Patrick Gray used to be a PC fanboy. Find out why he's now more concerned with having tools that get things done than chasing an elusive superior platform.
Once upon a time, in the early 1990s, an earlier version of this columnist (with significantly less grey hair and far more rudimentary social skills) sat grinning as his latest tirade leapt out of the outbound Usenet queue at a blazing 14.4 kbps, modem squealing, and newsgroup posts streaming. Of the myriad entertainment options available at the time: TV, acquiring more fluorescent Vaurnet T-shirts, sports, or even drugs, I had become a self-appointed PC evangelist. At that point in my life, I had never actually heard the term uttered, but in the truest sense of the word, I was a PC fanboy.
My teeth gnashed as I wondered how those misguided Macintrash (yes, I frequently used that term) users could be so foolish as to fall victim to the marketing hooey, their feeble minds preferring icons and soothing MIDI tones to the comfort of a glowing "C:\" prompt. I scoffed as they forever forewent the sense of accomplishment earned from the fortitude required to resolve IRQ conflicts or install a superior sound or graphics expansion card through sheer grit. "App stores" didn't exist back then, but the PC had an obviously superior catalog of programs, readily apparent to any MacGeek who could stop bragging about their font collection for eight minutes and troll the aisles of the local CompUSA.
So, it was with great amusement that I read several comments from TechRepublic members in the forums recently, accusing me of being an Apple shill, and even going so far as to apply the "F word." My 1990s self would have been appalled -- and then really shocked to find a trifecta of Crapple (yes, I'm not proud of it, but that was another of my Usenet favorites) products in my arsenal of technology tools: an iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.
The death of a fanboy
While the development of my interpersonal skills may be up for debate, and my fashion sense has evolved little from the days of bright yellow T-shirts and knee-high socks, I'm much more sanguine in my choice of technologies. An iPhone sits in my pocket for many of the same reasons that a PC sits on my desk -- they both have a prolific selection of applications that meet my needs for work and play, plus they generally allow the tool to get out of the way of the activity at hand.
Ironically, a MacBook, the most recent addition to my arsenal, made it into my briefcase for the exact opposite reason. My employer-provided laptop -- the usual generic black five-pound boat anchor -- was so riddled with "corporateware" that its boot times extended into the six- to eight-minute mark, and the suspend and resume functionality was rendered essentially useless. My company has a fairly liberal BYOD policy, as long as a platform-dependent list of company-mandated software is installed. The superior application catalog of Windows actually acts against the end user in this case, with a long list of mandatory monitoring and security applications required for Windows. There's a shorter list of basics for Mac, which means it has a relatively low corporateware footprint.
I already had a MacBook for some iPhone development experimentation, so I was able to consolidate my personal and work computing environments and gain a superior computing experience, largely due to less overhead required to get my job done rather than some innate Apple superiority. I find the Mac's hardware and software to be more closely integrated than a Windows machine, which must support billions of possible combinations of hardware. However, Mac OS crashes and hangs just as much as Windows 7 when paired with a poorly written application.
I'm still passionate about technology, but at a practical level, I'm more concerned with getting things done than chasing some elusive "superior" platform. I've rarely stuck with a mobile platform for more than a few years, with Windows Mobile/PocketPC/Palm-sized PC probably having the longest run, and it's actually been quite liberating to abandon any remaining PC-zealotry on the laptop front in the quest for a device that makes it easier to get productive work done. The entire notion of my days spent plotting my next attack in the global crisis that was Mac vs. PC now seems quaint at best, and time that might have been better spent reading a good book or watching paint dry at worst.
Any man can be bought, and I assure you that my price is quite low. But at this point in my career, until a global conglomerate is prepared to line my pockets, the only fanboyism left in me is for whatever tools let me get work done, so that they can be shut off and I can spend more time with my family.