Infinite Loop 23: Losing Myself in OS X

What is happening to me? Am I the
same person anymore? Has Apple Computer, unknown
to me, performed some kind of clandestine brain
transplant on me? Am I in fact the same person
I was before March 24, 2001? I am not sure anymore.
I am so unsure of many things. I feel haunted,
haunted by a daemon.

It all began so innocently. Well
… almost. I saw it coming. We all saw it coming.
We had experiences with beta versions and all
that, but didn’t really stick with it. Too much
to give to up back then. And now, on March 24,
something about me changed. I can’t quite put
my finger on it. But slowly I feel a transformation
bubbling in my gut, like a fly flew into my transport
pod just before teletransportation. Something
inside of me is growing, like a statue pushing
to get out of raw marble. But it is not me anymore.
Or is it? I was anxious. Like the first kiss,
with shaking hands and a sweaty brow, I installed
it. It was beautiful. The beauty. Was this a BSD
experience or LSD experience? Was it a … Mac
anymore? That was the rub. I wasn’t sure.

But then again I was never sure
of what “the Mac” was in the first place. Oh,
yes, I hear the talk of “ease-of-use, simplicity,
speed” and all that. But you can say the same
things about a sausage maker and so I knew they
did not capture the essence
of the Mac itself. Like Socrates asking
“What is justice?” I was asking “What is the Mac?”
It was very hard to answer. VERY hard. But I think
I hit upon it.

Simply stated (as I did a year
ago at another site): The
essence of the Mac is that it is a computer.
Simple enough, eh? But this was also the essence
of a Dell box. In fact, it might also be MY essence
as well (the only difference is that I am wet
on the inside and it is dry on the inside). So
I realized the essence of the Mac as a computer
was that it is a Universal Turing machine (a calculator
basically). Simple enough. But what was the essence
of the Mac as a Mac? The answer suddenly
hit me, like a violent storm-front on a Floridian
coast – the essence of the
Mac as a Mac is that you do not realize
its essence as a computer. This was it.

I almost shut down everything. I
almost stopped writing. After all, everything
you could say about the Mac could be said in this
simple formula: The essence
of the Mac as a computer is that it is a Universal
Turing machine; the essence of the Mac as a Mac
is that you do not notice its essence as a computer.
This says it all and no one had ever said it before.
So we, the Mac Web, might as well shut down things
and go home. Right? Yes. Everything that will
be said after that will simply be restatements
of that simple truth. It’s what so many of us
had been searching for; what we didn’t even know
we lost, we found. It would all be repetition
after this.

And then came March 24, 2001.

This began a double movement identity
crisis in my life. The reflection in my monitor
had changed because of both who was looking into
it and what was being reflected back. Like a convex
mirror, the shape of the window changed the image
of myself I saw. But which had changed more, the
glass’s shape or the one reflected by it?


I was just exploring, you know?
I had a new toy, a whole new operating system,
and was just pocking around to see what it was
like. I can’t believe, to put it bluntly, that
for a mere $69 (educational price) I have received
in return so very many hours of pure fun and enjoyment.
Oh, and yes, I have been productive too! I haven’t
lost anything because I adopted OS X early, thanks
to a very stable Classic environment. But I was
just looking around and thought, “This is new,
I’ll check it out.”

And then BANG!!!!!!!!!

It was the moment the universe
changed; it was the second I changed; it was the
instant my Mac changed. Both — me and my
Mac — seemed to have simply disappeared in
a puff of smoke and slowly floated away, starting
a double transformation between me and my Mac
as we both vanished. As the valley grew lower
the hills grew higher. There it was, right before
me, like I had never seen it before. What did
I see that changed everything? What scream caused
me to wake up? I opened the Terminal app and the
ProcessViewer app. The moment I did my Mac disappeared,
and me along with it. After all, I can no longer
be a Mac user if my Mac suddenly ceases to exist,
can I?

What had happened?
Suddenly the essence of the Mac as a Mac was gone
before my very own eyes. If in fact the essence
of the Mac as a Mac is that one does not notice
its essence as a computer, the Terminal and ProcessViewer
apps changed all that, unveiling right before
me the essence of the Mac as a computer and smothering
the essence of a Mac as a Mac.

And I disappeared with
it. As Pierre Igot so aptly put it, “You are no
longer a user but an ‘Administrator.'” What? me?
A UNIX Systems Administrator? I teach in the humanities
not the sciences; I don’t have plastic liners
in my shirt pockets; I wouldn’t know a UNIX command
if it ran up and kissed me and said “Thank you!”
But the moment I saw the Terminal app “talk back
to me,” as it were, I wanted to know more.

Suddenly: The fact
that FreeBSD
4.3 came out
was news to me. To ME!! I started
reading “Learning
the UNIX Operating System
” and “Think UNIX.”
I looked through “UNIX
in a Nutshell
.” I wanted to learn the differences
between BSD and other species of UNIX. I wanted
to create other users, fictions really, and run
a real system like a SIMs village. I was going
to Barnes and Noble and reading up on … the
Korn shell? The vi Editor? “<” was no longer just
a quote mark in emails — it now means “Redirect
input from a file.” I am no longer playing
in a GUI but I exist in a Matrix called an “environment’
made of a hostnames, accounts and
users. I will do it, I will learn UNIX
with the help of a lot of reading and trial and
error. There is so much power sitting there and
I want to take advantage of it. But what have
I become? Where did I go to?

the UNIX Operating System
” keeps saying “If
none of these suggestions helps you … ask …
your system administrator.” But I AM the ‘Administrator’!!
So now where do I turn for

It is a feeling that even Aqua
itself cannot wash from me, no matter how much
I love Aqua (and I do love it a lot). Even if
I never open the Terminal again, the damage has
been done, and I keep having BSD
flashbacks. And sure, Quartz is beautiful.
Yet now so much is not hidden from me: “One
cannot be told what the Matrix is. He has to see
it for himself.” Yeah, kind of like that.

I use OS X full time now and I love
it, I really do. It has taken patience, perseverance,
and lots of time and hard work, but I have adopted
and adopted
. I am learning new things everyday (and
as a educator I like that, a lot!). I am learning
how UNIX/BSD works. I knew, for the most part,
what I was getting into. Yet, OS X has taken something
important away from my Mac, namely, Apple’s long
standing trick of fooling
into thinking we are not using a computer
when we are. And OS X has taken something important
from me, namely, myself as a Mac user.

But it had to be — the one
depended on the other.

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