Infinite Loop 9: “New Mac Teens on the Block.”

I live in
college football country. It’s the only game around.
My parents loved the team, and I learned to love
the it because of them. Now, younger members of
the extended family are learning to love the team,
and they are taking their children to the games.
They will grow up loving the team too. The baton
is being passed to a new generation. It’s called
“tradition.” We are seeing the same thing on the
Mac Web and Apple generally.

I speak of
the Mac teen scene. This is a lively, energetic
and fun group of young Mac users who seem to be
coming on strong on the Mac Web. I have come to
know some of these Mac teens well through correspondence.
Some I call “the teen madmen” because they are
so wild and crazy sometimes, wild and crazy about
the Mac that is. I enjoy them a lot because they
energize me. I fell the same thing working my
freshmen at the university I teach at. I am older
(note, “older” not “old”!), and graduate school
did away with my sense of humor forever! But as
I watch, listen and talk to these new Mac teens
I feel, well, kind of young again. They remind
me of who I was when I saw my first Macintosh
in 1984. They have the enthusiasm I had at first.
I still have it. But I am an adult now and you
know how things pile up.

Now I am not
all that old, mind you. I don’t feel old anyway.
I am certainly not a teen anymore! I have been
married for seven years. I have been teaching
after graduate school for six years. I have heavy
responsibilities and duties that require all seriousness.
I did medical ethics as Vice-Chair of a Medical
Ethics Board at a hospital in which I stopped
surgeries which I thought were immoral and unnecessary;
I was involved in making decisions about withdrawing
life-support from patients. I have held seminars
trying to install a moral conscience in health
care professionals. Just this week I had to confront
a case of academic dishonesty in which I have
to decide if a student gets thrown out of college
and is off an athletic team . Heavy stuff. And
this is just professional pressures. I have bills
(mostly from buying Macs!), I have debts, I have
a hectic schedule, I have a wife that depends
on me, I have serious responsibilities, and I
have “or else” deadlines I have become an adult
almost, it seems, overnight. Now that I write
on the Mac Web the original boyish enthusiasm
has almost turned into a job. And nothing can
deaden enthusiasm like a job. But through all
this I have retained, I hope, adult youthfulness
and playfulness. I have had to. One can’t face
the literally life and death situations I face
without a sense of humor and taking time for childish-adult
play to get his wits about him. If we are not
careful, all these can rob us of very important
youthful virtues. Better an adult youth and an
adult with no sense of youthful play, I say.

All of these
responsibilities and pressures can, if we are
not careful, rob us of what I call our “adult
youthfulness.” Adult youthfulness is that part
of us which remains playful, shuns responsibility
at (the right) times, is still learning, sees
the world through idealistic eyes, and feels invulnerable
in the face of challenges. Bills, responsibility,
life’s disappoints, and such can kill these over
time, if we are not careful. Society itself looks
down on adults with these qualities as being “immature.”
Many have given in to these social pressures,
sadly. But if they are added to adult years they
make life so much more enjoyable; we shouldn’t
let adulthood take our youthfulness to where we
are merely adults. The Mac teens I have contact
with remind me of myself years ago. I see their
“youthful youthfulness” contrasted with my “adult
youthfulness.” I see their ambition, and idealism,
which have not been tainted by past failures (failure
for them is not an option it seems), or thwarted
by bosses, administrators, and intra-office politics.
They are staking their claim in the new world
whereas I have staked it out long ago in the old
world. I made my life’s decisions long ago and
I live with them daily. Mac teens enliven me because,
at times, I wish I were one of them again. I admire
and want their freedom, playfulness, and liveliness.
But adults aren’t supposed to be like this. Are

