Peace At Last

The following is an actual letter from a friend of mine, unedited except for his name.

Date: Wed, Sep 10, 1997 6:51 PM CST
From: [A Friend]
Subj: Re: Jokes from Jim
To: JimMoravec

Jim, sorry I have not answered your mail. Damn puter was down again,for almost a week. I must have a virus or sumpin. Got it fixed once then went down again last night. Just got everything back to normal a few minutes ago.
Thought I had better say “hi” in case it goes down again. I have found
several strange files in my auto exec which I have not seen before.Things
like “Ghostme”. I know this stuff didn’t come with the ‘puter.

Well,better try to get all my mail answered.

Thank God for tape back-ups.


Like so many other people who have been Wintel users for awhile, my friend endures major computer problems and software malfunctions on a regular basis. Mind you, these are not minor issues; in fact, he regularly drops completely out of sight while he’s forced to pay some ‘expert’ to fix his limping machine. As you have just read, he really doesn’t have a handle on the cause of his woes, and is forced to operate as if his electricity were supplied by a 30 year old generator with a bad carburetor and a couple of scored cylinders.

What was it about this particular letter that so unsettled me? Perhaps it
was the tenor of it – hastily written as if on a sinking ship – that got me
thinking again about the fate of those people using Wintel boxes. For some reason, this letter has me asking more questions than ever.

Why, Why, Why?
Why do so many people put up with his kinds of problems? His machine and software isn’t ancient; why should he have to endure so many glitches? And why do so many Wintel people not only endure such problems but continue to endure such problems? Why do these same people, incredibly, make excuses for their machines?

When you visit any computer store, why are the people waiting in line for a service technician almost always carrying some non-descript Wintel box in their arms? Why is it so difficult to talk to some people about a far easier way to do one’s computing? Do they somehow believe that a slavish devotion to an awkward operating system is something akin to loyalty? How do we reason with people who continue to defend their flawed rationale in the face of reality and the facts?

Indeed, isn’t this the very problem we Macintosh people are really facing,
wherein potential customers are so brain-washed about Wintel machines that they can no longer reason effectively? Even when we prove to them – using their own magazines and testers – that their machines are less reliable from a hardware perspective, clunkier and less efficient from the software perspective, slower, and now even often more expensive, they still will not yield ground. Why? Why? Why?

The Answer to ‘Why’
I say, perhaps it’s time we face the facts and get it over with: THERE IS NO REASONING WITH THESE PEOPLE. Ever. There IS no answer to ‘why’. If we were on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, Spock would turn to us and declare flatly, “It is, quite simply, illogical”. Sadly, we must realize that trying to talk to these people in an intelligent way about the Macintosh is simply a complete waste of time and breath. Worse, it is illogical. It is as fruitless and illogical as trying to reason with a Tribble about reproduction and family planning. And like Spock presenting Captain Kirk with the reality of some serious predicament the crew has found themselves in, we must also coldly face this reality: that for some strange reason, there is a segment of the world’s population that is ‘imprinted’ with the Wintel way of life, and like a duckling following a poodle because it was the first thing it saw after breaking out of its shell, these people now think Microsoft is their mama. Like nature’s realities, it’s just that simple – and pathetic.

There are certain realities in life that we all accept; the thousands of
personal choices and circumstances whose unique blend becomes the persona of an individual. We all have our own little histories that mold us, but when we view the ‘fringes’ of society, we see people whose lifestyles and choices – some made beyond their consent – have brought them to a place in life that no ‘normal’ person would want to be, and yet, perhaps even because of these choices, those people now defend their lifestyles. Psychologically, it’s probably the only thing they can do.

We have read and heard of the prison inmate who has lived fifty out of his seventy years behind bars and knows nothing else (or better), and now
actually prefers the ugly drabness of prison life. Or the otherwise intelligent person who drops out of society to live – and die – with others who believe without question that a spaceship is coming to take them away to a better life. Or the ‘old guard’ communist who will argue the benefits of communism from a squalid one-room apartment outside Moscow, his faded pictures of Stalin and Lenin forever watching over him. For so many reasons: fate, temperament, personal choices, brainwashing – whatever – there’s just no ‘getting through’ to these people.

