You’ve been punk’d!

Have I been dreaming the last 10 years of this PPC revolution?

Yes, I’ve been punk’d. Remember all the Expos with the demos of Photoshop up against a Wintel? Recall how they rendered everything faster? How Mathematica crunched numbers like crazy and the CEO would come out and talk of the wonders of the Mac? Remember the Intel bunny being burned? Yes, they poo-poo’d that this week and laughed at ol’ times on stage. I wasn’t amused – it was a badge of honor. Recall all the talk about CISC and RISC and all that? Pipelines and bottlenecks and speed increases and how it took two Intel chips to do the work of one IBM PowerPC chip? That OS X was written to take advantage of the power of the PowerPC?

I was at the local user group the night the PPC was introduced – a whole 70-something MHz and it blew us away! We all had to wean off the old system – and my SE30 – but it was simpler due to “fat binaries.” The excitement of the night was only tainted by the uncertainty of ‘migration.’ I was just getting out of Grad school, recently married, and went and spent $4000 on a new PPC. It was a heady time and the PPC revolution lasted something like 10 years and now… ? And now I feel I’ve been punk’d: it was all a joke, a big “gotcha!” I feel lied to frankly. Or else, it was all true – I wasn’t dreaming after all!! – and now the wonders of the PPC RISC are getting smaller in the mirror. It was all true – Photoshop does render faster on a PPC. But guess what? It doesn’t matter – performance doesn’t matter. That is the message.

Apple said that they were in an awkward position of trying to explain why PPC chips were faster. Now they are talking about how Intels are faster “per watt.” Per what? It just doesn’t matter – market-types will always find some way of justifying a move and an incredible inconvenience on the masses. In a word, it’s all imaginary. I guess people were just too dull to understand that MHz wasn’t the only thing that mattered… oh, wait, I have met an awful lot of people like this, come to think of it.

So either it was all lies, and we were fooled, our Macs weren’t better as were led to believe, or else it was all true and we must settle for second best, or, for us, as good as it gets when we are used to having it very well. Take your choice, there are no other options: you were fooled or must give up the best.

Think I am wrong? Heard of the Society of the Spectacle? The dirty little secret of the market economy is that it has nothing to do with the market. It all has to do with the Spectacle creating needs – “pseudoneeds.” After the industrial revolution when basic needs were supplied, to keep the market going capitalists had to create needs other than food and shelter and so on. So they create a Spectacle that produces images and the commodity becomes nothing but an image. You are then related to this image, in you own head – it’s call “ideology” – and creates need. Imagination is very important. But how are needs created? By defining roles. The Market creates roles like dad and father or lover (or the necessary conditions for the same) and then tells you that you cannot be a good one without some commodity – something that can be bought and sold. If you have the commodity you are happy; if you lack it you stand on the outside, and no one wants to stand on the outside. Look at advertising – it’s all about trying to define your life. And like earthworms many passive people lay in front of the screen and absorb it instead of going out and participating the hard, cruel work of active self definition. Many would just rather have the market define their life than actually live life.

So, forgot the last 10 years of PR about PPC. It’s all a Spectacle. And now the machine is hard at work trying to justify in your head the change. Of course they are counting on you having a short memory, and indeed the society of images we live in if anything certainly doesn’t help with our retention: “all that is solid melts into air” as Marx said. The only thing that lasts in a Postmodern society is an abiding sense of loss.

So yes, you’ve been punk’d, in an ideological sort of way.

I was talking with someone the other day about how huge programs were getting. I installed Adobe Creative Suite 2. Good lord! And my very nice iMac is starting to lag. I don’t want to buy a new machine. I know the Spectacle will tell me that I need one, but I am quite happy and when all is said and done most of can get along just fine with older machines. I know someone who waited 7 years! Worked in Classic and was patient and then in one brief financial opportunity took the plunge and spent a great deal on a new machine (it hurts less if you think it will last for a longer time). And guess what? Today Steve Jobs punk’d him, big time. In two years his machine will be obsolete – so will yours. It’s back to fat (or the new term, same BS “universal” binaries,”) emulation, slow, slow, slow… you think Adobe Creative suite is big now wait for the “fat” version!! No, you will either upgrade or die. The Spectacle has spoken. You are at it’s mercy and there is nothing you can do about it… perhaps. As far as I know they still make paper and pens.

It means binaries, obsoleteness, expensive upgrades to everything – everything you use. So you thought you might save some money? Nope. It’s starting all over again just like the cycle did with the switch to PPC, then from Classic to OS X wherein vendors can charge you $100 for what is in reality their problem, not yours. I was recently thinking, after getting Tiger, that Apple was being awful Microsoft-like lately – charging us $130 for a maintenance upgrade. I was getting disgusted. Today after the introduction of the Mactel, I am absolutely nauseous.

I used to enjoy unalloyed lust. Now the my lust has copper in it, it is no longer pure nickel. I feel, well, dirty, after defending Apple so steadfastly for years is this how my loyalty is repaid? I ask myself, “What is it I have been fighting for anyway?” It’s not a machine, I guess, or just an OS: It was for a way of life, variously expressed as the role of “Think Different.” Okay, so we all know, I hope, that thinking different entails its own brand of anti-conformity conformity. I get this. We also know, when all else ends, that Apple is a company and profit is the motive. Does the mere change in brain in my Mac change thinking different, that is, thinking alike? I mean does one little part, a processor, really change it? The Spectacle tells me that images – now called ‘brands’ – are important, and if that “Intel Inside” image in splashed on my pretty Mac and when I start up and the splash screen reminds me, in an ever-mind-numbing-repetition-of-brainwashing, “Intel Inside” my identity of difference – thinking difference – will disappear. I don’t know. I have invested so much capital – intellectual, emotional, literal money – into this ‘fight’ I feel unsatisfied.

What, I ask myself, have I been fighting for?

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