How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Mac OS X

Hello to the Maciverse readers.

My name is Simon Williams, and I’m a freelance tech and gaming writer from the UK. In the forthcoming months I’ll be looking to share some of my thoughts, experience and tips on the wide world of Apple technology with you all.

Sorry about the somewhat melodramatic title, but it refers to something that I think continues to hold many people back from making the change from Windows-based PCs to Apple Computers: namely, fear.

Fear of the unknown. Fear of having to learn something new. Fear that things just won’t work the way you expect them to, or at all. Fear, in short, of Mac OS X.

For those of us who use Apple’s operating system in our daily lives that may seem a strange statement. After all, “It just works” became a cliche because it is inherently true – Mac OS X is the most user-friendly, as well as downright enjoyable, OS on the market.

But people have become so conditioned to Windows as the default that the thought of changing over does worry them. Take my friends and family as an example: virtually all of them own Apple products. iPods, iPhones and even in some cases iPads are present and correct, but not a single Mac.

And it’s not as if they haven’t had reason enough to change. If you’re like me, considered the “techy” person in your family, the “go to” person for any technical hitches, then you’ve had to deal with the repeated and plaintive calls for help when something goes wrong with a Windows PC. Barely a week seems to go by when I’m not being called round to expunge a virus, reformat a hard drive and reinstall an operating system that is at the root of all these issues.

It’s not as if these people aren’t aware that personal computing could be a more fun experience. When they’re round at mine they’ll often pick up my Macbook, play around with the OS X desktop and almost always comment about how Macs apparently don’t get viruses with a wistful tone in their voices. They’d love to change over, they know it makes sense, but something is holding them back. You can see it in their eyes: the fear.

Perhaps I can illustrate my point by relating how I came to use Macs as my primary computers. During the early 2000s, I was an eager if not particularly talented bedroom musician. My sequencing software of choice was Emagic Logic. When Apple decided to buy out Emagic and make Logic an OS X-only product, I was left with a simple choice: convert to Mac or learn a whole new recording platform, involving buying new software that cost as much as a personal computer to begin with, with the attendant loss of all the knowledge and productivity shortcuts I had built up with Logic.

The answer was obvious, but still I held back. It’s not as if I hadn’t heard enough good things about the (then) new OS X – virtually all the musicians who were interviewed in computer music magazines were using Macs. But the worry was still there. The OS X interface appeared to be some gleaming, alien thing. Windows was a terrible platform (at the time) to try and record music on, with its constant need for maintenace and virus checkers resulting in more time being spent cajoling the PC to behave than was actually spent making music.

So I started to slowly prod my way warily around OS X, even going so far as using a skinning program to make the Windows XP desktop a clone of the Mac one. And what finally struck me, even with this fake UI, was the sheer aesthetic pleasure of Mac OS X’s visual elements. There is something about the Mac desktop that quietly says: “lets get things done. I won’t get in your way”.

So when I saw (of all things) the G4 eMac going cheap in a local PC World, I took the dive. Within six months I was onto the new G5 iMac and have never looked back. A number of different Mac desktops and laptops have passed through my hands since, almost all self-financing thanks to Apple computers’ ability to hold their market value. A plethora of iPods, iPhones and now an iPad have since joined them. And to think I may have denied myself the enjoyment they have brought to me because I was afraid of OS X.

The noted British actor, author and Apple lover Stephen Fry once wrote that the single saddest thing about the ubiquity of Windows was not that Microsoft had “won” any spurious battle so beloved by fan boys on either side, but that the vast majority of people using computers in their working lives would be confronted every day with something so ugly, something that made computing seem a chore instead of a pleasurable activity. At the heart of Mac OS X is the fundamental Apple design tenet that the aesthetics of personal computing are just as important as the function.

To Mr. Fry’s point I’d like to add that the other tragedy is that the dominance of Windows has left people afraid to convert to an operating system and hardware that would make their lives easier and less stressful, and computing something to be enjoyed.