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Is Mac Like a Porsche?
Entry 790, on 2008-06-09 at 14:26:01 (Rating 2, Computers)
As I write this blog entry I am somewhere over the Pacific Ocean travelling at over 900 kilometers per hour and at 10,000 meters in a 777. If you have been reading this blog you will know that I am on the way to the Apple Worldwide Developers' Conference. It takes 12 hours to fly from Auckland to San Francisco so obviously some form of entertainment is required. But what should that be?
Well obviously it has to be something really geeky - I'm going to a programming conference after all, and this has to be a good warm up for that. And it has to be something to do with Apple, but nothing too technical because I'll get plenty of that at the conference. Of course! In a flash of brilliance I decided I needed to be listening to the Macintosh Folklore Radio podcast which, for some bizarre reason, I had never heard before.
I have read a reasonable amount of material on the subject of Apple history before, of course, but I think this series is the most enjoyable and revealing about what it was really like in the early days at Apple. If the stories are accurate (and I'm sure they are) it is in some ways lucky that Apple succeeded, because of all the arbitrary decisions made and the changes in direction for odd reasons.
But, of course, it all turned out fine in the end, and I think that was due to pure brilliance. Clearly the technical people at Apple were brilliant but it seems that Steve Jobs himself made many great contributions even though his decisions may have seemed odd at the time. He seems to have had an intuitive feeling for what the best path was to take. He even insisted that the Mac's main circuit board layout should be aesthetically pleasing even though no one would ever see it (but that requirement was dropped for technical reasons).
One of the discussions described in the podcast is about what type of car the Mac is like. I like using cars as a metaphor for technology because cars have a strong element of character as well as functional practicality, and most people know something about them. The consensus was that the Mac is like a Porsche and I think that's fair.
The Porsche (at least from my understanding - I'm not lucky enough to own one) is a high performance sports car but its also very usable. It has style, performance, and practicality (at least more than other high performance cars). Doesn't that sound like a Mac? You might say the Mac is also like a different exotic car - maybe a Ferrari or a Lambo but that's not really true. Sure, they have loads of style but they aren't as practical so the metaphor doesn't really work.
So if the Mac is a Porsche what does that make the PC? You know this is going to be insulting, right? I'm just trying to think of a car which performs the basic functions of a car OK but has absolutely no style - or no soul if you want to get really poetic.
I don't have access to the Internet on the plane so I can't get help from Google here. The first car I thought of was the Reliant Robin. This was the ultimate in terrible design and pitiful performance. It was a three wheeler which handled like a wheelbarrow! But that's not a good comparison because, as I said above, PCs are far more functional than comparison with a Robin would really allow. So I'll have to try again.
I was thinking more of a car like the Toyota Corolla. They are very widely used (like PCs). They have very little style or personality (like PCs) but they are renowned for their amazing reliability (unlike many PCs) so that doesn't really work either.
I guess metaphors don't always fit and this might be one situation where that is the case. If you are reading this and have an idea of what type of car a PC equates to then leave a comment with your idea here. I'm going back to some more Macintosh Folklore Radio!
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