Case. The tablet is a wonderful form factor, but it’s a slightly troublesome beast.)

My personal Macs are a 5 year old PowerBook G4 that’s soldiered on forever, and a brand new 24″ iMac that I bought because I couldn’t resist running Warcraft on it. Practically I should’ve bought another 15″ MacBook Pro but…

The first thing I do to every Mac I get is buy another Logitech mouse. I now own four, including two on machines I use for work. I like the current gen mac keyboards, so that’s all right, but the old white ones were awful. That said, I adore the current generation Mac trackpads, and I actually have trouble adjusting back to either my old PowerBook or windows trackpads when I can’t use multitouch.

But really, I use Macs because there’s a real UNIX there underneath the glitz, and because no matter how overpriced they got at their worst (late 90s), I could support my Mom’s macs 2000 miles away, half asleep, with my eyes shut. They also last forever. I consider 5 years to be a good minimum expectation of useful life out of a Mac, and they can last longer. And they are easy. I don’t build my own computers any more. I get paid to build systems at work, and I don’t find it much of a hobby. At home, I want a minimum of fuss, something that Just Works, and I’m willing to pay what a consider a very small premium for a good user experience.

The memory I buy third party. And while I think Macs are well designed and laid out for the most part, I never, ever want to install the RAID card in a Mac Pro again.

Not to take you or the blog post too seriously, but I switched over to Mac reluctantly because I was fed up with virus-infested, crashing Dells in the hopes the Mac would be different. So far, they are. Are they way cool and significantly better? Uh, I don’t know. They’re functional, beautifully designed and hopefully have a longer life than the 3 years or so I was getting out of PCs. I’ll let you know in 1.5 to 2.0 years to see how this experiment works out.

Thanks for writing this article three days after I plunked down $2000 (cdn) for an I-Mac.

Of course I still would have bought an I-Mac, and for many of the same reasons that Mark Terry @ 54 mentioned.

I hear the people talk about the ease of updating the hardware on a PC; not my scene. I want a machine that works out of the box with minimum fuss. I haven’t been getting that out of my 3 year old Dell; it is creaky, slow and prone to crash. Shutting down, for some unknown reason takes about 5 minutes these days.

Ask me in three to five years, whether my Mac experiment worked. I will tell you then.


Gareth Skarka:

“A good test is the ‘I’m a PC/I’m a Mac’ ads”

First, of course: Positing that an ad explicitly for one brand of computers over others is a “good test” for anything other than selling that particular brand of computer is fraught with danger.

Second: why would an entire segment of the computer market have any sort of antipathy for a series of ads that has as its initial posit that PC users (as represented by the character portraying their machines) are fat, unattractive and comically ineffective schlubs? Snarking on the PC partisans here for disliking the hipster Mac dude in those ads ignores that Apple itself has fired the first shot in the snark battle, and that indeed one of the aims of the ads is to make PC users feel defensive about their computing choice. Which is to say you’re snarking on them for doing exactly what the ads intends for them to do.

Likewise, recognize that a) when the PC character’s words are written by people whose entire purpose is to get you to buy a Mac, pointing out that he gets all the lines is not exactly a compelling argument, and b) likewise, the point of the hipster Mac character is pose, which is more than just his words (although referring to the Mac hipster dude as almost silent isn’t actually accurate).

Finally, if you really think it’s the PC people who are more concerned with status, take a Dell laptop user and an MacBook Pro user and tell them both that you’re going to switch the chassis of their computers while leaving the actual computer inside exactly as it was. See which objects more. Functionality is not the only argument.

marc farnum rendino:

“If that’s what helps you sleep at night.”

Ah, the disaffected pity pose. Let’s see…

[checks “disaffected pity pose” from the “Cliched Responses Apple Fans Give to Those Who Mock Their Allegiance” list]

There we go.

I like Kirby’s explanation, up at #12.

I’m a Unix girl. Grew up with it, and go crazy without a terminal. I got the 12″ Powerbook I’m typing this comment on almost 6 years ago because at the time, trying to run some variety of Unix on the Gateway laptop my parents had picked up for cheap was a huge PITA. I like OS X, because it’s the prettiest Unix out there. It annoys the crap out of me that I can’t have sloppy focus, but other than that I’m pretty happy with it. I’m going to be replacing my Powerbook with an iMac / Dell Mini 9 (running Ubuntu) combo as soon as I can afford it, though, because it’s finally starting to show its age.

I hate the commercials with Justin Long. What a freaking douchenozzle! I despise being lumped into the same category as hipster douchenozzles like him. Not a huge fan of Apple’s marketing, here, although it seems to have worked quite well for them somehow.

After much consideration, I bought a 24″ iMac this winter. Within a couple days, I had it running OSX, Ubuntu, WinXP and DOS. Simultaneously, with no rebooting required.

Why? Ubuntu for work, WinXP for the cutting plotter with Windows-only drivers and the occasional game, DOS because I could. OSX because it let me *do* that: one piece of hardware would do everything that I required of my home computer, all at once. Except portability, but it’s hard to beat my Ubuntu netbook for that, though the netbook wouldn’t do all the other things I needed.

As already said by many, it’s about the right tool for the job, and a Mac can be converted into a pretty impressive multi-tool.

Whoa, you guys actually use computers? I’ve just been shouting modem noises into the phone for the last fifteen years. Sure, it’s not fancy, but it makes the Dramatic Chipmunk funnier on so many different levels.

Sure, Kevin S. Go ahead and brag.

Incidentally, one of the things that I find interesting in this thread so far is that so many people are trying to defend Apple products on the basis of their functionality, where the entry itself is about the social pose of Apple, as defined by both the company and (some of) its users. As noted in the entry, Apple makes some fine machines; I’ve bought enough of them to know. It’s the cultural signaling that comes with them that interests me here.

Is it me or is there more than a passing resemblance between Geddy Lee and Robert Carlyle? One leads a band called Rush…one plays a character named Rush…hmmmmm

I always thought the “I’m a Mac” ads were about what the computers were like, not the people who use them. Lord knows I’m as hip as an elbow. Apple has always said their hardware was cooler than PCs and now MS agrees, at least according to the shopper commercials.

As far as sour grapes goes, that is what a lot of arguments made against Apple sound like. Usually, they are made by the guys who build their own machine and steal all of their content off the internets and boil down to “their kit is too expensive!” It’s about as generalized as “all Mac owners use Macs to be cool” and about as accurate.

kero aka Kevin:

“I always thought the ‘I’m a Mac’ ads were about what the computers were like, not the people who use them.”

It’s about both, and always has been — or more precisely, it’s about both as Apple chooses to define them.

The ads are in fact very basic aspirational signaling: Make the people representing your product look attractive, friendly and nice; make the people representing the other products in the same market segment look ineffective and/or frustrated and rather less attractive. It’s used pretty much everywhere.

Also, I now reiterate my earlier comment that I don’t think people are using the phrase “sour grapes” correctly in this thread.

Actually, I agree with you on the desktop/laptop platform NOW, but some of us are brand loyalists from when that wasn’t so. Anyone who spent their days playing the “find the bad driver” on Windows 95/98/Me might be forgiven for thinking the Apple premium was worth it.

Also, I remember when I saw my first iPod, I had just bought one of the Arcos(?) boxes that was twice the size and a freaking hassle. I sold my thing to a buddy at work for 1/3 of what I paid for it and went and bought an iPod about a week later. Never regretted that.

All of that to say, one of the nice things about Apple is that you rarely get the “public beta test” that most companies seem to think the first year of a technical product lifespan entails.

… — a bit of déclassé ostentation flashed by people who think they’re signaling one thing when they’re in fact signaling something else entirely, and that thing is: I may be an asshole.

I don’t need an Apple product for this, I drive a BMW.

Can’t we all just get along?

I have observed through my nearly 6 decades that people are dicks and/or a**holes all on their own, not because they pick a specific brand of computer, or are snobs about wine or lattes, or blindly follow trends and fads.

Those are symptoms, not the root cause of the disorder.

Apple elitists: lose the attitude, and just use the machine you like better.
PC users: have fun with the machines you chose, and don’t lose any sleep over the fruities looking down their noses at you.

As our brilliant host said recently in a thread about banning someone from his blog, you just can’t hide the fact that you’re a dick (or words to that effect). The folks who engage the most in this “my computer is better than yours” thing are often dicks (on both sides), and there’s just no hiding that.

So mellow out, and enjoy life. I hope your computer does what you want it to, regardless of brand or OS.

To be sure, the guy with an Android phone and a Toshiba laptop may be no less of an asshole. But you’re not necessarily going to assume that from his technology alone.

I don’t actually assume anyone is an asshole from their technology alone. Until now I had no idea this made me at all unusual.

I guess I’ll have to struggle along without your respect. I’ll manage somehow.

Hi all. Been reading this blog for a while now, and finally may have something to contribute.

I’m an IT consultant, so I’ve been using PC and MAC for years just to stay up to date on what folks are using. I don’t recall ever seriously engaging in snark either way. PC and Windows is great for some things, MAC and its various OSes are better at others.

That people would use components from either camp purely as a status symbol, or some silicon-level gang sign is something I just can’t wrap my head around. Perhaps I’m just being too utilitarian.

In my own little world, I find it hard to imagine that the average person gives a flaming pile of monkey poo that I’m talking on an IPhone. And if high-tech bling is what makes people feel important and noticeable, there’s deeper issues going on with that person’s sense of self. Just use whatever gets the job done, in my opinion.

And while I’ve never personally had a mullet or Trans Am, how can one not give many props to a blog that boldly asserts its Rush credentials? Mean stride indeed!

I agree with you completely, here, John. I jumped away from Apple computers last year when I decided that Apple had become an entertainment (and status) company rather than a computer company. Back when I bought my first computer of my very own, in the early 90’s, I bought an apple laptop. I paid a premium of maybe 10% to 20% over the equivalent PC version, and I have always felt I got good *value* for that premium. We stuck with apple products through two more computers, watching the price differential go up and up and up–and meanwhile Apple locking down everything with DRM, making it difficult or impossible to share media between computers and devices without giving them $500 cash each time. When I was shopping for computers this time, I figure that I would be paying 100% premium for a Mac (comparing apples to apples LOL), and what I am getting for that premium is bragging rights in the coffee shop, not value. No thanks. I am very happy with my PC, and 100% less sad because my I don’t have to wait two years for my favorite software packages to come out with a release for my Mac.

(By the way, I never, ever check out which computers others are using in the coffee shop, so that extra $1000 that somebody is paying is actually not buying very much *actual* coffee shop cred. It would be better to sink it in a better car. :-)

It’s astonishing the funny looks I get when I say “Of course I don’t use Macs – I’m a graphics professional”. Admittedly, I skew that a bit because I do 3D animation for a living, but it’s still being a graphics pro, where screen res, GPU grunt and CPU grunt are all of utmost importance. In honesty, I’d throw both Windows and MacOS under the bus in a heartbeat if I could have Workbench 3.5 running natively. Damn kids.


It’s always come down to bang-for-the-buck to me. But I do like the Bad Astronomer’s comments on Apple…

This sort of reminds me of Scalzi’s whole “I’m too cool for WordPress” thing he had going on for awhile, until Movable Type broke down on him for the fiftieth time, he finally listened to everyone telling him “Just use WordPress!”, and it turned out that it worked just fine.

I imagine in a year or two when his phone breaks, perhaps he’ll just try the iPhone, and make a post after a week saying how awesome it is. ;)

I have Mac desktops only (the main one is an Intel mini with Logitech mouse and a $200 Chimei 22-inch DVI monitor), so the aspect of this discussion that concerns social roles is kind of amusing – no one ever sees me with my computer in public. I have to agree, however, with M. Ellis @52: They do last forever. My secondary Mac is a circa-2001 G4 733-MHz tower that happily runs OS X 10.4 (purchased locally on Craigslist 18 months ago for $160). No 8-year-old Windows machine (or even one half that age!) could thrive in the modern world. And those that do often run Vista, which I had my first unhappy experience with last night during county swim league automation training.

As a former Mac Genius, we saw a lot of mac users, and the hipster set was a painful one to deal with sometimes. Mac users always had a core of folks who loved the company since it was the underdog, after the iPod, there were a large number of users that followed the brand because of the snob appeal.
‘Finally, if you really think it’s the PC people who are more concerned with status, take a Dell laptop user and an MacBook Pro user and tell them both that you’re going to switch the chassis of their computers while leaving the actual computer inside exactly as it was. See which objects more. Functionality is not the only argument.’

I’d be upset, too – but part of the reason I love macs is the complete design – and that laser-machine chassis is dang useful.

Macs are about design, yes, but it’s like Jobs said – ‘Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works’.

I think that Gizmodo’s snark might be a bit behind the times. I bought my macbook in 2006, because I was tired of using (and annually moving) an aging and heavy pc desktop. I went with the mac because it was cheaper than any of the comparable laptops offered by the other manufacturers I looked at, plus they gave me a nice student discount.

I’m pretty sure that the cost-levelling explains why macs outnumber other machines in my current crop of classmates (Apple could probably get an ad out of filming everyone opening their laptops at the same time from the front of the lecture hall).

On the other hand, several of my coworkers paid outrageous amounts of money to get iPhones before they were officially released in Canada, and that was purely for status.

I’ve been using Macs since they were little beige boxes and I’m vaguely baffled that they’re associated with ‘hipsters’ now, particularly after so many years of being Some Kind Of Weirdo for using a Mac.

I’m not in a position to justify or apologize for Apple’s marketing, as I am merely a longtime customer and not an employee. I will say that if the hipsters decide that Macs are too ubiquitous to be sufficiently snobby about and move on to some other machine, I’ll continue to stick to Macs and probably breathe a sigh of relief.

I started on a Mac back in college, and if you’d never used a computer before, it was a huge improvement over DOS. But the notion that Macs are superior to a solid Dell running Windows is simply fiction.

My wife has been using Macs alongside my PCs for 15 years now, and the only differences I can see are: 1. Mac’s have superior monitors, and handling of graphics, and 2. when Macs go wrong, they’re damned near impossible to troubleshoot.

john@65: “Incidentally, one of the things that I find interesting in this thread so far is that so many people are trying to defend Apple products on the basis of their functionality, where the entry itself is about the social pose of Apple, as defined by both the company and (some of) its users.”

Okay, I’ll bite. Personally, I don’t see it. Perhaps that’s in part because of where I live and where I work and what my social habits are. (America is a biiig place, after all and no one person can claim to see the whole picture). But I’ve never met a Mac user (or honestly, a Windows user) that bought their computer/gadget because of the social statement it implies. I will agree that Apple recognizes ‘coolness’ as a selling point and promotes accordingly, but I think that is by and large supplemental information when a customer is making a purchase. But, I work with engineers and not hipsters, so maybe my perspective is skewed…

I do think it’s extremely naive (and probably tounge-in-cheek) on the part of Gizmodo to suggest people who use Apple products are going to suddenly abandon them because ‘poor people’ have access to them. After all, the iPod shuffle has been playing Nickleback Mp3s to ‘common trolls’ for some years now and I don’t really see the landscape changing. I’ve also never heard anyone utter ‘Oh… you only have a shuffle… sit over there please.’ At least from my view of the world – Apple social elitism is a fabrication invented by people who just don’t like/get Apple products. And that’s fine too. It’s just a piece of hardware after all.