Unfortunately, there is a certain percentage of the computing population that must be recognized as ‘imprinted’, and ‘converting’ these people is therefore nearly impossible. Like that old-timer in Russia, they just stare out of their cracked and dusty windows, forever convinced their way is best.

Dealing with the Opposition
Then how best to deal with these people? Is it e-mail diatribes, expertly
argued? Will a barrage of Mac tidbits and facts do the trick? What about
jokes and cartoons? Nope. All that fun stuff is an utter waste of time.
People have tried all of the above (and more) for years, only to come to the same conclusion: Wintel people are brain-locked and will refuse to change, so please don’t bother them with mere facts. In fact, I have never heard of anyone ever ‘winning’ a convert over as the result of Mac evangelism. Oh, I’m sure there must be a few out of the millions of Mac people, but I personally haven’t met any. My guess is the number of ‘converts’ must be a paltry few, something around 1% of all Mac users. And that’s being optimistic.

In any case, Macintosh evangelism, although the right thing to do officially, is best reserved as an Apple Corporate affair – an official
attempt at disseminating facts for those interested in learning about the Macintosh. But trying to get Wintel types to visit that particular Apple site is like trying to convince the plumbing union’s bowling team to give up their only night out to visit the women’s history seminar on the fourth floor of the public library. They may know it’s there, they may even know it would be good for them, but don’t bother to waste your breath ‘cuz they ain’t goin’, pal. And however much fun Mac Web sites are for Mac people, the fact is they are really just preachin’ to the choir.

Instead, I suggest we accept reality and immediately stop trying to convert
. I suggest we start right now. That’s right, all Mac people should
stop wasting their time and energies and simply concern themselves with
moving ahead to the future of fun, convenient, and effortless computing.
Mark your calendars. Take note of the time. As of NOW we shouldn’t waste any more time fruitlessly cajoling others to switch to a Mac when they’re already pre-programmed against it. Eventually, a few of them will see the light on their own and may finally become Mac users. That must remain our small consolation.

While this means that Macintosh evangelism is most profitably directed to new users untainted by the the Wintel syndrome, it also dictates a gentle
. There is no need for shouting or exhortation; for some reason, people either are ‘Mac people’ or they’re not. Our efforts should be in educating the newest users to the benefits of the Macintosh, and then not to lose our perspective when about 90% of them turn away. No, there’s no way to logically come to grips with that fact other than to blame fate, psychology or maybe even genetics.

In other words, we must recognize that there will always be more weeds than flowers in the meadows.

Reality TV
When one watches enough cable TV nature shows, eventually even the most sedate urbanite learns that in the world of nature, ‘natural selection’ is a harsh reality. And like a gentle gazelle that stumbles into a pride of lions, Wintel people now stumble into the future of computing. As they wait for their promised minor incremental update of Windows to arrive in a year or so, chances are some strange, new virus will do them in. We needn’t weep for them; it’s just nature and natural selection at work.

And just as the gazelle herd instinctively knows it’s their fate to be eaten by everything higher on the food chain that can catch them, the Wintel herd has learned to accept expensive hardware shutdowns and software lockups. Hey, they even budget for it! Deep down, they know that if some deadly virus doesn’t get their hard drive, odds are something else will. And really deep down, they all know what the year 2000 holds in store for them. Like watching lions pull down their bleating prey, we might shudder when their end comes, but we’re relieved to be able to shut off the nature program and turn on our friendly Macs.

With the pressure of Mac evangelism now off my mind, I can truly say I feel greatly relieved. I just couldn’t carry the fate of my Wintel friends with me all the time; it was simply too much for me. Now that I’ve finally recognized the inevitability of their ‘Wintelness’, I’ve also found that I can enjoy my Macintosh and my computing experience much more, relieved through my personal epiphany of the constant need to answer, argue, defend, and convert. Now, when my Wintel friends have problems of the most Microsoft kind, I just smile and change the subject.

I can’t tell you how much better I feel…

Jim Moravec

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