Macintosh religion?

Umberto Eco graphic

“The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant. Indeed, the Macintosh is counterreformist and has been influenced by the “ratio studiorum” of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory, it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach – if not the Kingdom of Heaven – the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: the essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.

DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can reach salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: a long way from the baroque community of revelers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.

You may object that, with the passage to Windows, the DOS universe has come to resemble more closely the counterreformist tolerance of the Macintosh. It’s true: Windows represents an Anglican-style schism, big ceremonies in the cathedral, but there is always the possibility of a return to DOS to change things in accordance with bizarre decisions…..

And machine code, which lies beneath both systems (or environments, if you prefer)? Ah, that is to do with the Old Testament, and is Talmudic and cabalistic.”
UmbertoEco Sept 30 1994, quoted in La bustina di Minerva, in the Italian news weekly Espresso, September 30, 1994

I found this reference from an article in the BBC News Technology Web site by Stephen Evans variously entitled The Cult of the Mac and/or Apple a day keeps the music at play. Its all about the iPod thing but dredges up the Eco quote.

Eco was writing some years ago (only 10 years but a geological age in Computer terms) and things have changed. I wonder how Eco would characterise my iBook? Still the ‘cheerful, friendly, conciliatory’ front end but now the nuclear powered Terminal with a faint sulfurous wiff from the Unix command line (Mephistopheles like, the command line can show hidden rooms and bring on powerful agents and even control daemons…).

There is ‘something of the night’ about how you can be dragging files to icons one minute and piping a Web page from curl to sed to strip the html codes the next. A meeting of the faiths if ever there was one!

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