Kevin R:

“This sort of reminds me of Scalzi’s whole ‘I’m too cool for WordPress’ thing he had going on for awhile, until Movable Type broke down on him for the fiftieth time, he finally listened to everyone telling him ‘Just use WordPress!’, and it turned out that it worked just fine.”

Well, until it didn’t, although that was more about my host provider than the software (the MT problems were also more about the host than the software too, it turns out). I would note the major issue for me with WordPress what that it didn’t create permanent static pages, which I preferred because it was less of a burden on the server.

But, you know. As noted, I have bought and used lots of Apple products. They’re fine, although I don’t think they generally work so substantially better than the alternatives that I seek them out. When my iMac broke down I didn’t go out of my way to replace it with another Mac, for example.

John Smith:

“Apple social elitism is a fabrication invented by people who just don’t like/get Apple products.”

Yes, all those millions Apple spends annually on advertising suggesting that Apple products are insanely cool tools for perfect living, and that other PCs and their users suck, has very little to do with it.

I gotta agree that sometimes the “Cult of Mac” crowd can get pretty annoying, and I say this as someone who tried a Mac 2 years ago, loved it, and has fully converted to Appledom. It’s one thing to be passionate about something, but it’s another thing to actively seek out converting others like some tech missionary out to tame the savage heathens living in this land of Windows naivety.

It’s one thing to have the Mac-curious ask you about your computer and then raving on and on about it (I do it regularly when asked, but also making it very clear that unless you want to dive into command line Unix, you are trading customizability for ease of use), but it’s just being a dick to see someone get an error, lean over and say “If you had a Mac that wouldn’t happen.”

However, maybe I don’t hang around in enough coffee shops or something, but thankfully I haven’t gotten the “Apple logo = hip and trendy” vibe. I must have some genetic defect but all my life whenever something looked trendy and cool, I was instantly turned off from it. I was that teenager more interested in “fuel efficiency” than horsepower and chick-magnetness of cars. In fact, I don’t even like cars and prefer to walk. Musician becomes popular? I can no longer stand their music. 80’s hair and clothing styles? I thought they were silly even then. It’s like the “be cool and hip” gene in me got put in backwards so I’m a dull, generic brand buying, walking to work non-hip kinda guy.

And so help me, if you try to make me think my Macbook Pro and iPod are “hip”, I’ll be really pissed, but because I like them both a lot.

“But then, not everyone who drove a Trans Am in 1982 was a beefy, mullet-wearing Rush fan, either.”

Oh, thank you so much for taking me back in time with that image. A giver, you are, sir. Yes, a Giver.

Truly, your powers know no bounds.

Now, excuse me as I go sit in a corner and twitch.

For me, someone using a MacBook or a MBP isn’t bothersome. Those are nice machines, and I’d gladly get one in the future. It’s when someone whips out the Air or the iPhone, and they’ve clearly whipped it out just for the sole purpose of impressing someone. PC nerds do the same thing at conventions when they unveil their “sooper 1337 boxxen” that has LEDs, water cooling and a fusion reactor. That is to say, my problem is that I think the damn things cost way too much for said utility, and people know it deep down, but justify the expense the same as the guy driving the BMW — to rub it in a bit.

Plus those iPhone “There’s an app for that” commercials are so…cloying? I don’t know, all I know is I can’t justify paying a couple hundred bucks just for the handset, and then a wireless data plan, so I can identify birds or look up stuff on Wikipedia. Maybe it’s because I’ve been broke for 90% of my life. It’s quite possible that it is jealousy or sour grapes for me. But that’s where the status symbol thing that Scalzi mentions comes in for me — I simply see it as a wealth thing, rather than culture.

I think people are defending Apple on the basis of functionality because it’s easy to read the blog entry title as asserting that all Apple fans are status seeking beta monkeys and asserting that there is nothing to Apple products besides status. Obviously, John Scalzi is not asserting either one of these. He points that out in the second and final paragraphs of the blog entry respectively.

After that title though, I can totally imagine the train of thought starting with: “Well, *I’m* not a status seeking beta monkey. I use a Mac because it’s highly functional.” Defensiveness. D’oh.

However, if someone decides I’m an asshole based solely on what electronic devices I carry, that’s not my problem. I can’t decide for others what stereotypes they choose to indulge in. As an ethnically Chinese person with a shaved head, people stop me in supermarkets to ask if I’m a Buddhist monk. Whatever.

My favorite Apple trope is to take offense with the argument that their products are toys, when all of their ads focus on the “play” aspect of their products. I’ve tried to do serious database work on an Apple, and it kept asking me if I was trying to build a database to mail out invitations to my kid’s birthday party. So I switched to a PC and did my work. In those ads, yeah, I clearly am John Hodgeman.

That said, I love my iPhone, and I especially love all the ways it helps me get stuff done. I just hate the smirks when I pull it out at meetings, as people seem to think it’s a toy.

I think the whole premise is backward no one is going to buy a new iphone or laptop to show it off…

1. The hardware all now looks exactly the same. The new phones are physically the same as the old ones, and they just added SD and firewire ports on the laptops, otherwise they are indistinguishable. There is no benefit to buying the expensive models if all you care about are looks.

2. The important changes are all sofware bases and you can use them on the old, cheap hardware.

3. The prices are lower or equal, and they have always been as good as similar dell/ibm/etc hardware. Sure you could get cheaper hardware, but for the same hardware, it’s price has been inline with the competitors.

So it’s not really possible to ‘flash’ your apple gadget as a status item any more because the products look the same.

It really seems like they are trying to make their systems the standard commodity.

Also, comparing the iPhone to a coke spoon is silly. Any spoon would work as well as a coke spoon, but when it was released no other phone was comparable to the iphone in terms of features, and even now there is really only between 1 and 3 competitors with similar features.

Regarding the advertising, this is capitalism people. Every company spends money to advertise, Apple just does it better. Microsoft spends MUCH more on advertising, they just suck at it. They spent $300 million to combat the “mac/pc” marketing, and then had to pull most of it because their ads got such bad responses. They’re spending $100 million to push their new Bing search engine.

Regarding the actual products, this is a matter of personal taste for the most part. I use Macs, PCs, Linux, HPUX, AIX, Solaris, etc. For the laptop/desktop experience, I like the way Macs work. For serious IT I like linux. For video games, I like the PC. If you pay attention to human-computer interaction there are fundamental differences in how the systems work, and this is a matter of taste. It’s easy to dismiss what other people like in favor of what you like but that doesn’t make you right.

The very first computers I used where those ancient tan Apples that every school seemed to have back in the day, but ever since then all the computers I’ve used have been MS/DOS and then Windows based.

So I don’t care for Macs for the simple reason is that a lot of the stuff they do is non intuitive for me, and I’m not enough of a power user for it to matter. I use a computer to surf the internet and type on, so most of what makes Macs special is lost on me.

I don’t have any particular bias against Macs and Mac users, but Apple has absolutely and unquestionably cultivate a social appeal and ‘coolness’ from their ads to their very design.

Nothing wrong with that, but saying there isn’t a cool/hip aspect to Mac ownership for many people is really disingenuous.

Yeah, it’s like those people at book stores prominently displaying the Scalzi book in their hands, making sure everyone knows they are buying Scalzi.

Silly status seekers.

Looking at the responses of Mac defenders on this thread, for some damn strange reason, confirms in my head the stereotype of Mac users.

I like the idea of the Mac. BSD Unix kernel, design pedigree stretching back to the days of PostScript and clean minimalist design, fucking Scrivener… there’s plenty to love.

But almost every time I see a Mac fan online, they’re smug bastards. And I just got back from a meeting where one of my clients just put an iPhone on the meeting table, as if to say, look at me, look what I’ve got, I’m willing to pay stupid rates to my telco operator (I’m Malaysian, only one telco operator distributes the iPhone, and I’ve seen the rates. They’re stupid rates) because I want the status symbol.

Look, Apple fans… your machines are beautiful tools. Sadly, you’re not beautiful, but you’re still a tool. I hope to god that if I buy an Apple device, I don’t end up being an absolute douchebag like some of you.

I can see the market though: “I own an Apple device… and I’m not a fashionable douchebag!

Seriously, do this and the netbook market and you’d have me sold.

Seems to me the tone was set with the very first (absolutely iconic) ad for the Mac. As best I know, it played only once and is still rated (I think) the number one ad of all time, at least near the top. Besides, why should computers be any different than other products? Cool is used to sell lots of stuff, see fashion trends, cars, sunglasses, etc., so I stand with our esteemed host (@65, @88) on the thrust of the ads.

Admittedly I’m a PC user by job function, as is most of the government I deal with. But after watching one of our guys thrash around trying to actually use a new Mac within the confines of the company’s systems and software, I wonder. It didn’t seem that much, if any, easier to get it to function with our systems than a PC. Actually, maybe harder.

Tomben: “I think the whole premise is backward no one is going to buy a new iphone or laptop to show it off… ”

No offense man, but this is provably false. I know of loads of people that bought those cool looking Macs with the transparent outsides just because they were cool looking.

Likewise, I kn ow a number of people who rushed out to buy the iPhone when it was originally released because they wanted to be the first to have it, not because they needed it.

There are definitely people who’ve bought Mac products to show them off. I’ve met them. There’s nothing wrong with this – many people buy cars and freaking houses for the same reason.


“PC nerds do the same thing at conventions when they unveil their “sooper 1337 boxxen” that has LEDs, water cooling and a fusion reactor.”

I confess, I do feel a lot of pride in my home-built computer (at least as much as the most rabid Mac enthusiast), although it lacks LEDs, water-cooling and a fusion reactor. With all the patches, mis-matched panels and missing fan grates, it looks more like a beaten-up car than a precision machine. But it performs brilliantly and gives me that warm “I made this” glow (which takes no LEDs at all).

Apple does a lot of things really well: beautiful design, friendly interface and bang-up creative applications. But they have a prescriptive streak that rubs me the wrong way. I want to tinker, tweak, dissect and repair. But with Apple products, those activities range from “difficult” to “outright illegal”. I look for computer makers that embrace my meddlesome side, not ones who work actively against it. It’s disappointing that a company like Apple, which puts creativity and identity at the forefront of its brand, works so hard to prevent that kind of ingenuity.

@No, the other Scott

See, that’s what I mean though. It’s function over form for you, rather than the other way around. I’d rather have a bland, beige box that runs just the way I like it than sink a lot of money into a shiny case mod. Why? Well, the case mod is impressive, yes, and shows a lot of skill. But when I use my computer, 99% of the time it’s a solitary activity. It doesn’t need to look like anything.

I dunno, maybe I’m just cranky. :D

@105, tom.

agree. As a build-it-myselfer, the only nod towards style was getting an optical drive with a black face to match the black case. That said, I do think my little Shuttle looks pretty cool … but it sits behind the monitor, next to the stereo, so nobody ever really sees it anyway.

The only casemods I really like are the themed ones, like this guy who actually made his computer look like a sentry gun from TF2:

@103, Justin Jordan:

My points were related to Apple’s newest product lines. The first sentence of the blog post specifically calls out “the latest iteration of the hardware” which was released at WWDC, and Scalzi calls out the iPhone 3GS (the new model.)

With regard to earlier releases, you point is valid, with regards to the current product releases, and where apple appears to be heading (self-similar commodity gadgets for everyone) I think my points still hold.


You know I was kidding about the BMW thing above.

I mean, yes, I do in fact drive one, but John used to live here and can attest to the fact that so does just about everyone else in Northern VA (if not BMW, then Acura, Audi, infinity, Jaguar, Lexus, Mercedes, etc…), because it’s an affluent area and the traffic is crazy. Sitting in an econobox for several hours a day is my personal view into what hell must be like (the first 7 years I lived here, I did it…as much as I loved my old Saturn, I had never had to spend much time just sitting in traffic in it before).

vi however, still rules.


It just sounds like you know your own mind. That’s not cranky, it’s enlightened.

I should say though, that I realllly, reeeeeaaaaalllly like form. I’m an industrial designer, and we spend just as much effort on making products appealing as we do on making them work well. When people like their toys, they use them more, they use them longer and they come back to the same company when they want new ones. There’s even evidence that products work better when people like them. The good feelings translate into better problem solving and patience. Which means people are more likely to work out small problems, rather than throwing up their hands and storming out of the room.

Apple generates this kind of goodwill as well as any company out there. And I respect the hell out of their effort. But I also get unreasonably angry when they try to lock out my attempts to tinker. Until they do, I won’t even consider buying a Macintosh.

“Yes, all those millions Apple spends annually on advertising suggesting that Apple products are insanely cool tools for perfect living, and that other PCs and their users suck, has very little to do with it.”

It clearly doesn’t, as all other PC manufacturers spend just as much money saying the opposite is true. If people invent a social attitude based on listening to a companies’ advertising while ignoring their competitor’s advertising – I think that says something more about the recipient of said advertising than the company generating it.

Wow, John… that’s a bit more snark than I would have expected from you on this tired, tired subject. Being a longtime Apple user, I buy the stuff because I like it, and because I can’t do my job easily or efficiently on another platform – I’ve been forced into periods where I’ve had to, and it’s excruciating. I couldn’t give a crap about my laptop or my Mac Pro at work being “status symbols”, if in fact they are at all. They’re just the best tools I can find to do my job, and for non-professional purposes, they suit my needs just fine as well… I guess that makes me a Williamsburg dick (whatever that means).

I fully understand that your job can easily be done on pretty much anything with a keyboard and an occasional internet connection (if you do use a Mac, you day-to-day experience is not going to be fundamentally different than if you’re typing away on a $300 Dell using Windows 98), so you have no *real* reason to buy Apple, unless you just happen to like them. Kind of like I have no particular reason to buy Toyota, but I’ve always been happy with the cars, the service and whatnot, so I’m sticking with them.

Yeah, I know that you ended the post with a nice, neat disclaimer (“Not everyone hoisting a MacBook Pro or soon to be flashing an iPhone 3GS is a vacuous hipster status monkey. But then, not everyone who drove a Trans Am in 1982 was a beefy, mullet-wearing Rush fan, either. Yet when you picture a 1980s Trans Am owner in your mind, is he not today’s Tom Sawyer?”) but it’s sort of a backhanded one at that. You’re adopting a bit of a snobby social pose yourself, methinks. Why so grumpy?

Robert, #80 quoted Steve Jobs as saying, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

That’s quite a telling comment about Apple, since most people, certainly most engineers, would emphasize the converse–“Design is not just how it works. Design is what it looks like and feels like.”

Apple is a master of marketing, and not just in the media. Since I’d prefer not to be an unpaid, if silent, shill, I immediately replaced the factory-standard white earbuds for my iPod with a black set (which, not incidentally, had much higher audio quality and were much more comfortable). Similarly, my iPhone lives in a protective, nondescript silicone sheath. As many other commenters have pointed out in different ways, buying and using Apple products doesn’t require you to become a cog in their marketing machine, even if many users seem perfectly happy to be.

