Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Computer theory

The other day I read an article in the Guardian (I think it was). Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the article, and I've cleared my browser history since I read it, but the reason I'm mentioning it is because it contained a link. A very interesting link. It was from a column written by my current home-boy, Umberto Eco, which can be found at http://www.themodernword.com/eco/eco_mac_vs_pc.html. In this speech, Eco compares religion to computers. He says that Macs are Catholics and PCs are Protestants. Now I'm neither Catholic or Protestant, but I think the idea of there being a theory behind computers very interesting.

As a Mac user, I've never thought of myself as having anything to do with Catholicism. In fact, I don't actually know much about Catholicism. However, I do think Eco's views are very interesting. He states that the Mac operating system is, "cheerful, friendly, conciliatory; it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach -- if not the kingdom of Heaven -- the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: The essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation."

I agree that Macs are very user friendly. When I got my first Mac, a Power Mac G4, I thought it was incredible that I could just open the box, attach the cables in their proper places, and voilĂ ! Instant computer. I never had any kind of experience of that nature with Windows. In fact, even to this day, I still find Windows incredibly frustrating and difficult to navigate. With Macs, everything I need is right there

If I want to search for a document on my computer, for example, I just hit Command-space and type in the term I need. I can even write special notes so I can find a document or picture (for instance) more easily. If I want to do the same thing in Windows, I have to click on the Start menu, type in a term, and wait while the computer searches for the term, which it may or may not find, since there is no way to type any special notes. In other words, you have to know exactly what you are looking for if you want to find something in Windows. I once tried to look for a programme called Task Manager, which is a piece of software that every windows computer automatically comes with, so I could see how much processing space the machine was using. When I typed in "Task Manager" into the Windows search box, there were no results. If I now typed in those same words on Spotlight (the Mac search box), I would instantly be directed to this very document. Umberto says that DOS (the programming on which Windows is based) is Calvinistic, and I agree with him. With Windows, you have to accept their terms or else. I think this would also apply to the Windows word processor, Microsoft Word. In order to view a Word document either by you or someone else, you have to have Word installed on your computer. There are other programmes that can convert into Word, but they are unable to read Word files. I remember very early in my undergraduate career when I wrote an entire paper in AppleWorks, a Mac word processor which (alas) no longer exists. I tried to open it on a school computer and could not figure out why it would not open. I think I actually ended up copying and pasting the text of the paper into an email and sending it to myself. Unfortunately, it also meant that all of the footnotes I had written for this paper were missing, since AppleWorks did not copy them. If I had taken the Calvinistic Windows approach and accepted Word, I would have been able to print out the document without any problems. As a result of this, I later bought a copy of Word for Mac, which, now that I think about it, must completely contradict Eco's theory.

Lastly, I wonder what Eco would think of Rich Text Files, which can be opened by any word processor, from AppleWorks to Apple Pages to Text Edit to Word to Open Office. All for one and one for all. A sort of Three Musketeers theory, if you will. Which, incidentally, is precisely what I wrote this in. Text Edit.

Sabrina Steiner is a Spanish to English translator and ardent Beatles fan. You can contact her at beatles4life@gmail.com.

No comments:

Post a Comment