Topics include: programming, Apple, Unix, gadgets, large-scale web sites and other nerdy stuff.

Normal People Become Mac Nerds

2008-05-28 15:34:20

I'm a computer geek, and I mostly hang around other computer geeks. So my views of what is really popular in terms of information technology are very skewed. I'm very aware of this bias, because at work we are trying really hard to make our software easy to use and popular with norms. That's normal people, not computer dorks.

A vast portion of the technology arguments we have, I fully realize, are irrelevant to the norms. They don't give shit about Unix, or Macs or Vista. They know that there are computers, and there's the internet (or Google, which is, for a lot of people, the internet). People just want something simple that works, and all the other bullshit that we Valleywag readers care about doesn't even register on their personal radar.

That's what I thought as of a few days ago, anyway. I had jury duty the other morning, that great democratic cocktail shaker that stuffs a couple hundred citizens from all the American castes in one room for 4-5 hours. Mostly I just kept my head down and read my sci-fi novel. But I couldn't help overhearing a conversation of three norms sitting nearby. One guy, maybe was in his late 50s, seemed like he owned a small business of some kind. Sounded like a good guy, I think maybe with a Woburn accent, probably not a college type. Definitely a norm. There was a college-age woman or maybe a little older: she seemed like a typical Gen Y-er, but not technical. And there was a kid, maybe 21, a semi-goth maybe. A video game junkie, probably. Also not a tech person.

I heard bits and pieces of stuff and then started listening. They were having the Mac vs. PC discussion. It wasn't the religious thing. Nobody in the conversation was saying PCs were better. The older guy and the woman were basically spouting the party line benefits of Apple and Mac, getting some of the ideas a little wrong or garbled, but mostly getting it right. The younger guy was the PC user and he was playing the role of "I have this old PC and I need a new one, but I don't really know about how to use Macs." The other two were right on this, talking him through how it wasn't a big deal, it just takes a little getting used to, and everything works so much better.

I was floored. I didn't think it would be possible to dislodge Windows from it's preeminent position on the desktop. No matter how bad Vista sucked, or how great OS X was. Now I'm not so sure.