@ debcha
“I immediately replaced the factory-standard white earbuds for my iPod with a black set (which, not incidentally, had much higher audio quality and were much more comfortable)”

This is a weird paradox of Apple. At the core, their products are attractive and designed for usability. But then they add on some lousy features, like the tinny, uncomfortable earbuds, the carpal-tunnel-on-a-string mice, and the cramped, wafer-thin keyboards on their desktop computers. None of these are deal-breakers, but they are odd miscues for a company that usually does such nice design.


I’ve been a trend-hungry status monkey since 1988 then. Love Rush but never drove a Trans-Am.

I’mn holding out until my phone spectacularly dies and then I’ll get an iPhone. Like dropping it into an acid bath and then retrieving it only to put it in a tar pit.

Wait, what was the question?

Oh, dear, I guess I’m a just desperate pseudo-hip conformer for owning a Mac. Well, every year now since 1962 someone has told me that in some way I’m a status-seeking, brand-flaunting, beatnik/hippie/commie/liberal/boomer, whose life is controlled by the need to project a certain image. Oddly enough, that image hasn’t changed very much in all that time, but the things I’m supposed to be using as status symbols keep changing, depending on the current whipping boy of the contrarian anti-hipsters.

So, say what you like, I’m going to continue to drive my Volvo (the last one I owned for 14 years before someone rear-ended it, I like cars that wear well), wear my jeans (didn’t know they used to be “pseudo-hip”, back before everybody started wearing them, did you?), listen to jazz and classical music (I like just about all kinds of music, and there’s a really good jazz scene and a good symphony here), read sf (used to be you got a lecture if you weren’t careful to hide the book cover), and use the Macintosh computers I buy (the laptop before the current one ran fine for 7 years before I had to get a new one, and did everything I needed it to do well. I’d say that was a good return on investment).

By the way, I do have some expertise in computer technology: I’ve been both a software and a hardware engineer, and I’ve been working professionally with microprocessor-based systems since 1977; I’ve used all kinds of computers and all kinds of operating systems, so I have some basis for comparison, and I buy for myself what works best for me. Your mileage may vary.

Two statements in this post drew specific reactions from me:

1. Dude, why would you throw yourself from a train that doesn’t even go into Manhattan? (And I say that as a Queens native.)

2. Trans Am owners and Rush fans were Venn circles with huge overlap? What?

My recollection (I’m less than a year older than you) was that “Tom Sawyer” was the anthem of the stoners out behind the cafeteria. Trans Ams were driven by older guys who couldn’t find Canada on a map, much less recognize Geddy Lee’s voice.

@115, Debcha
“Apple is a master of marketing, and not just in the media.”

THIS. I think what makes me mad about apple in general isn’t its fans, or “sour grapes,” or anything like that, it’s that Apple always dodges consumer corporate hate, even when they pull some bullshit and deserve it.

@119, it’s not people like you, it’s the fact that, at this very moment, in each and every Starbucks here in downtown Chicago, there are at minimum 4 twentysomethings typing on macbooks, talking on iphones, wearing a vintage t-shirt and a scarf, carrying a messenger bag with at least 6 pins featuring indie band names on them, and basically being everything that “Stuffwhitepeoplelike” lampoons, and each one thinks he or she is a fascinating, creative, unique, interesting person and that their apple products (along with the rest of that ensemble) demonstrate this fact.

These are the people we find tiresome.

John Smith:

“It clearly doesn’t, as all other PC manufacturers spend just as much money saying the opposite is true.”

This is wrong on many levels, starting with the apparent assumption that all advertising is equally persuasive and/or is attempting to convey the same message in the same way. Please try again.


“You’re adopting a bit of a snobby social pose yourself, methinks”

Well, quite obviously, that pose being “I’m wary of being equated with a hipster dickhead based on my hardware, and this will likely have an influence on my future technology purchases.” Your point?

I like the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” ads mostly because I find them funny. They make me laugh. But c’mon – any sensible Mac user (like myself) understands that the claims they make (Your Mac will be totally trouble-free! It’ll never crash! You’ll never have any problems, ever!) are silly and over-the-top. There are Mac users out there who believe that stuff – but they probably also believe that if they drink Budweiser, they’ll be cool and funny, just like the people in the Budweiser ads are supposed to be.

It really should go without saying that not every Mac/iPhone user is a trend-following douchebag, and I don’t think that Scalzi said or meant to imply that that’s so. I’m a Mac guy, but I wouldn’t know a trend if it bit me in the ass. But Apple folks, let’s be honest here, there are plenty of people out there who whip out their iPhone on a flimsy pretext at any gathering of four or more people, just to show it off. And God help you if you’ve got two or more of this sort of iPhone people in the same room. It’s not that they’ve really got to make a call or check e-mail or have some true, pressing need to see if the coffee table is level…it’s just that social norms prevent them from actually measuring their dicks against one another.

debcha @ 115:

I’d go still farther: design is how you use it. I’m a follower of Don Norman when it comes to evaluating designs, and I figure if it’s hard to use, it’s bad design. Which is not to say that everything that Apple does is well-designed, but on average they do better than anyone else.

When I bought my wife a new iMac about 4 years ago (still running, still doing the job she needs to get done, and still working well with the rest of our network and peripherals), I took it apart in order to add some memory. I spent the first 15 minutes or so after I took off the back marveling at the feats of mechanical engineering required to get all that functionality into that form factor case, that allows it to fit onto the small desk in the corner that’s all we have room for, while containing everything my wife needs except the external backup disk I hung off it. I consider that good design.

Actually, I’m intrigued by mike’s point that one could always just try a Mac. Which means, what? Does Apple now offer a computer trial program where I can just call them up and ask for a free system to use over say the next six months?

If so, where do I sign up?!

I buy Apple computers mainly because they last longer than the POS HPs and Dells that flood the market. Most of my friends with PCs have to replace them every 18 months to 2 years. My G4 powerbook lasted 6 years and only died because I tried to do something it wasn’t designed for and I accidentally killed the motherboard. My 5 year old mini and my wife’s 6 year old iMac though? Still kicking. A friend of ours still has a functioning 8600 that she uses as a server.

So, yeah, I’m willing to pay twice as much for a machine that will last 3 times longer (at least) and looks better. If that makes me a hipster, than hand me my mirrorshades and skinny jeans.

P J the Barbarian @ 121
Hmm … “dodge”, as in the way they reacted when their upgrade prices were roundly condemned on every mac blog and bulletin board on the net (they caved)? Sure they try to cover their asses, and often get away with it; Apple is a corporation, and corporations are by definition sociopathic greed machines. But there’s a culture in product development at Apple that often wins over the marketing droids on issues of design and usability, that insists on making something that the buyer can use. And I’ve been there any number of times myself, trying to sneak something halfway decent past marketing; I know how thankless a task that can be. I give them props for that, more than I’ll give to any of the other large computer makers.

Yeah, I don’t like them either. But I also am very annoyed by the sysadmins who told me that I couldn’t connect my Mac laptop to a network (that used tcp/ip, not windows protocols) consisting of Unix workstations and Windows machines, because it would “bring down the net”. So I didn’t tell them I was doing it and there were no problems. This is typical of the whole computer field, so much of what’s done is done in ignorance rather than knowledge. And don’t get me started about the Microsoft programming environment.

Short me: buy what works for you, and screw all those people who can’t see someone without judging them.

My recepy is: Get a geek friend, ask what are good PC parts, buy the parts, pay the geek friend 50e for assembling you the PC, install Linux, buy a Nokia phone, always trust Finnish quality.(Sorry if this sounds like advertising, just my opinion..)
If in need of laptop, get so cheap that you can afford regulary replacing it.

I should probably avoid commenting on this topic, because I find this sort of thing tiresome in general. However, I’m utterly bored today, so here goes…

1. I don’t really give a rat’s ass if Macs are considered hip (by some), or if having a Mac would make people associate me with people they think are assholes. Maybe that’s because I wouldn’t look at someone who has a Mac and think “he must be an asshole.” I save my labeling of assholes for people who I observe actually behaving like an asshole.

2. I have a 6-year old Dell machine that’s currently running Vista. Macs aren’t the only things that run longer than 2 years, folks! Not sure why that sort of thing gets brought up as often as it does.

3. I get irritated by the whole “this is popular so I guess I have to hate it” attitude. You like a musician, and they become popular, so now you “can no longer stand their music”? I’m sorry, what? You liked it, and then other people liked it too (probably because, y’know, it was good) and so now you have to hate it can’t like it anymore? I’m sorry, that seems like such a bullshit elitist attitude to me. And I’m not singling out anyone whose post I might have quoted – that just was a convenient use of the argument in this very thread.

For the record, I’m a lifelong user of Windows. Not because I’m rabid in that regard, it’s just what I started on, and haven’t had any need (either at work or privately) that drove me to another platform. However, I would consider myself both Mac- and Linux-curious; not because I think either will be a Windows replacement for me, but because I realize that both have a place in the computing world, and I’d like to know more about them. I just get tired of flamewars on the subject, because honestly why does it matter that much?

“No one would ever…”, “All [x] fans always…”, “All manufacturers…”, “Every user…” …

Just remember: All generalizations are false.

Or, maybe I should do the standard internet logic caveat and say “All generalizations that I know of are false.”


Bruce @125: I had to laugh a few years ago when upgrading my Mother’s iMac.

I took out my small screwdrivers, and put her iMac face down on the table. There, on the iMac’s foot (which is right in your face when the iMac is face down on a table), were engraved diagrams showing you exactly how to open the memory door and put new RAM in. Now that’s thoughtful design.

Personally, I’m firmly in the ‘best tool for the job’ camp, and I run Windows XP and Se7en, Mac OS X, and Fedora Linux which all have different strengths (and weaknesses!) I wouldn’t want to game on Linux, make movies on Windows or run Excel on a Mac. Especially the last.

I enjoy the hoopla Apple brings to the show. Isn’t a circus more fun than a sales demonstration? Hard to complain about the goods; they are usually excellent and occasionally game changers.
All in all, not unlike authors who do their best to drum up some excitement about their work. A little circus can help a good book but won’t do much for a bad one.

Being both a computer geek and a car geek I really, really hate car:computer analogies. And as a Mac tech I am absolutely delighted Apple is making a 13″ M’book with Firewire.

I’ve always gotten PowerBooks/Macbook Pros because they are simply more robust machines than the iBooks/Macbooks. My users travel a LOT and they are rough on their portables. I’ve got a stack of busted iBooks, but only one PowerBook for parts because they’re all still in use. Hell, I’ve got a 400 MHz G4 PowerBook, the very first silver model they made, and it still runs like a champ after 8 years of service.

Then again, I’ve also got a PowerBook Duo 210 that still runs… and it is 17 years old. Don’t get me started on the Amiga 2k hidden under the desk.

There’s a lot repressed anger at the cool crowd on this topic. I don’t remember the last time I thought to myself ‘will this make me cool’ or, ‘will this make me cool for being not-cool.’

But, of course Apple ads are about the cool. Apple reported a net profit of like 60 million in Q1 2004. More or less brand devotees and ipod lovers. In Q1 2006, it was a billion. Long and Hodgeman started around then. And 1.5 billion in Q1 2009. You know, in the economic endtimes. It seems to be working for them. But, maybe they’re in for some serious hipster blowback in a few years. Once they stop putting out industry defining products.

And, have advertisements for any product ever been about anything other than being cool? Even if your ad is strictly about functionality, you are led to believe that in being ‘not cool’ and highly functional, you actually will be rewarded with cool and/or voluptuous blondes. It’s the difference between ‘buy our product and get laid’ and ‘buy are product, be cool, and then get laid’.

I have never experienced the multiple and constant horrors that Mac addicts tell me everyone experiences. Never. I agree that in some ways a Mac is easier to use. But I disagree that that small improvement is worth the large extra cost for the computer and for everything I need to buy in the future.

And their “we are SOOO kewl” commercials make me want to MacBarf.

Did anyone else notice a distinct trend in Hodgman’s PC from basically friendly but hapless and socially inept to mean spirited but hapless and socially inept?

I think too many of us loved Hodgman’s PC too well, and made the writers uncomfortable.

To paraphrase a favorite blogger of mine:

All together, now: Bullshit.

FIRST: If you are the sort of person who believes that the computer that somebody chooses is an indicator that said person is a show-off and an asshole, you may be a self-absorbed twit. Please entertain the idea that they based their purchasing decision on dozens of different factors (speed, portability, availability of specific applications, size, battery life, etc.), or were given the laptop by their office or a loved one.

SECOND: If you’re the sort of person who believes that a laptop is some kind of electronic gateway drug to mantotes and ironic eyewear, you’re probably ignoring the evidence of your own eyes in what we call the real world. For your own safety and the courtesy of others, please do pay attention to the real world. Just because one idiot bought a laptop doesn’t mean that the laptop made him an idiot.

THIRD: Can we all agree that we don’t want to live in a world where we are judged by the consumer electronics we use? Does carrying around a circa 2002 Rio Nomad make me a more or less advanced person that the girl next to me with a 3rd gen iPod? I sure hope not, and I hope you don’t make those kind of judgments, because a) making those kinds of generalizations dumps you into the “self-absorbed twit” category, and b) that girl or I may throw our coffee on you.

Basically, if we all agree that we can act like people who don’t prejudge one another over something stupid like laptops, things will be a lot more pleasant overall.


Jemaleddin @ 144

Nobody’s saying that buying an apple makes you a hipster. The most extreme position in that general vicinity that’s been made is that hipsters cling to their apple products so publicly and so strongly that it has tainted the brand identity.

By the same token, the older, blue-collar heart of PBR drinkers probably isn’t too keen on the hipster crowd for appropriating their beverage in an “ironic” fashion, but it doesn’t mean the hipsters haven’t appropriated PBR.


Right up front: I’m a long-time PC user, builder, tinkerer who has never owned a Mac.

I’m curious about the assertion posited a few times in this thread that PC’s must be replaced in 18 months to 2 years. Really? Must be? Or maybe just ‘want and can afford’ to be?

My extended family owns probably 12-15 PCs. The lifecycle goes something like this: I build or buy a new gaming rig. My 2-3 year old gaming rig becomes my wife’s work machine. Her work machine becomes our son’s school/play machine. My son’s school/play machine becomes my mother’s email/internet machine.

All of these PC’s have run fine for years with only occasional maintenance/upgrades. This includes both custom built and Dell PCs. The lowest box in the pecking order is probably 10 years old now.

My family’s experience mirrors that of pretty much my entire circle of friends and aquantances- nobody I know HAS to replace a PC in 18 months. I might WANT to, but that’s hardly the same argument, is it?

As far as the cost component, I’ll admit that this is just a guess, but when faced with wanting to replace a PC for easily under $1000, or a Mac for perhaps 1.5 to 2x as much, it’s much easier to compress the PC lifecycle- but this is a choice and not a good argument for the durability or longevity of the platform.

@PJ: “Nobody’s saying that buying an apple makes you a hipster”

No, actually that’s just exactly what John is saying.

This is why I’m always vaguely annoyed when someone smugs at me that I should get a Mac for my next computer: part of my brain goes, yeah, it’s a nice machine, but then I’ll be indistinguishable from all those Williamsburg dicks. Next will be a canvas manbag and chunky square glasses, followed shortly by leaping in front of the G train. Thank you, no.