The Mac is
new and exciting for the Mac teens; sometimes
it is old and secondhand to me. (It keeps being
re-ignited with each new apple product I get!)
I have seen it all before; they are seeing Mac
for the first time. They not been jaded and at
times I am. I stood at the beginning of exciting
times, when the Macintosh was originally born;
they are standing at the beginning of a new chapter
of Apple. I think that if the Mac will be pushed
to its limits, if the Mac will realize its full
potential (and it hasn’t yet), it will be at the
hands of the Mac teens and not us Mac adults.
Think about it. They have computer classes in
high school, and I didn’t; they train on them
from much earlier ages than me. I see this in
my classes. I ask how many students know HTML
or C++, and many of them do; they have almost
become language requirements in schools. It wasn’t
so with me. We had no computer labs in my high
school. I am sure there are Mac teens less than
half my age who know more about computers and
the Mac than I ever will. If the Mac will dominate
in the future, if it becomes a standard, if it’s
made to do things I can only dream of, it will
be done by them far into the future, not me. That’s
the way it is. Yes, if you sense bitter-sweetness
in my words, you are right. Sure, I am excited
for the new Mac teens on the block. I am happy
for them and their success. I want them to go
all the way. It’s just that sometimes I wish I
were in their position again, now, right now,
with all the changes at Apple. Oh to be on the
cusp of a new age!

But this is
the way things are. As I said, it’s called “tradition.”
A tradition is when some value, world-view, or
way of life is passed on to our offspring and
ancestors. There is the Christian tradition Charles
talked about in his last “View From the Bridge.”
There are Passover traditions, too, There are
American traditions, family traditions and so
on. What we are seeing is the formation of a Mac
. The excitement, enthusiasm, love,
and downright madness we have for the Mac is being
passed on to others, to younger Mac enthusiasts.
They are the future of the Mac, and we support
them completely. I too was at the cusp of a new
age, and now others are standing there ready to
take the reigns. Now mind you, I am not giving
up anything. I will keep writing and publishing
on the Mac Web. Don’t get me wrong here. The teen
Mac Web needs us established sites and writers
and help show the way. We need them if we really
believe in the Mac and want it to continue past
our efforts.

When I look at the iMacs, the iBooks,
the G4s, and OS X, I wonder if they are not geared
more for the next generation of Mac users rather
than to us, the old guard. This would be sound
marketing at least. Maybe it’s Steve Jobs middle
age crisis we age reaping the benefits from. But
it may be more.

Think about the language used to
described the new Macs and OS X by some. They
are called “playful,” “fun” and “way cool.” They
are “colorful” and “candy-like.” It seems to me
that this language can describe not just the new
Macs and OS X, but youthfulness and adult youthfulness
themselves. If this is the case, then maybe that
is what they are designed for. They appeal to
the youthful, and the youth in adults. This why
I have said in other articles that calling the
Mac a “toy” is really complement, and has some
truth to it. They are fun and playful. If the
Mac is a toy then we feel like kids using them,
and I don’t see that as a bad thing. Anyway .
. . we are all, in a sense, Mac teens when we
sit and play on the Mac. This may be part of the
Mac mystique: It makes us feel young again.

I have heard the complaint, as I
am sure you have, that no executive in his right
mind would take an iBook into a boardroom. And
then there is the “girlie machine” comment about
the iBook. It makes me wonder, “Have the people
making these comments lost their adult youthfulness?
Have they become too adult?” It’s not about Ludditism,
mind you. Rather, I imagine that those who are
fifteen years old now will believe in five years
that OS X (or OS XII) is the easiest and coolest
OS there is. That is, they will view OS X as the
old guard views OS 8. If the Mac is an acquired
taste (I assume this for argument’s sake since
I don’t think this is true), then the Mac teens
have much more “acquiring the taste” in
front of them and less “having acquired tastes”
in their past to bias their opinion. I
have not checked whether the Mac teens out there
take better to OS X than to Mac adults. I have
no idea. What I am saying is that they may be
in a better position to evaluate it informally
than us adults. Just a thought.

If the Mac Teen Web wants to start
fifty more sites, that is fine with us. They will
reach an audience we never could, and say things
that other teens out there will find more authentic
than how we say them. They are a fun group. They
are energetic. They can make us all feel young
again. It’s fun.


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