»  Taki's Magazine

July 14th, 2011

  How D'Ya Like Them Apples?


[Added later]  Naturally, my foray here into the PC-Apple wars brought out in force all the girls and girly-men who like Macs.

I got much scorn for not knowing that Apple Corp. has in fact been using Intel chips since 2006. Feugh! Why would anyone who is not a latte-sipping metrosexual pansy know such a thing? In any case, what is the alternative designator? "Apple" vs. "non-Apple"? Nobody any longer remembers the original signification of "PC." Besides, being five years out of date on a technical topic is a source of pride to this proud reactionary.

A sympathetic tech friend:
I like to point out to my friends in the MacCult that the more mobile the product, the more popular it is with the MacCult. They cannot give away their desktops, but the powerbooks sell OK. The iPod sold like hotcakes. Same with the iPhone. Why? That's because the people who buy them want to show them off. That's why they buy them. The ultimate is the iPad, which is small enough to carry around, but too big to put in your pocket. Everyone will see you with it!

BTW, you'll probably find your kid's school is all Linux. All state schools are Linux these days to avoid the licensing cost. That makes the Apple demand even more ludicrous. Your kid would get along better with a $300 refurbished laptop running Ubuntu.
And it is not, by the way, the case that Apple computers are immune to viruses. When my daughter finally took delivery of her Mac Book, it came with a printed warning from the store about the Mac Defender virus. A store techie told us that the Apple support people, having not much experience with viruses, are handling the whole situation very incompetently. Color me not surprised.


The man in the Apple store lied to me. He LIED TO ME. But then, I knew he would.

I hate the Apple store. My kids, of course, love it. The stuff in there is so sleek, so stylish, so … so … expensive. The kids know how Apple stuff works, too, even though our home computers are all Intel.

I stop to fiddle with a MacBook Pro — which, if you don't know (I didn't until I walked into the store) is their basic laptop. OK, here's the touch pad, but … where are the clickers? The kids show me: you tap on the touch pad. That's the equivalent thing to a mouse click. I obediently tap. Nothing happens. "No, Dad, like this …" The hell with it.

Will there, I wonder, be some lasting psychological effect on my kids — they are 16 and 18 — from having been raised with Intel machines rather than Macs? I know they feel there is a class angle, though filial piety restrains them from saying so out loud. The posher among their friends, the ones whose parents have big houses down by the water, with cleaning services and lawn services and boats, all own Macs.

Do Intel machines say "white trash"? Cost-wise, they very well might: the serviceable little Dell N5010 I bought myself last month for $1,200 matches quite precisely, in gigahertz and gigabytes and battery life and screen size, the 15-inch MacBook Pro my daughter is lusting after, for which the Apple Store wants $1,800. What am I getting for that extra $600? Not clickers, obviously. A brand name, I suppose.

And then there's the store assistants' attitude. One hates to generalize about an entire category of humanity, but in their mode of address to customers, Apple Store employees seem not to range outside the narrow band from brusque to snotty. I have been told — here I have no experience at all and must perforce rely entirely on hearsay — that the very highest class of ladies' clothing stores, jewelers, milliners (are there still milliners?) and the like all give rude service. Up there among the carriage trade, apparently, consumers don't feel they've had a worthwhile shopping experience unless they've been insulted. The Apple people seem to strive for some similar cachet; or perhaps it's just that I trigger their whitetrashdar.

I drag the kids out of the stinking place, telling the haughty 17-year-old employee who favored us with ninety seconds of his time that we are off to Best Buy to do some comparison shopping. We'd be wasting our time, he sniffed, ostentatiously erasing our vile greasy fingerprints from his precious wares. "We set the prices on our machines. They charge what we tell them to." Subtext: How would they dare do otherwise? We're Apple, you know.

But he lied to me. Best Buy has precisely the same MacBook for ninety dollars less. I hold their store card, too, which gets me a zero percent deal on financing. I decide to buy my daughter a MacBook from Best Buy. The decision is silent, though. I need a sign-off from the Mrs on large purchases; I want my daughter to know that spending $1,700 is a matter of some moment to me; and I still nurse faint traces of resentment at having been talked into getting her a foppish, frivolous-elite Mac instead of an honest working citizen's Intel.

The lass is going to college in September. Our household falls into the unhappy zone of being too well off to qualify for financial aid yet not prosperous enough to pay private-college fees. She herself falls into a different but equally frustrating zone: bright enough for acceptance yet not bright enough for scholarships or waived fees. Since she has no particular notion of a career, we have absolutely vetoed her sinking herself in student-loan debt.

Appropriate compromises were made. She will be attending an excellent state college. It's right for her; it's right for us; we are doing our best, and it would be absurd to feel any guilt at not having done better. The urge is strong none the less to sweeten the compromises with a favor or two, and she wanted a Mac. So Dad let himself be talked into getting Princess a Mac, even though Dad, from class-addled England, thinks Macs are effete ("gay" I would say if I were my son's age), while Mom, from pre-boom China, thinks college students should go ragged and hungry to class and spend vacations out in the fields learning from the poor and lower-middle peasants.

Far, far back, when I had for some years been making a living programming mainframe computers, someone paid me to write some code for an Apple IIGS. I had already mastered MASM, the low-level coding language for early Intel PCs, so I purchased the Apple equivalent — Merlin, it was called — and set to work. I got the job done at last, but it was like breaking rocks. Merlin was nowhere near as intuitive and subtle as the Intel chip code. (SCASB! XLAT! ASSUME! Those who understand, will understand.) I tell you this only to fend off accusations that my Apple-o-phobia is mere blind prejudice. Not so: I have grappled with the beast "down to the metal," as we used to say. Trust me: Apple, Inc. is a limb of Satan.

Talking alone with my son later, he tells me knowledgeable people prefer Macs, even with the extra expense, because they don't get viruses. Is that so? Then it's time someone cooked up a Mac virus, just to teach all those soft-handed private-school toffs what life is like for the working man in this gritty fallen world. Wonder if I still have that copy of Merlin …