But thanks for your comment.

@Scalzi: “Your response is derivative, though the source is of course impeccable.”

I thought you’d feel that way. But the point stands: if you’ve decided to make ugly generalizations because of what sort of electronics somebody uses, “you’re the self-absorbed twit.” The rest of us will go on using the best tools for the job.

If you all will excuse me, I need to get back to using my Dell laptop to work on some custom C# web controls for my ASP.NET application running on MS SQL Server and IIS. Maybe I’ll check back from my MacBook when I get home after I get done syncing my iPhone. (No, seriously.)

Re: the longevity of computers, I’ll note that PC that crapped out on me the soonest was my iMac, which only lasted me the apparently proverbial couple of years.

This apparent problem with build quality — combined with the relative difficulty of getting it serviced, as the most local authorized Mac service center was at the time and may still be on the other side of Dayton from me — is also a factor for me to consider when I think about my next computer.

John Scalzi:

“And this is exactly why the 5% of the PC market with Macs has to stop hatin’ on everyone else! Where is the love, man?”

We should stick to the point and love was never the point of this post.


“No, actually that’s just exactly what John is saying.”

Well, you know. Except for the part where I say “Not everyone hoisting a MacBook Pro or soon to be flashing an iPhone 3GS is a vacuous hipster status monkey.” Which runs contrary to what you say I’m saying. Selective reading and quoting is all very fun, but it does run the risk of undermining the larger point one might want to make.

Also, of course, it’s not my fault all the hipster dickheads have an Apple fetish. But if you happen to spot one in the wild with a Sansa, please do let me know. I’m willing to be surprised.

You know, it seems to me this is all just simple prejudice. Have you talked to any of these “hipster dickheads” with Apples to see what they’re really like? Maybe they like Rush and bacon.

Even if assholes like Apple I must say that the Genius Bar is genius. Really helpful.
It’s also improving the competition. A year ago I’d walk into the local store dragging a computer and wait forever for someone to deign to notice me. Service seems much better lately.
Of course it could be that it’s more of a buyer’s market in general.

PJ @ 145

Hipsters didn’t pick up on PBR out of ‘irony’, they picked up on it because it’s the cheapest beer on the menu and a decent enough beer at the price. Had it been expensive and/or nasty, ‘irony’ wouldn’t have helped a bit.


Do you contend that you have a larger point that I’m missing? Because saying “not everyone” with a mac is a tool isn’t really disagreeing with my point. How may mac users AREN’T tools in your mind? 6? 7?

So really: if this post has a point OTHER than Apple-bashing and generally trollish beahvior, PLEASE MAKE IT MORE OBVIOUS SO MY POOR CROSS-PLATFORM BRAIN CAN UNDERSTAND.

You should hardly be surprised by the response. If you say “a lot of Apple users are hipster-douches”, you should hardly be surprised if lots of Apple users pipe up and say “but I’m not a hipster douche!”

If you said “a lot of SF readers are pimple-faced dorks living in their parents basement!” you would certainly expect people to counter with their own lack of parental housing support.

vi. Well, vim, really. ed in a pinch.

The wife uses emacs. We argue about it from time to time.

Of course, she had to install emacs herself on her windows laptop. And X. And don’t get me start on how much time she spends maintaining cygwin on her various Windows boxes.


“Do you contend that you have a larger point that I’m missing?”

Well, I would contend you appear to think you have a larger point, which unfortunately is not in evidence from the actual text.

Also, I deny emphatically that I’m bashing Apple; it’s abundantly clear I’m what I’m doing is bashing Apple-loving hipster dickheads.

I do think it’s admirable that you’re sticking up for Apple-loving hipster dickheads, however, because of course we all know how oppressed they are in this society of ours, and what travails they experience on a day to day basis because of their allegiances. I’m sure they will tear themselves away from their Okkervil River bootleg MP3s to offer you their thanks.

Finally, this entry has the same point as every other entry I make here on Whatever: It amused me to write it and post it.

My first “real” computer was a Radio Shack CoCo. I started out with a cassette “drive” for loading software, but the video games usually took half an hour to load. At some point, I got a floppy drive, and things were a lot faster. The software for the coco was written by Microsoft.

Sometime after that, I got a PC. I’d usually keep it for as long as possible, fix parts as they broke, and finally upgrade when I couldn’t take it any longer. Every time I’ve done an upgrade to a whole new system, there was always a question of PC or Mac, and there was always some engineering software or some video game or some other oddball piece of software that would only run on the PC, so I’d get a PC. The last two iterations, I considered a mac, but couldn’t get all the applications to run on mac.

I’m now running a dual boot Windows/ubuuntu system. And I must say I’m impressed with ubuuntu. I’m considering that the next time I upgrade I might just go all linux all the way. Unfortunately, there’s still engineering software that only runs on windows. I’ve got little PIC boards and FPGA demo boards and other such stuff that runs on windows and not linux. I’m hoping in the next year or so, they all migrate to supporting both systems. At which point, I’ll probably just purchase a smoking piece of hardware and install ubuuntu on it.

If I want to play video games, I’ve got my PS3, which also works as a media server, which is kind of cool.

As far as the “culture” thing goes, if you decide for or against a piece of hardware because of the “culture” that surrounds it, you’re part of the culture. If you purchase a piece of hardware based solely on the functionality, then you don’t care about “culture” anyway.

As far as using “culture” to identify potential sources of assholes, I think that’s true of anything. Linux is infamous for its culture of hating windows and microsoft. I’ve run into PC people who think their choice is the best. And I’ve run into Mac users who hate PC’s.

The distinguishing feature of this sort of “culture” is that either the person thinks their choice is the best choice for everyone (everyone should run linux) or they think their choice makes them better than people who don’t chose the same thing (the trans-am driving guy thinks he’s “cool” (or cooler than everyone else) because he drives a trans-am and they dont).

If all you care about is the best choice for you then this sort of “culture” shouldn’t even show up on your radar.

Oh, and as far as the “I’m a Mac” ads went, I thought several of them were hilarious, in the sort of humor where putting down your opponent is funny. And I still have never owned a mac. At this point, I think I can do everything I wanted on a Mac, but I think I could also do everything I wanted on Linux. So, I’ll probably go with linux on my next upgrade.

@Scalzi: “it’s abundantly clear I’m what I’m doing is bashing Apple-loving hipster dickheads.”

So your point is, if I have it straight: not everyone with an Apple product is a jerk. But part of you worries that if you had one you’d become a jerk. But of course you don’t have anything against Apple or the people who use their products. Just dickheads.

WOW. Scalzi comes down AGAINST dickheads? That, sir, is a bold stance. Not many folks are willing to stand up against them. Many thanks.

I’m just curious: if you don’t like dickheads, why bring Apple into it? There are plenty of dickheads without white earbuds. Most only listen to vinyl, from what I hear.

“It amused me to write it and post it.”

So it’s just trolling then? That’s cool.

“You should hardly be surprised by the response. If you say “a lot of Apple users are hipster-douches”, you should hardly be surprised if lots of Apple users pipe up and say “but I’m not a hipster douche!”

If you said “a lot of SF readers are pimple-faced dorks living in their parents basement!” you would certainly expect people to counter with their own lack of parental housing support.”

So this!

A lot of people named John Scalzi are judgemental idiots. Yes, yes: Not everyone named John Scalzi is a vacuous hipster status monkey. But then, not everyone who drove a Trans Am in 1982 was a beefy, mullet-wearing Rush fan, either. Yet when you picture a 1980s Trans Am owner in your mind, is he not today’s Tom Sawyer? Does he not get high on you? Well, see.

That makes just as much sense as your arguement.

@152 John Scalzi said “Also, of course, it’s not my fault all the hipster dickheads have an Apple fetish.”

Well, I’ve met several dickheads who proudly sported their CrackBerries, Dell Attitudes, carefully pressed khakis to accentuate their spray-on tans, and perfectly gelled little flip in the front of their hair who thought they were pretty hip because of all that. But maybe they were just ordinary dickheads and not hipster dickheads. It’s heard to tell sometimes because I tend to be distracted more by their dickheadedness than their hipsterness.

Been on Macs since 1984 and used PCs where necessary since Win95.

Have heard snarky comments about Macs for many many years now. Is it annoying? Sure. Has it changed my opinions on the Mac’s utility and service life? No.

I’ve assembled Windows and Linux boxen just because I could and for time enjoyed small collection of PC games (mostly First-Person Shooters where the mouse gave me the precision I needed). If the parts were available I might even have built a Mac desktop.

Most of my home use takes place on a 2003 15-in Aluminum G4 PowerBook. At work I use a generic ESQ PC with Windows XP and two very nice 17″ Dell LCDs. They both do the job well. The Mac could use more RAM and a larger hard drive, and the PC could use a file dialog box that lets me read the entire file path, but otherwise I’m pretty happy with both.

I replaced my aging Treo 600 with an iPhone 2G and it looks like some missing features that even my Treo had will finally be addressed. Did I miss those features? Not really. They were too inconvenient to access and so I seldom took the trouble. Looks like the new iPhone will be worth the upgrade for me as I skipped the last update.

Does that make a douchnozzle? No idea. But I presume I will be indistinguishable because I won’t care what your impression is either way. I will toddle on blissfully unaware of your existence. Oh and hold the mocha and chai lattes, I take my caffeine cold. Mountain Dew me and damn your need for approval!

@122 “each one thinks he or she is a fascinating, creative, unique, interesting person” – surely most people feel that about themselves, whether or not they have a computer at all and whatever other people think about them.

I like and use Macs and have done for 12 years, currently on a MacBookPro but I once used one of those little half-screen beige boxes, but I find the UK Mac/PC ads most extremely smug and irritating, even though I like the comedians involved, Robert (“Flashdance” Webb and David “QI Bread and Milk Rant” Mitchell). The Ridley Scott 1984-Sledgehammer-Big-Brother ad was good, though – in those days it was more aimed at a monolithic IBM specifically rather than the plethora of “PC-compatible/Windows” machines we have now.

I am not a hipster, being 51 and not having the hips for it any more, never owned my own car (though I rather liked Audis when I had company cars) and use a £25 pay as you go Cheapofone, which phones, texts and has an alarm clock, and that’s it. I do have a 3-yo iPod I rather like, though.

I wonder whether, if Apple’s advertising gets even more play- and youth-oriented, old farts like me might start to feel like some sort of Berlusconi consorting with minors and suchlike, as though I am just a step from carrying a Twilight book or My Little Pony about with me to badge myself up as down with the kids, yo.

Ha ha, quite funny reading. I use ubuntu, mac and windows depending. Ubuntu is a lot fun and I enjoy it, that’s my laptop. My mac is a lot of fun and I enjoy it, its my desktop. Windows at work because I have to, but when I was using it at home I tweeked my set up and it was a lot fun and I enjoyed it. A computer is a tool not a fashion statement find the right one for you, take care of it and enjoy :)


You get that what I wrote was a pretty accurate summary of what you wrote, right there at the top of the page?

Me: “But part of you worries that if you had one you’d become a jerk.”

You: “part of my brain goes, yeah, it’s a nice machine, but then I’ll be indistinguishable from all those Williamsburg dicks. Next will be a canvas manbag and chunky square glasses, followed shortly by leaping in front of the G train. Thank you, no.”

But leaving all of that aside: why are you bringing Apple into any of this if your actual concern is with hipster dickheads? Why not just link to “LATFH” and be done with it? Why insult people who just want a computer without spyware?

Oh yeah – for the trolling.

One last question: If the title of this entry is, “Gizmodo Agrees: Apple Fans are Status-Seeking Beta Monkeys,” who is Gizmodo agreeing with?

coke spoons?? So the content on my computer and the internet is comparable to cocaine? I admire your courage in writing such a polarizing article, but you must admit that you are being on of “those Williamsburg dicks.” You sound like a snarky fuck.

@ Nicholas Waller, 169:

The hipster is a fragile creature who must constantly reassure himself of his uniqueness, creativity, and superiority. Indie music and apple products are just two ways they do so.


To begin, it’s not my problem if you have the inability to understand how that sentence suggests that I would have the outward appearance of a thing, rather than would become that thing itself. Most of the other people seem not to be having a problem parsing that subtle distinction. If you need to find someone to explain it to you, however, that’s fine with me.

To get to the middle part, suggest one more time that I’m trolling my own site, please. I think you’ll be delighted how I respond to that.

To conclude, I think you’re riding a very poorly-constructed hobby horse to the town of Clueless Pedantic Snit, population Jemaleddin, and I suggest you might want to get off of it before you hurt yourself.

Pete Gerbron:

“So the content on my computer and the internet is comparable to cocaine?”

I’m not responsible for your bad inferences.

PJ the Barbarian @ 173: Dude you nailed it back at 29…

“It’s like the 1st-grade math lesson, all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares.

Almost all hipster douchebags are total apple fanboys, but not all apple owners are hipster douchebags.”

Precisely, and 144 posts later their nerdrage still froths like the Venti Mocha Frappucino that powers it.

I just embarrassed myself by laughing out loud to myself in the bathroom while washing my hands.

It’s ’cause of this, though… thinking about all the “dick” references tossed about lately, I think Scalzi needs a new tool in his toolbox (no, pun not intended). I give you…

The Latex Condom of Protection™


Though I am a Mac user, as well as a soon to be Linux user, the first thing I do with a new computer is buy a skin for it to cover up the logo and distinguish it from all the other similar laptops. I couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks of my hardware.

I wouldn’t even comment except I have to note that real hipster cred comes from being a balding, middle aged, midlist sf writer.


I’m fairly sure Apple wouldn’t ask people “Are you a hipster dickhead?” However, I’d bet a reasonable amount of money that Apple does have fairly significant demographic information about their buyers, and that one had access, one could create a reasonable “hipster dickhead” profile from the various data points. I’d start my data mining via age (20s and 30s) and geographical location (trendy cities/neighborhoods) and go from there.

So now we are expanding the people who you excpect to be hipster dickheads from people caring apple products to people in their 20s and 30s who live in certain areas?

Also curious, does the ipod still trigger this reaction? I mean ipods are so common nowadays that I would argue that hipsters are more likely to go for something more unique, such as a Zune.

Mitchell Rowe:

“So now we are expanding the people who you excpect to be hipster dickheads from people caring apple products to people in their 20s and 30s who live in certain areas?”

I’m not. I’m explaining how one might develop a “Hipster Dickhead” profile using Apple’s likely customer data.

“I would argue that hipsters are more likely to go for something more unique, such as a Zune.”

I’m sorry, I just spit out my Coke Zero.


Just to be clear, I understood from reading your original post that you weren’t dissing me, or anyone else whose choices were not made by considerations of “hipness”. I was annoyed with all the people who lined up on either side as if you had made a statement about the merits of Mac ownership.

But on balance I do owe you a “thank you” for dragging so many defensive nerds out of the woodwork to either justify or condemn Mac ownership. It’s been quite amusing despite the annoyance.

So you don’t expect people in the 20s and 30s living in a certian areas to be hipster dickheads? And I was serious about the Zune thing. Have you seen how many people have ipods? My mother has an ipod! How can something so common be a mark of hipster status? Zunes on the other hand are rare adn unique. So rare that I have never actually seen one with my own eyes. What could be more hipster like than that?

I’ll ignore the PC vs Apple yawn (though I fully agree with John) and get to the point. Rush is not the band of mullet-sporting Trans-Am/Camaro owners. Oh sure, they might like that “Tom Sawyer” song but Rush is the hard rock choice of nerds the world over. Come on, they had a song titled “Rivendell”! The pre-Moving Pictures era was nothing but epic science fiction (2112, Cygnus X-1, Natural Science, Hemispheres, etc). A band that Rolling Stone has continually dismissed as “math-rock” deserves better than being lumped in with bad domestic sports cars.

@168 hipsters absolutely exist. One of the hallmarks of a hipster is rejection of any label or being part of a group identity, so it would actually disqualify someone from being a hipster if they were to proclaim themselves to be one.

That is why nobody owns up to it.

Tom, #142: @Other Bill #140

Speak for yourself, I want a voluptuous brunette!

Speak for yourself, I am a voluptuous brunette!

But Other Bill implicitly made the point that not only is advertising about selling teh cool, but it’s default mode is still targeted towards men (like this Apple ad, or this one, not like Apple has a monopoly, of course). Not necessarily a reason to avoid buying their products but (as PJ the Barbarian suggests, #121), it’s certainly another reason to avoid joining the Cult of Apple.

I own a 15″ macbook pro and shortly, an iphone 3gs. Why?

In the case of the laptop, because I’ve played and fought with linuxes on laptops for years, and suffered from poor hardware support on them, poor backup strategies, inconsistent interfaces, etc. I wanted a unix-based laptop with consistency, polish, and functionality on it. I went ‘pro’ because I wanted to be able to dual-boot into windows long enough to play games, and I don’t believe built-in video has reached the point where it needs to be for my FPS addiction.

In the case of the iphone, because my 3-year-old cell is dying, and my 3-year-old ipod is having progressive dead pixel issues. Oh, and because I love the interface (as much as I dislike the crackberry’s).

I think these choices are eminently practical. There’s no more dickhead-ery in them than there is in defending said choices on a public comment board…. er, oops. ;)

Just a random observation: Hipsters are often confused with geeks, due to some similar markings and migratory habits.

However, one can always tell the difference by the technology they carry and use: Hipsters usually go for something that looks pretty but doesn’t require or invite any real tinkering or customization. Geeks feel handcuffed without the ability to strip their machines down to the case and rebuild as their desires or needs change, or to accomodate newer, meatier tech.

Yes, yes, Macs can be upgraded (now.) But they’re still considerably more expensive when you do, so people who want to strip out their video card every 6-12 months just aren’t going to drop that kind of cash.

FWIW, I don’t necessarily have a problem with people who don’t want to get up to their elbows in computer guts (either hardware or software.) But I DO get annoyed when these people try to tell me that they’re authentic geeks. Um, no. Just because you’re wearing a (newly printed) Tron t-shirt doesn’t make you one of us. Go away and use your glorified paint programs some more.

This hipster market is pretty damn minuscule. You aren’t going to sell 150 million iPods if “urban hipsters” are your primary market. But I have to admit, thinking of my 70 year old mother, listening to an iPod while she does her beadwork in New Mexico as an “urban hipster” amuses.

I think the fact that Apple’s laptop sales really took off when the ditched the old cooperatively multitasking OS for something based on Unix implies that the sales increase has more to do with technical matters than successful marketing. Apple had the same slick marketing in 1984, and it did them diddlysquat then.

Where Apple has succeeded, it is generally by having a better product. It is very hard to argue that any other phone was even in the same league as the iPhone when it was released and though other cell phone companies have made massive strides, Apple is still ahead. You can’t ignore that and say that Apple succeeds because of marketing to “hipster douchebags”.

Addenda: Both hipsters and geeks can be annoying fanboys. The difference is that geeks are fanboys for what something is, and hipsters are fanboys for what something looks like, or whether someone whose approval they crave likes it, too.

And yes, this does mean that the halfwits who tote around their blinged-out gaming machines are actually hipsters.

(Says the woman who once owned a case that had color-changing bars on the front, and who named it the Big Silver Penis. *koff*)

@Scalzi: “To conclude, I think you’re riding a very poorly-constructed hobby horse to the town of Clueless Pedantic Snit, population Jemaleddin, and I suggest you might want to get off of it before you hurt yourself.”

So what do you call this round of name-calling and link-baiting? Seriously?

Oh screw it – you know what? I’m gonna give you what you want. Unsubscribed! Thanks for the memories!


“So what do you call this round of name-calling and link-baiting?”

As far as I’m aware, the only name I called you is “Jemaleddin,” nor am I aware of link-baiting; I couldn’t care less whether anyone links to me or not.

That you seem to believe either or both has been happening is indicative of what your problem seems to have been through this entire conversation: A noticeable gulf between what you think is being said and what is, in fact, actually being said.

As for wanting you to unsubscribe, no, not really. But clearly it’s probably best if you go off and hose down for a while.

Mitchell Rowe:

“And I was serious about the Zune thing.”

I know. I was serious about spitting out my Coke Zero, too. Leaving aside what I feel is an erroneous assumption that hipsters want to identify their individuality with genuine uniqueness, the Zune is made by Microsoft. There’s a good chance that if a hipster touched any Microsoft product, their flesh would smoke and burn.

*boggles* You don’t have a manbag? You should really get one from StatusWhoreDouchnozzleBags. I recommend the HipsterLite at first, because you aren’t man enough for the HipsterAsshole bag. No, you are not ready. Soon you will be ready, but not yet.

Anyone who would jump to the conclusion that someone is an asshole based on their computer choice has made a pretty strong case for his or her own membership in the same category.

And anyone who would describe himself (or herself) as a “fan” of any consumer product is pretty much by definition a “status seeking beta monkey.”

Keep on feeling smug about not feeling smug, though.

BTW – Those of you hating on Justin Long’s character in the PC/Mac commercials, be aware that he played the teenaged Questarian who helps save the day in Galaxy Quest.

Worship him.


“Keep on feeling smug about not feeling smug, though.”

You say that smugly, Crunchbird. Too smugly.

“And anyone who would describe himself (or herself) as a ‘fan’ of any consumer product is pretty much by definition a ‘status seeking beta monkey.'”

Nonsense. For example, I’m a fan of Coke Zero, not because of any status advantage it might give (I’m not aware of any) but because I like the taste and it keeps me from ballooning into Scalzi the Hutt. There’s no status seeking, merely an enthusiastic appreciation for the actual product.

Thanks for opening my eyes for me. All along I thought I was buying Mac computers because they are easier to use and last longer than the Windows machines I’m forced to use at work. And I thought I owned an iPod because it just worked, unlike the first two mp3 players I bought. But no, in reality I’m an Apple FanMonkey. That clears it up.

So long asshole…I’ll not be reading your tripe any longer. You’ve joined Dvorak in click whoredom.

I’ve had macs on my desktop for years, as long as somebody ELSE (my employer) paid for them. This started back in the day when Apple OWNED the educational market thru the discounts they gave to unis and secondary schools. Most of those schools have since found it’s much more reasonable to support multiple platforms (especially since it’s still very hard (and expensive) to make Macs actually CONTROL anything useful). And the fact that outside education Macs are a quite small part of the market. Happy to say I’ve yet to spend red cent one for anything Apple myself. Now I just find using friends’ macs mostly a pain as I find the OS now just annoying.
Jobs COULD have owned the universe of computing had he just licensed the OS. Of course, that wouldn’t have been cool so Apple has pretty much gotten what it’s deserved.

Tal @ 194, I think you’re making a taxonomical error there between the genus level (geek, nerd, dork) and the species level (computer geek, gamer geek, taxonomy geek). Just because I am not now nor ever have been a computer geek, doesn’t mean that I’m not a geek. In fact, I fit into several species of geek, including gamer, and sf.

“I’d start my data mining via age (20s and 30s) and geographical location (trendy cities/neighborhoods) and go from there.”

I’m a 49 year old iPhone owning MacBook Pro user living in a rural county in Virginia far from any neighborhood or city, trendy or otherwise.

Guess that means I’m not a Apple-loving hipster dickhead after all.


Excellent. We’re shaking out the poorly comprehending and the oversensitive.

And here I thought I was just being entertained by a nice bit of snarky trolling on one of the classic flamewar bait topics. But, no! Your technique is subtle and your aims are, indeed, noble and pure. Here’s hoping that touchy-topic threads are a bit more intelligent and polite for the next while.


“Your technique is subtle and your aims are, indeed, noble and pure.”

I’m not sure I’d say that.

Be that as it may, it is my site and of course I’ll write what I damn well please on it. I don’t think it qualifies as trolling since I’m not porting it elsewhere and my site disclaimer quite explicitly states I’ll write anything I want however I want, and if people don’t like it, too bad for them.

I do think it’s interesting that to note that when I write injudiciously about same-sex marriage or politics I never get accused of trolling on my own site, but when I write about the Hipster Cult of Apple, I do. Seriously, people: WTF.

@debcha 192:

Male dominated? That ad told me that if I use a Mac I can turn a home movie into my very own super model. Oh, I guess that is pretty dude targeted. I resent you interpreting my wording quite accurately.

I see your male dominated ad and raise you one targeted to women:

But, seriously, I thought all those Justin Long ads were for women. He’s a funny guy, but no guy buys anything because a funny dude tells him to. Unless its a tractor and the funny guy is a serious hard working real guy. But, for a computer it just isn’t done. Unless of course you’re a hipster dickhead.

And is hipster still politically correct? I mean, i know we aren’t allowed to throw around gay and retard anymore… Or is hipster still a term of endearment?

John, sincere apologies. I was being flip and silly and reacting more to the upstream angst, and not actually trying to seem accusatory towards you or how you choose to manage your site.

I can’t believe how many people are getting all hot under the collar about this. John did SAY that not everyone who buys an Apple does so because they’re a hipster asshole. I may get one for my next box, and while I may be an asshole, no one could possibly mistake me for a hipster!

DonBoy 6: I mean, are there really people who would rather hang out with Justin Long than with John Hodgman?

But you don’t “hang out” with your personal computer. You stare at it and put your fingers on it.

I’d much rather stare at and digitally ¬π explore Justin Long than John Hodgeman, yes I would.

This “status symbol” cliquishness is one of the things that kept me from using a Mac for such a long time. Every day I walk around with my current MacBook Pro and nobody says anything to me about it is a good day.

It makes me sad that Apple has chosen (thus far) to brand itself the way it has, especially since they *do* have some beautiful industrial design.


“Jobs COULD have owned the universe of computing had he just licensed the OS. Of course, that wouldn’t have been cool so Apple has pretty much gotten what it’s deserved.”

Apple makes its money by selling hardware. They tried licensing the OS in the mid 90’s and it nearly ruined the company.

Apple is not interested in the low end of the computer market, so yes they are sacrificing some market share. It aspires to be the Porsche of the computer world, not the Ford. Clearly this strategy is paying off — Apple is immensely profitable, and is sitting on a mountain of cash. So I guess I agree with you that Apple is getting what it deserves.

Anyway, Scalzi’s a self-confessed Mustang fan. Me, I’ll take the Boxter S, please — hold the fuzzy dice.

You know what we should sell? Stickers of Calvin (or other unlicensed comic strip characters) pissing on a Mac or PC.

Hey, it works for brands of trucks and truck owners have nothing on geeks for brand loyalty.

Coolstar@208: You might want to compare Apple’s stock price over the last ten years with Microsoft’s over the same period before you fault Apple for not emulating Microsoft.

when I write injudiciously about same-sex marriage or politics I never get accused of trolling

Damn, really? maybe they didn’t call you a “troll” because a lot of the anti-gay-marriage folks just got internet access within the last year or two, so they don’t know to use the term “troll” (and they haven’t been rick-rolled either). But I imagine somewhere along the line one of them got insulting.

As for the trolling accusations and the oversensitive, I think that part of the problem might be that the title says this:

Gizmodo Agrees: Apple Fans Are Status-Seeking Beta Monkeys

instead of something possibly more accurate like this:

Gizmodo Agrees: Some Apple Fans Are Status-Seeking Beta Monkeys

If you start out with an absolute statemetn like “All (group) are (blah)”, even make it your post heading, and then later on insert “some (group) aren’t (blah)”, you’re can expect that some members of (group) are going to read the title and assume that’s your real intent.

I can imagine that if you posted a new thread with a title “Anti-Abortion Supporters are Doctor Murders” and then explain later on that you meant only some of them, then I would expect that you might actually get some folks calling you a troll or other names.

tal @194: I think you’re confusing hardware geeks with geeks in general. Geeks are people “with an eccentric devotion to a particular interest” and come in a variety of forms. For example, my wife is a bike geek with powers over the common bicycle that baffle me. You appear to be a computer hardware geek with far more interest in the guts of a computer than I have.

I am a software geek, I am interested in how people use computers, how the tools they use to do those things work, and building those things. I have about as much interest in mucking about inside my computer as I do trying to fix my car (that’s what my dad is for) or trying to true the wheel on my bicycle (my wife’s department). I am still a geek.

As for the OP, I am confident enough of who and what I am to use whatever I want. I do eat quiche. Real geeks use whatever computer they damn well feel like.

All right, I have to one-up on this hipster kids thing.

My day job is consulting at Danger. We make the Sidekick.

If you think the iPhone and Macs produce clouds of hipsters, you need to spend a while looking at my customer profile.

(As an aside, part of my job is managing the software and systems used for web content cache and fetch to the devices, and OH GOD THE URLS THEY BURN…)

Aaah. I love this argument! I find one at least once a week, because people are so darned DEFENSIVE of their hardware and OS choices.
I mean, seriously. I’ve no love for Mac, nor the whole Apple product line. And a large part is my averse reaction to their advertising. Mind you, I have an aversion to advertisement and marketing in general. I’ve learned too much about the methods and tactics used. I dislike being manipulated into giving an item or object a place in my self-image.

But the defensiveness and the pattern is just classic.

Hey John,
Substitute “Apple” and “Mac” in your comment for Harley-Davidson and talk about how you like your Honda and watch the same assholes pop up. I have always thought that people who identify themselves with what they choose to buy or what group they belong to or where they live, ECT to be a little shallow. Call them preppies, yuppies, hipsters or whatever, it’s kind of sad how they strive to identitfy with somthing to feel a part of a group. As P.T. Barnum said, “sell an immage, sell a bill of goods .”

“This is wrong on many levels, starting with the apparent assumption that all advertising is equally persuasive and/or is attempting to convey the same message in the same way. Please try again.”

No assumption. I make no claim that all advertising is equally persuasive. I don’t see how its effectiveness on you as an individual alters my argument.

My point is that the audience brings something to the table when being swayed by an advertiser. It’s a two way street. And the thing people bring to the Apple ads is the willingness to associate the Business vs Designer characters as no-hip vs hip. Apple never said ‘Buy us because we’re cool and trendy’. That’s something they certainly *implied*, but if the audience wasn’t willing to believe it, it wouldn’t be effective.

I do claim that competitors have attempted to impart the same message. As an example, the Zune Social campaign, the I’m a PC campaign, and the Jerry Sienfield campaign were all attempting to elevate the ‘coolness’ of Microsoft. They implied the same ‘coolness’, but the audience didn’t bite. So much for throwing money at the problem.

All this is off tangent really. The original topic was weather or nor not people make technology decisions based on social trendiness, and despite the nit-picking over advertising, I see no evidence that the coolness factor is the dominate reason people purchase Apple goods. It does seem to be the number 1 reason to shun them, however. Which again, I think says more about the buyer than it does the company.

Buy the product because you like the product, whatever that may be. Do you avoid bubble-gum pop music because it’s on MTV and thus ‘trendy’? Or avoid those Old Man War books because they hit the Hugo list? Of course not. That’s just silly. So why do that for a gadget? Silly I say!

david @ 206:

I’ll not be reading your tripe any longer.

Your comment suggests you weren’t reading it to begin with.

Sarcastro @ 186:

Hipsters don’t exist.

Mythago is 185 comments ahead of you with that link.

Mitchell Rowe @ 176-185: your attempts to get John to say a generalization he doesn’t actually believe are not exactly subtle.

Scalzi @ 223:

I have very little sympathy for people who get foamy on the basis of headlines alone.

Indeed. The word “agrees” does imply that the opinion following matches your own, though.

“I see no evidence that the coolness factor is the dominate reason people purchase Apple goods. ”

It probably is, though. Not in the sense that hipsters are the main buyers of Apple products, but most people make product differentiations based on things that have nothing to do with performance.

For the average user, who uses their computer to check email and play solitaire, there’s no real difference between using a Mac and using a PC. The reason they make the choices they do is largely a result of image.

Macs look cool (and they look like Macs, which is important), and their alternative image is a big part of their appeal.

The biggest part of the people that are buying Macs are, probably, buying it because of the image and cachet that Macs have.

Mercedes makes fine cars, but most people that buy them aren’t buying them because they’re great cars, they’re buying them because they’re Mercedes.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t people who buy Mercedes or Macs or whatever else because of their inherent qualities, just that most people are buying because of the associations they make with the product.

Same with designer jeans and a billion other things.


To roughly paraphrase a movie whose title I can’t remember:

“Jesus, John, you’d think that you just went ahead and peed on them!”

Such passion, conviction and thin skins shold be expected when it comes to religion or politics.

But MAC vs PC? Please. Like Feyman said, what do you care what other people think?

This road leads to madness, obviously. We might as well be stuck in Sir Bedivere’s ducks and witches routine.

But John, you’ve got the patience of 10 men. Warren Ellis would first have banned some of these over-reactors, and would subsequently have had them kidnapped and subjected to the sorts of experiments that you see on the TV show Fringe.

This blog is fun :)

Bruce, you’re not supposed to have sex with your computer. You’re supposed to buy the computer in the belief that by doing so you’ll get to have sex with Justin Long, or be as hot as he is so you can have sex with people who think Justin Long is hot.

Like me. Which would tend to drive people away from buying Macs, I would think.

I have very little sympathy for people who get foamy on the basis of headlines alone.

I wasn’t saying you should sympathize, I was trying to explain at least part of where the reaction might be coming from.

And if the headline isn’t enough, the first paragraph of the original post creates two categories of Apple users:

Hipsters: use top-level Apple products to signal their reproductive fitness

common trolls: use plebian-level Apple products for MySpace and Nickleback.

So, there are the guys who use apple stuff the same way guys use corvettes to compensate for… something. And the rest of the apple users are trolls with plebian products.

para two: It’s just that they’re also the tiny coke spoons of the early 21st century

Again, quantifiers are missing, implying “all” apple products are tiny coke spoons to their users ratehr than “some”.

You don’t actually come out and clarify that these labels apply to “not everyone” until the lasta paragraph in the original post.

I’m not a mac owner or user. I really don’t have an attachment one way or another with regard to apple products or its culture. But it isn’t too hard to see how some might read the accumulation of those absolute statements and take them literally.

By the way… just curious as I’ve only been reading this blog for about a year now. When these little conversations crop up… there are often a few good arguments and quite a lot of background noise. But still, usually a few good arguments.

John – has anyone ever presented an argument that was contrary to your initial position where you acknowledged a valid point made?

(Please, no implied criticism here. I’m just wondering what word-smithing can make the grand poohba nod his head in respect and utter ‘well played, sir’)

John #221

I think Scalzi’s point was that Apple’s commercials were just *better* than Microsoft’s. It’s nothing to do with one group (Apple) being more susceptible to advertising than another (PC).

Sure, you can throw a lot of advertising dollars around but you need to be sure the ads don’t suck. As Microsoft’s do.

In fact, they’re so bad, it’s like they’re actually advertising Apple, instead of MS.

Hey, wait…..

John Smith:

“Apple never said ‘Buy us because we’re cool and trendy’. That’s something they certainly *implied*, but if the audience wasn’t willing to believe it, it wouldn’t be effective.”

This would be a rather more compelling argument if Apple’s advertising strategy had not been remarkably consistent for going on two decades, i.e., they’ve had a lot of time to establish via advertising their position. Microsoft, etc’s advertising has not been as consistent for as long.

“All this is off tangent really.”

If by “off tangent” you mean “on point,” then yes. You made an assertion. I disagreed. You made a statement. I said it was wrong. You tried to explain. I still think you’re wrong in your formulation.

“John – has anyone ever presented an argument that was contrary to your initial position where you acknowledged a valid point made?”


Scalzi does seem to want to have him some cake he wants and to eat it too. The title of the post does strike me as somewhat rather baity, in spite of the fact that he does have words to a rather different effect in the text.

I assume the text should take precedence, but further commentary seems to boil down to “I don’t like Apple’s Ads’ Attitudes” more than anything else. Me, I kinda like those ads. Hodgman’s delivery sells it. As far as commercials go, they’re entertaining enough, and if anyone expects more than that, they’re probably not the ones being paid to market the product.

(Also, Gizmodo needs to learn how to make web pages that don’t take quite so damn long to load. What is this, 1998?)

Disclosure: I’m an Apple hardware and software fan, whose experience with such is actually statistically significant. Less so for the iPod, but I don’t listen to all that much music–I bought one so I could playback my made on my own movies more than anything else.

And if I’m a hipster, then you’re all doooooomed. Every. Last. One of you.

Scalzi@237: So if Apple’s marketing has been remarkably consistent for two decades, why is it that they made no significant market share inroads until the last seven years or so?

Did something happen to make advertising to hipsters suddenly effective?

Chris@231 said: “For the average user, who uses their computer to check email and play solitaire, there’s no real difference between using a Mac and using a PC”

This is only true if you discount ergonomics. Maybe for you this is true, but for the average users I’ve seen, this is just flat out not true. My wife went from a computer hater to someone who spends hours with the laptop on her lap. This has nothing to do with image…*I* am the one that bought it for her. It was her own reaction to the device.

It is one thing to say “both do email”. It is quite another to do usability studies and walk through how users interact with the software to see how design and ease of use make people’s lives easier.

I’m most amused and a bit irritated, depending upon the tone of the comment, how any Mac vs PC (Though it need not even be, as demonstrated here, be a clear case of “X or Y is better/worse”.) topic brings out the two extremes of the rabid Mac fanboy/girl and foamy Mac hater and how vehemently each defends their position while doing their best to prove the other not only wrong but WRONG WRONG WRONG. One unfamiliar with it might stumble upon such comments and think this was a discussion into serious moral, ethical, or life and death matters.

An Apple as my first computer. I used them through public school, and I thought I’d always own one, but the best tool for the job for me turned out to be a PC. Do I hate Macs? No. Do I think they’re inferior machines? No. But do I think they’re marvelous can do no wrong machines? No; the experiences of personal friends demonstrated that. Do I find the Mac Vs. PC ads annoying? Yes, but I dislike any ad that tells me choosing product A over B makes me stupider, foolish, or a loser; though it also says it makes me a geek I think. That’s okay. Geek is fashionable.

John Scalzi: First, I’m not sure that iPods explain the increased sales of laptops given that they very quickly got software to be usable with Windows. Seems to me that a far better explanation for their increased laptop market share is the release of OSX, which made Macs functionally competitive with Windows.

Second, it seems to me that the iPod’s success has more to do with it being clearly superior to its competitors. (Or with its competitors saddling competitive hardware with garbage software, as my company did.

Steve Burnap: Not sure if it was mentioned, but Bootcamp, parallels, and Crossover, though I’ve no numbers to back it, probably helped Apple too. They’re not perfect, but it helps address the problem of repurchasing all your software should you go from PC to Mac.

You don’t have a manbag? You should really get one from StatusWhoreDouchnozzleBags.

Here you go. Cool Tools had just the thing the other day.

It even has a stfnal tie-in: according to the post, it’s a “cyberpunk literateur bag.” :-)

Steve Second, it seems to me that the iPod’s success has more to do with it being clearly superior to its competitors

If I were to take a shot in the dark about it, I’d say that Apple’s success with iPod had only about 5% to do with hardware and 95% to do with content. Apple was, essentially, the first legal version of Napster allowed by the record companies. And Apple pushed hard to get big name bands to buy onto the idea of puttin all their songs on iTunes, not just the crappy ones. There is only one thing I hate about Rhapsody, and it’s the fact that a lot of artists pick and choose what songs you can access on Rhapsody. I believe iTunes has a much bigger music library. Two big bands that are not on Rhapsody: The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. I don’t do iTunes, but I will assume they’re there. I believe U2 originally wanted to do a limited song list for iTunes but I believe Steve Jobs himself talked with them directly and convinced them to put their entire play list up.

But mainly, they were the first. And if you’re the first, you get market share. And if you can get market share and you don’t screw up your services, you’ll get an inertia for customers to stick around. ebay isn’t neccessarily the best auction site on the web, but it was pretty much the first big one.

I’ve fiddled with iTunes when I received a “shuffle” a while back and there are some things about the software that completely infuriated me because I don’t want iTunes to manage my gawdamn music library and it seems to default to doing that unless you kick it’s ass every time you ask it to do something.

Personally, I’d like a music player that has two USB ports on it, one male to plug into the computer and one female to allow you to plug memory cards into it. And then you can expand your memory or swap cards based on your musical moods. It would have a default mode where it just reads the USB card like a drive, folders are artist, subfolders are albums, files are songs and the names are already prefixed so when you put them in alphabetical order, they’re in the order they play on the CD. Then I can use a file explorer tool to deal with my music, like I have been for the last ten years or so. And no fricken DRM. No library bullshit. Just directories and files. Take the USB card and plug it into any PC and you can play your music there without installing any fricken software.

Justin: For the average user, who uses their computer to check email and play solitaire, there’s no real difference between using a Mac and using a PC.

Viruses, man. Gawdamn viruses. I got hit with a nasty virus on my home PC when my wife clicked on a link she shouldn’t have. Holy christ, I had to get a new harddrive. Well, I didn’t have to. But I had to reinstall windows from scratch. I have a full install disk and the “windows repair” mode didn’t cut it. Full install was needed. After which, I had a tiny hard drive by today’s standards, so new harddrive, then new install.

All my data is on an external raid drive, thank geek. I’ve had enough hard drive crashes over the years and lost months and years of files that I finally bit the bullet and bought a full, four-drive raid box, with a terabyte of storage. If I lose that, I will weep for months.

Greg: “Viruses, man. Gawdamn viruses.”

Aw, yeah, that’s a good point. I have good luck (knock on wood) with that, and I’m pretty good with computer hygiene, so I tend to forget about that.

That said, I’m paranoid as all get out about data. I have my meaningful stuff saved on a thumbdrive, two computers and I pass every thing through Gmail.

And I still feel like I haven’t been paranoid enough.


Sansa, man. That’s my MP3 player. USB cable and you can drag and drop everything if you like. I actually prefer to use *gasp!* Windows Media Player to do the syncing — I just like WMP. VLC plays more but has a gawdawful UI.

As for viruses, yeah, Windows is more vulnerable. That’s partially market share as much as it is architecture, too, though. Sadly though, even if you’re super careful you can still get hit. Drive by downloads with iframes on websites, bad images or infected PDFs — it’s too much like a zoo now. If Mac had >20% market share I predict they’d have the same issues.

Tom: “If Mac had >20% market share I predict they’d have the same issues.”

One of my friends, who is both a dedicated Mac guy and an IT professional, has told me this. The software is a little better, but the real reason is that there are so relatively few Macs that they’re not an appealing target.

Which seems reasonable enough, but I have neither the computer skills or the insight into virus breeder minds necessary to confirm or deny.

GregLondon: With iTunes, it wasn’t just about the range of content. It was also that they were the first store that made buying music as easy as stealing it.

These days, the music libraries of all of the online retailers are roughly the same. If you have a complaint about availability or price of either music or movies, you can be nearly certain that it comes straight from the labels and/or studios.

Having worked back in the day writing software related to the online music store of a very large company that I don’t want to name but rhymes with boney, I found it infuriating that even the labels we owned wouldn’t let us undercut the competition and was saddling us with idiotic usage rules.

@Justin Jordan
Well, the Unix architecture is _better_, but not foolproof — otherwise websites running *nix/Apache would never get messed with. And that’s not the case. It’s just simple math — target the 90% of the market (who are also slightly easier marks) or try for the somewhat harder targets, who, if you succeed, only get you 10% of users?

Disclaimer, market share pulled out of my ass. I don’t know the relative percentages, but I’d guess they’re close.

OK, Some thoughts with perspective first.
1) I was a junior in 1982, and wrote my first software math program in Basic in 1981 on an Apple. I graphed a line.
2) I have always owned a PC except for the Tandy my husband and I owned in 1990, which BTW didn’t have a hard drive, and, quite frankly, we thought was rather a gratuitous expense, but we were eating couscous and living in France. So.
3) (AND, I think this is really, the crux of the conversation and being GROSSLY overlooked) I don’t believe the mulllet was really a haircut until the very late 1980’s. At least, not in Illinois. I would not deem any of the haircuts in that video mullets.
Thanks for listening.

GregLondonon @247 It’s interesting the differences in the way people do things. As a database admin I find file systems awful at managing data. I like a system where I can dump the songs in and then write rules to give back what I want. The idea of manually sorting and then dragging songs to the player makes me cringe. But the nice thing is that there are number of different music players out there and we all get pick the one we want.

Justin, I’m really careful about viruses. McAffe, spybot S&D, and a third one I can’t remember. But they get through if you click the wrong thing, and my wife isn’t a computer guru.

I helped a friend a few months ago who had recently bought a laptop and it had become inoperable. the best I could figure was they’d gotten hit by a nasty virus too. The laptop came with a windows reinstall cd, and they said they didn’t have anything too important, so all I could do was reinstall, get the drivers set up, adn get them back up and running with the baseline system.

Tom: thanks. I didn’t know about the sansa, but in a quick bit of searching, I found this:

Woah. That’s some nice data there. Even some multi-colored graphs. Will have to bookmark and take another look at possibly getting an MP3 player.

Tom and Justin: Re: 20% market share. I think it’s still a valid purchasing decision to consider a Mac to be “relatively virus free” even if the reason is because it isn’t an interesting target for virus writers because it has a small market share. I can’t imagine any company having a massive market share shift in a couple years, (it happens, but not often) so I think you can make a decision on that being the case.

Justin Jordan@253: A big part of the problem is that Windows users generally run as administrator. That’s not the fault of the OS itself…it’s caused by application developers who require administrator access for programs that should not need it. Microsoft didn’t do enough in the early days to force developers to do things correctly in this regard, and it is extremely hard to go back now.

Apple had a big advantage in that they were essentially building an OS from the ground up, and had the good fortune to see the mistake Microsoft made in this regard. This means that while both OSes are probably not far apart in terms of vulnerabilities, OSX is better for preventing users from getting rooted when they click to see the Britney Naked “movie” in their inbox.

Most neophyte users get trapped by the trojans, which is why Windows users who are careful about what they open and good about patching rarely have troubles. (I ran Windows from 1995 to 2008 without ever having a virus issue despite not using a virus checker until the corporate guys finally forced me to this year.) The difference is that a trojan on Windows can easily screw up most systems immediately while on a Mac, they can’t without popping up the “Enter Administrator Password” dialog.

Windows can be made to act exactly like this, but again, idiot application developers make it impossible to use their apps if you do.

My favorite media depiction of Mac status-seeking monkeys is the couple on Best in Show where the wife is played by Parker Posey talking about how they met in a Starbucks, both dress J. Crew, and saw that they were each carrying a mac laptop and fell in love LOL. “We were so lucky to be raised amongst catalogues.”

GregLondon@247: The Beatles are not on iTunes. Periodic rumors about whether it will ever happen (Apple Records once sued Apple Computer over the name, I think). It does not speak well of the true devotion of the status-seeking beta monkeys on this thread to let that go by.

The other day I sat outside Starbucks, on my iPhone, wearing a mac geek tee-shirt—but I live in a town where there were only kids on a rec trip to appreciate it, and it went right past them. So I twittered about the cliche instead.

I thought that was a weird gizmodo article when I read it. It wouldn’t have been that hard to offer color to let people show off a new toy. But evidence suggets Apple knows its market…which would in turn suggest either that status-seeking isn’t that large a part of it, or that real status comes not in just flashing a toy, but in talking about it.

When you buy anything as a status symbol or choose not to buy something because of the idea that it is only used by a specific group of people and don’t want to look like them you let the fanatics win. You can choose Apple products on their relative merits in os design and the quality of the product.

I always hated the Mac ads. The PC would be the guy you’d actually want to know, while the Laptop Hunter ads from microsoft seemed to say that you should just settle for a windows laptop because you’re not rich enough for a mac. It’s like they were advertising for Apple. And perpetuating the cool image. Of course I probably am not the target audience for those ads…

And if by canvas manbag you mean messenger bags, then I have to tell you that they’re very useful. In college I used one to supplement my backpack for things I’d need to use more often or just use it if I only needed to bring a few things in that day. I still prefer them be cause of the utility. Getting in an out of the car. And it’s better than multiple plastic bags when going shopping for books. it can also carry my Status Symbol and a whole bunch of other stuff.

Does that make me a hipster? I’m a little worried now, thinking about it….

I like my thinkpad because it’s a plain black box. It says, “I’m not one of those silly people who buy computers because they look cool or have shiny stuff on them. I’m deeper than that. I care about substance.”

Sadly, I really do feel that way, and would probably pay extra for another laptop that didn’t have all that stupid shiny stuff all over it.

Is it shallow to crave the appearance of depth?

Warren @21:
Uhh, Macs have been shipping with a standard two-button mouse for at least a year now. You just can’t see the two buttons due to the elegant design. So go ahead, buy a Mac with the firm understanding that you will be able to keep your left hand in your pocket doing…

I think a non-trivial part of Apple’s resurgence is the rise of the internet.

If you use a computer to do real work then software selection matters. That probably means you have a PC. If you use a computer to play games then you also probably have a PC. If, however, you are going online posting snarks on The Whatever or checking to see if anyone in Facebook land likes you (and that’s what most people do), your software needs start and end with a browser and the Mac meets all your computing needs. Combine that with more aggressive pricing and you have increased market share.

AlanM… HAHAHA. Right. What color is the sky in your world?

I have yet to find any software available on the PC that doesn’t have an equivalent on the Mac. In some cases that’s a Mac version of the same software (Adobe, Microsoft), in some cases it’s different (Adium for IM vs Trilian on Windows). The Mac critics amuse me since they’re almost always ignorant of what the Mac offers – the 2 button mouse issue, the software issue, etc. Look, I get that some of you prefer Windows… that’s fine. Go on with your lives and move the hell on.

PS: I still think it’s highly amusing a site that flat out worships gadgets and posts the least little tidbit about things that might be released any day now has the balls to call out others for being obsessed with the tech that they buy. Of course, they do it for the pageviews.

PPS: John – I do think it’s somewhat disingenious of you to snark about Apple uses for several paragraphs under a pretty inflammatory headline, stick in a last minute sentence on how of course not ALL of them are like that and then act all surprised when people feel you’re calling them out. If I stand there and rant in front of someone about how all (X) are assholes knowing that they’re also (X) and then toss out “oh, but you’re not”, guess what? They’re probably not going to be convinced of my sincerity.

I’d argue the premise that the majority of hipster douchebags use macs. Just as there actually *aren’t* more Mini Coopers on the road than there are Toyota Camrys, you just notice them because of their more distinctive visual design, so it seems as though they’re everywhere while the much-more-numerous Toyotas are just part of the sea-of-anonymous-sedans-landscape. So, too, I firmly believe that there are as many or more 20-something aspiring creative intellectual douchebag-types out there who *aren’t* using macs as are; we just don’t notice them because their machines fade into the background. Macs are prettier.

And yes, I’m aware that makes me a mac snob.

AlanM, that’s a really good point. Safari’s a pretty decent browser, too.

I read through this whole fucking thread to post my point about the Mac/PC ads, though: I think part of the point of the ads is that the PC is so darn likeable. Even when he does nasty things (and some of that was in the early ads, IIRC) it mostly seems to be out of frustration and jealousy. He’s trying so hard, goshdarn it, but the Mac just effortlessly works and is so darn cool, and it’s tough. By demonizing the OS (which locks up, won’t let Hodgman play well with others) and not the machine, it somehow becomes a ‘gentler’ contrast ad. (My favorite ad is still the one where Hodgman holds a bake sale to try to fix Vista.)

For the record, I use both– Mac at work, laptop running Windows and hubby’s ‘game’ machine at home. Oh, and an old G4 I still use for graphics sometimes. And my old 486, though I haven’t turned that on for a couple years to see if it still works…. I was using iTunes before I had an iPod, but I had fewer problems with the Mac/iPod interface than the PC/iPod interface. And hubby has a Sansa. Those little things are amazing.

John, I think you may be missing the point a bit – from reading all of these comments (and leaving one myself, previously) it seems like a lot of people are reacting (and overreacting, yes) defensively, and perhaps it’s not because they think you’re down on Macs (I know, I know, you aren’t…) but because perhaps a large number of people that come to Whatever are, in fact, fans of yours. Either your books, or the blog, or both. And it’s not out of the question to say that around 10% of those people are probably Mac users. I know that you say “Not everyone hoisting a MacBook Pro or soon to be flashing an iPhone 3GS is a vacuous hipster status monkey” But you follow it up with your “if it walks like a duck” Rush/Trans Am comment, rendering your disclaimer pretty weak.

You say: “Also, I deny emphatically that I’m bashing Apple; it’s abundantly clear I’m what I’m doing is bashing Apple-loving hipster dickheads.” – You see, this is worse, as you’ve already painted every Apple user as such. I think it would be better if you were just bashing Apple – speaking as an Apple user myself, I tend to just discount that sort of thing… yes, it should have dried up ten years ago, but it still happens from time to time – but so what? I can easily read that and think to myself, “well, he’s wrong on that” and move on.

What you did was call 10% of people who really like you dickheads/douchebags. Because of the kind of computers they own. And the response has go to be… WTF? Really? Scalzi thinks I’m a hipster dickhead because of my choice of operating system (or phone, or whatever)?! It’s really the same as if you said (as someone noted above) that all SF readers are pimply-faced basement dwellers – which I know wouldn’t happen on this blog, but it could (and does) happen elsewhere.

Usually when you snark out on masses of people, it’s because of something they actually say, or do. Or there’ll be an issue like the recent so-called “racefail” series of posts on this site, which were, by the way, fabulous from beginning to end. I actually forwarded that along to a whole whack of people and it generated a lot of conversation. I guess the difference is that it was about something, whereas this whole mac users = bad thing really isn’t.

Speaking for myself, I have all your books (well, the fiction ones, anyway… sorry, “Hate mail” is on my list) and hit the site a couple of times a day, because I like you. I like your writing whether I agree with everything you say or not. I think a lot of people here are like me. I’m certainly not going to freak out and say I’m not coming back, or not going to buy your books, or have any other sort of extreme reaction; I’ll chalk it up to a bad mood on your part. But I gotta say, it’s really a lot like going to a dinner party of a longtime friend and having him go ballistic on some little personal detail, right out of the blue.

Yes, it’s your site and you can say anything you want, but I’m just suggesting that it’s possible that many of the “douchebags” are upset and arguing with you because they think really highly of you and are weirded out because you would arbitrarily paint them with a large, snarky brush, rather than being upset because you insulted their “cult”.

/Also, I like Rush. And Journey. So there.
//And yes, this comment was waaaaay too long. I’m truly, truly sorry.

That said, the market share changed not because they marketed better to hipsters but because they now had a tool to break out of the hipster ghetto, as it were.

John, I really don’t know if you believe that, or if you’re trying to be “ironic.”

If you believe that, you’re just about flat-out wrong.

Before the iPod allowed Apple to start making some significant inroads into the Windows user-base, their user-base largely consisted of artists of various sorts, video and audio folks (editing, usually using some specialized gear), people who liked these relatively new and expensive things calls “laptops” or “notebooks,” and people who were viewed as geeks. Not particularly “hip.”

And even at that, Apple was losing the educational market, and struggling to regain it — something that was badly hurt by the move to Mac OS X, and then again by the move to Intel. (Although they’re getting back in, for a variety of reasons. Most of which, interestingly enough, have nothing to do with “style.”)

A lot of the “style” that draws people to Apple’s products are that they look different from the rest of the offerings out there. And since Apple’s products were a significant minority (pre-iPod), people who didn’t want blend in were attracted to them. (And they got so much use in movies and television for the same reason — they visually stand out, which is desirable when framing a scene or picture.)

The iPod had similar “style” — it was significantly different from anything else on the market. Even the earphones were distinctive.

Given all that… why do you, and others, find “I’m different” to equate to “I’m an asshole”?

(I’m not saying that there aren’t people who buy Apple products to indicate status. I know more about that than you, or almost anyone else reading this, I suspect. But that doesn’t describe the vast majority of Apple’s customers, and equating them is pretty darned offensive.)

Sean Eric Fagan:

“Given all that… why do you, and others, find ‘I’m different’ to equate to ‘I’m an asshole’?”

I’m not at all aware of saying or indeed implying that “different” = “asshole,” so I’ll bow out of answering that one.


“Yes, it’s your site and you can say anything you want, but I’m just suggesting that it’s possible that many of the ‘douchebags’ are upset and arguing with you because they think really highly of you and are weirded out because you would arbitrarily paint them with a large, snarky brush, rather than being upset because you insulted their ‘cult.'”

Now they know how the conservatives and Republicans who visit the site feel.

That said, I’m not aware of saying that any of them are douchebags — the word is neither in the main entry nor even in my comments until this one, nor do I more generally single out any particular commenter for abuse due to their Apple-loving ways — nor am I aware of suggesting that every single person who owns an Apple product is an asshole or desperate for status, or even that the majority fit into that category — the first paragraph indeed rather strongly implies that most Apple owners are not in the category.

I’m responsible for what I wrote; I’m not responsible for what people think I’ve written, particularly when it’s in variance with what I’ve actually written. If people really want to believe that I am saying they are a douchebag simply for owning an Apple product, that’s their karma, not mine.

Also, you know. If people who have read this site for any period of time are suddenly shocked, shocked to discover that from time to time I will intentionally employ hyperbole for comedic and rhetorical effect, I really don’t know what to say to them.

John@283: the first paragraph indeed rather strongly implies that most Apple owners are not in the category.

Did I miss a paragraph? Because, honestly, I can’t find that implication. As I read the post, this line:
Yes, yes: Not everyone hoisting a MacBook Pro or soon to be flashing an iPhone 3GS is a vacuous hipster status monkey.
is the single overt retreat from the headline, and it’s not that strong a retreat. “*mild* allergic reaction” and “*vaguely* annoyed” are smaller retreats that mitigate the headline even while reinforcing its basic essence.

I’m just curious about the difference between how you and I see the language working here. I’ve re-read the post a few times and just can’t figure out how to parse it the way you describe it. Help me out?


“But I am mystified by the idea that people who see it as an attack must be projecting or inventing an interpretation.”

Well, it’s not, if they also self-identify as a hipster using their Apple product to signify status. If they don’t, then there shouldn’t be much of a problem.

[286 posted before seeing John’s first response@285, but this one edited after seeing the second response@287.]

Ah, thanks. I read that distinction as paraphrasing Gizmodo rather than expressing your own ideas, and forgot all about it when it didn’t show up anywhere in the rest of the post. That helps quite a bit with demystifying.

And yes, I agree there’s an element of “all Apple products carry something special” in overlooking that distinction (though not self-identification as a hipster—that requires the manbag, etc. And my cult of apple doesn’t distinguish between my metal MacBook Pro and my students’ plastic MacBooks, and I don’t *think* it’s about status). But considering Apple’s arrogance, the “all products confer status” is probably exactly what they are going for in making the new iPhone look exactly the same as the 2nd-generation.

John, first off: sincere apologies, I actually had initially written “dickheads/douchebags/assholes” and then deleted “assholes” and kept douchebags, when I intended to do the opposite – then I guess my brain froze up and it carried on from there. So, please assume that I meant “asshole” wherever I said “douchebag”.

Of course you didn’t flat-out say “every single person who owns an Apple product”. You just strongly implied it – all the way up to and including the last sentence of the post, and in subsequent comments. As I said, your last-sentence disclaimer was backhanded at best, suggesting pretty bluntly that the majority do fall into that category.

Also, are we talking about a different first paragraph? Because the only people you refer to there are “hipsters… in coffee shops” signaling their reproductive fitness, and “common trolls” on MySpace who like their Nickelback MP3s. Frankly, I can’t decide which category I rather be lumped into.

Not the Nickelback one, I guess.

And your response, (which I appreciate regardless) almost entirely focuses on the word douchebag – which you admittedly did not write, mea culpa – rather than the actual point of my comment. Which is an evasion tactic that I know annoys you quite a bit when you’re on the other side of it.

With regards to the use of hyperbole for comedic effect to make a point – I think you do that really well, and often. That’s one of the main reasons I come here. This just wasn’t one of those times (even in your Gizmodo quote, you edited out the funniest – and most self-depreciating – line in their article, with all the kidney punching and so on.) If it had been funny, I don’t think you would have had so many people freaking out – although the post probably wouldn’t have gotten to 283 comments either… way to galvanize the community!

No worries, dance.


No worries re: “douchebag”.

“As I said, your last-sentence disclaimer was backhanded at best, suggesting pretty bluntly that the majority do fall into that category.”

No it doesn’t. That you think it does is your interpretation. And while you’re welcome to that interpretation, speaking as the person who wrote the words, I can pretty authoritatively (no pun intended) state that your interpretation is wrong.

“If it had been funny, I don’t think you would have had so many people freaking out”

You appear to be thinking that you get to judge what’s funny for everyone, which is also wrong. You didn’t find it funny, which is fine. Some other apparently didn’t either, which is also fine. It’s pretty clear yet other people did. Which is also fine. And it amused me, which is always a goal of mine. Quite obviously not everyone will be equally amused by everything, otherwise I would be endlessly chuckling over Dane Cook rather than wondering what the hell is wrong with people who give him money.

Also, you know what: If people are actually and genuinely freaking out about this, they may be a little bit stupid or immature. This is pretty uncomplicated: If one believes (despite my assertions to the contrary) that I am implying one is in fact a hipster dickhead (or other pejorative) for liking Apple products, here are how the two reasonable response scenarios play out:

Scenario One
1. Hey, it looks to me like Scalzi may be implying I’m a hipster dickhead for liking Apple products.
2. Last I checked, I neither act nor look like a hipster dickhead.
3. Therefore, Scalzi may have his head up his ass on this one.
4. Let’s move on.

Scenario Two
1. Hey, it looks to me like Scalzi may be implying I’m a hipster dickhead for liking Apple products.
2. Hey, as it happens, I am a bit of a hipster dickhead. And I like it!
3. Suck it, Scalzi!
4. Let’s move on.

The alternate response — i.e., losing one’s shit because someone snarked about what your technology purchases might imply about you — seems a little much. Because what’s really being said? “Hey, you’re a person who lives in a desirably arty urban neighborhood and has enough personal discretionary income to purchase high-end technology and display it at will!” I mean, really: How fucking horrible that someone might even imply such a thing. Clearly worth getting all foamy over.

I hope this makes abundantly clear my utter lack of sympathy regarding people being offended about this particular entry.

I choked on the original Gizmodo post, which includes at least one outright error:

the premium paid for the matte black MacBook over the otherwise identical shiny white one

When I bought my MacBook about a year ago, the black and white MacBooks were not identical. There were three levels of plain-old-MacBook (not Pro or Air) with different specs. I wanted the best specs; I think the highlights were a faster processor and extra RAM. That meant buying the highest-level of the three, which happened to come only in black. The other two only came in white. So I have to conclude that Gizmodo’s writer is either ignorant or deliberately lying. Either way, not someone whose opinion I’m terribly worried about.

As to why a Mac: I took a day job in an all-Mac office and fell in love with the beautiful design, ease of use, and unix underlayer, even though my unix skills are extremely minimal. I was happy to have one at home. Now, alas, I’m back in a Windows office, and it’s just painful to have to use that thing all day.

Tal @ 28:

(Unix, meanwhile, belongs in the hands of hardcore gearheads who build their souped-up engines from scratch and then drop them into the rusted-out hulk of a 1977 Dodge Aspen.)

*waves hand* Are a ’78 Aspen and a rebuilt rather than built-from-scratch engine close enough? The car and its beautiful engine are long gone (threw a rod several years and tens of thousands of miles post-rebuild, and I just wasn’t up for a repeat), but I still have my first carburetor and fond memories of a torque wrench.

Xopher & Bruce/Speaker:
I sleep with my Mac. I admit it.

General hipness:
I associate “Williamsburg” with “Colonial” and “Virginia,” but I have the impression Scalzi is talking about one located in some NYC borough that I am insufficiently rich or hip enough to live in.

After having the “pleasure” of sitting a row in front of the middle aged couple who felt compelled to call to sing “happy birthday” to two different people using their iPhone loud enough for the entire plane to hear at 7 in the goddamn morning when I had had four hours sleep and not enough coffee, I am seriously reconsidering my position re:iPhone users.

I almost strangled them with the non-regulation basic black noise canceling earphones I use with my iPod.

Susan@292: there was a point where the black MacBook cost extra with NO difference except the color. So Mr. Gizmodo is just sorta out of date, at worst. Though, I don’t think buying the black one was about showing off riches—black is inherently cooler to many people, so they sucked it up and paid the price, complaining all the way. But I think his rebuttal would also be that Apple deliberately made the top-end one ONLY come in black to let you show off that you have the best.

I actually think there’s something much more interesting going on with the flaunting of Apple products than just hipster status, but not quite sure what. (Except for the MacBook Air. That one’s ALL about status)

John: “If people are actually and genuinely freaking out about this, they may be a little bit stupid or immature.”

Fair enough (along with all your other points in #291).

For the record, I wasn’t particularly freaking out, but I also may have had waaaay too much coffee after 6PM, which is always a bad idea for me…

The alternate response — i.e., losing one’s shit because someone snarked about what your technology purchases might imply about you — seems a little much.

I think your post qualifies as an “insult comic” routine. You were insulting some group to create comedy at their expense.

You don’t make clear whether you are part of the group in question in the original post. I’ve been following “Whatever” for a while now, and while you may have mentioned that you used a mac, I didn’t register that information for later retrieval.

So, your post comes across as the sort of humor one might encounter when watching Don Rickles, Triumph the insult comic dog, Andrew Dice Clay, or Lisa Lampanelli. They make fun of groups they don’t belong to. And some find that sort of thing hilarious and seek them out. Others get offended.

Whether they should get offended is an odd thing, because, really, it’s up to them to decide what they get offended by, just like its up to you to decide what sort of comedic tools to use to get some laughs. Free speech, and all that. There is no “correct” response when the content is subjective to begin with.

Generally speaking, when Don Rickles or the Dice Man got hecklers in the crowd, they would simply put the put-down focus on them, call them over-sensitive, insult them specficially, and try to drive them out, call them oversensitive, overstate their reactions, make them look immature, all to continue to entertain the audience looking for humor at someone else’s expense.

Which is fine. I actually enjoy some of Lisa’s bits, I found the Dice Man funny at times, I thought Triumph was hilarious even when he was making fun of Star Wars geeks waiting in line for Episode 1, and Don Rickles is just a classic.

But not everyone sees it that way. Some are offended by that form of comedy. Whether they should or not, is basically up to each individual.

I’m not a fan of Apple, and I haven’t been one for a very long time. I remember riding on BC Ferries back around 1980 or so and talking to people who had Apple ][s of some variety and walking away having coined the name “Apple Fascists” for people with that “Apple or nothing” mindset.

I also don’t like the company for the tone of their ads – which certainly look to me like they’re attacking people who don’t want to use Apple products. I don’t care for Pepsi for similar reasons, for years it seemed like all their ads said “Coke is bad” as much as they said “Pepsi is good” so I was predisposed not to like them.

I don’t mind the technology, but I hate the “our way or the highway” mindset that comes with Apple. The iPod is a nice toy (my partner’s kids have them) but I really dislike the whole iTunes interface. I like being able to use the existing low-level tools to work with devices, not high level specialized ones.

Apples are great if you want to do what’s expected the way they want you to do it – if you want to do things differently I don’t find them as useful.

I’m not at all aware of saying or indeed implying that “different” = “asshole,” so I’ll bow out of answering that one.

Again, are you serious, or being ironic? This one’s tougher for me to take as humour.

First: from the title, “Apple Fans Are Status-Seeking Beta Monkeys.”

Second: It’s just that they’re also the tiny coke spoons of the early 21st century — a bit of déclassé ostentation flashed by people who think they’re signaling one thing when they’re in fact signaling something else entirely, and that thing is: I may be an asshole.

Third: I’m always vaguely annoyed when someone smugs at me that I should get a Mac for my next computer: part of my brain goes, yeah, it’s a nice machine, but then I’ll be indistinguishable from all those Williamsburg dicks.

To recap: you think that either there are a large percentage of Apple users who are assholes (or “Williamsburg dicks”), or a small percentage who are huge assholes/dicks, and that this is so large that were you to be seen with an Apple product, you would be mistaken for one.

Unless you think you are special enough that you, and only you, would be mistaken that way, you also believe that anyone who has an Apple product may be mistaken for one.

And given that, you don’t think you’ve been saying that someone choosing a style — someone trying to say “I’m different” as I put it — is the same as saying “I’m an asshole”?

Hey, you have a Blackberry, don’t you?

Last comment I’m going to make here:

I realize that people get passionate about Apple products. Both for and against. As I alluded to, same thing happens with Blackberries (which were the status symbol before the iPhone hit).

There are lots of reasons for the “fans”‘ passion; some of it is deliberate from marketing on Apple’s part — including deliberate attempts to make the products seem to have a “personality.”

But one of the reasons for the passion for is simply reactive — if someone chooses something, and someone else then attacks him for that choice, there’s a fairly high chance that the reaction is going to be sticking up for his choice, and justify that choice — which tends to mean trying to influence others to agree with him, and, of course, making the same or a similar choice again later.

People have been attacking “Apple fans” for decades now. As being “fan boys,” as being irrational, as being nerdy for choosing a Mac — and now as being “status-seeking” for it.

And true or not, it is an attack, and the reactions — on both sides — are normal, predictable, human behvaiour.

#276 Rick

Right now the sky in my world is gray. I spend all this money to live in California and I get frickin’ Seattle weather.

Yes, *now* you can find software on the Mac as easily as you can on the PC, but that’s a symptom of the Mac’s increased market share. Software availablility on the Mac was a real problem back in the day. You couldn’t reliably exchange files (or even disks) with friends and Macs used their own wierd-n-kinky network protocol (ahhh, AppleTalk packet traces. I remember you well). Now the world has changed. Apple started supporting the standard protocols and, for most people, the home computer is a screen that connects you to the internet. Mac happens have a shinier interface to the intertubes and a lot of people like that.

Sean Eric Fagan:

“Hey, you have a Blackberry, don’t you?”

Indeed I do. I don’t think I ever claimed I wasn’t an asshole.

“To recap: you think that either there are a large percentage of Apple users who are assholes (or ‘Williamsburg dicks’), or a small percentage who are huge assholes/dicks, and that this is so large that were you to be seen with an Apple product, you would be mistaken for one.”

I’m not entirely sure the grammar tracks here. Or the logic, come to think of it. Can you restate?

As for your trouble parsing that “different” does not equal “asshole,” I believe that the first point to make is that you seem implicitly to believe that “Apple fan” equals “different,” which I think is highly debatable, especially in terms of Apple product’s use as a social signifier.

Also, just so we’re clear on this: Using the headline as rhetorical evidence to make a point is rather shakier ground than you think. Sample about a month’s worth of headlines here and you realize that the headlines here come in two flavors: boringly factual and amusingly hyperbolic. If you think this particular headline counts as boringly factual, please go and spend several hours in quiet meditation and hope for enlightenment.

Oh John Scalzi No! Could this have been any more stereotypical Mac vs PC wars…

I think we all need to sit down, and watch some classic MST3K,

But I do have to quibble with you over Microsoft not trying to market to hipsters as much as Apple.

Remember the Windows 95 Advertising Blitzkreig? Everything was Going To Change! If you didn’t have a Windows 95 Install CD you were going to be Left Behind! Remember people who didn’t even have computers buying Windows 95? Remember the abuse of ‘Start Me Up’?

Microsoft were even pretty successful in making Office managers everywhere decide that the Modern Work Place needed to use Microsoft Office, for no other reason than It’s The Thing That The In Crowd Uses.

And the XP ads showed that if you installed XP, you would gain the POWER OF FLIGHT!

Then they entered the Games Console market… Which is mainly driven by gamers out-hipstering each other in which console is ‘IT’.

Microsoft have done just as much to position themselves amongst the hipster crowd as Apple. Apple were just better at it.

As a 42-year-old woman, working on a doctorate in technology type stuff in the midwest, I’m as far from a Williamsburg hipster as you can get, but I love my Macs (for the record, I also have a Toshiba tablet). I got them because I was doing support and needed to understand how both Macs and Windows machines work. I stayed with them because the color calibration for my photography and other designs is better. Simple as that.

But I totally (yeah, 80s Valley Girl not from the Valley) get what you’re saying.

I guess it comes down to this… A lot of complete Bankers drive BMW Z4s. But if someone offered you a brand new BMW Z4 for a hundred dollars, would you turn them down?

@Post 302, I have to disagree with that assessment of the game console market. It’s driven mainly because there are really two different markets, with some overlap, who want different things.

There’s a group of gamers who’s focus is on control/mechanics/gameplay, who derive thier main enjoyment from the act of playing the game, having thier hand-eye coordination challenged, and welcome having to move around, having to learn different input styles, and such. The other group derives it’s main enjoyment from immersiveness in games. They love the visuals, the sound, the fury, and some grandly epic storytelling.

Roughly speaking, the former group tends to gravitate towards the Wii, the latter group towards the two HD consoles (360 and PS3). Much the same thing happens in the handheld market, with the former group gravitating towards the DS, the latter towards the PSP.

Sure, there are ranting, raging fanboy wars on the Interwebs about this, and there are douchnozzles who are trying to out-“IT” each other by using insults like “Xbots”, but by and large, that’s not the main driving force behind which one people buy.

In case you’re curious, I own a Wii, 360, and DS. ^_^

John Scalzi @ 301:
Indeed I do. I don’t think I ever claimed I wasn’t an asshole.
OMG! Don’t tell me you’re an ESTie!

Susan @ 292:
I sleep with my Mac. I admit it.
Well, if it’s a romantic relationship, that’s OK. It’s only when you start having meaningless computational sex with your mac that your friends need to stage an intervention.

… a bit of déclassé ostentation flashed by people who think they’re signaling one thing when they’re in fact signaling something else entirely, and that thing is: I may be an asshole.

If you want an even greater allergic reaction than you already have, check out Leander Kahney’s book Cult of Mac.

In any event, that many latte-drinking hipsters buy $2,000 PowerBooks so they can post status updates to Facebook from coffee shops is hardly deniable, but to me the more interesting aspect of Apple’s revival is the preference many technical users show. Even someone like Paul Graham, who can’t be real susceptible to marketing, discussed The Return of the Mac among hackers. Many Python developers use them; I bought a PowerBook after a computer science professor began using one because of its integration of Unix tools and ease-of-use, especially with laptops.

To me, that, combined with DevonThink Pro, Textmate, and Spotlight, makes OS X a very, very nice OS. It’s not “Macs” that attract me—it’s the operating system.

Of course, this could just be a vain attempt to lie to myself and/or rescue the Mac “signal” from meaning dumbass, which I don’t think it does, but I doubt it. I’d offer you a challenge: use a modern Mac for a month, keeping as open a mind as possible. Report back at the end.

Products do not make you hip or cool or whatever. People that spend their time worried that they don’t have the newest gadget or that the gadget they have will be looked down upon are just sad. The world has a lot of problems so whether mac is better than windows isn’t even worth talking about. All those snide idiots that believe they are better than the other snide idiots because of what they own are just idiots. Apple is not a God and Microsoft does not rule the world. They only wish they did.

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