Monday, 13 August 2007

Macs, Windows and Umberto Eco: Which is the Rose?

...so there was my little confession in the post just below this one regarding the sleek, shiny, white MacBook that God hasn't given me. Probably for very good reason.

I am really a Mac person. I've owned three of them: a 512K near original which was given me, the kind out of which people made aquariums, a PowerBook (I think it was a 190 which ripped along at 33Mhz and had a 500MB hard-drive), and a blue first generation iMac. They were all lovely but I got to the point when I could no longer support my habit.

A few years ago, in Anglican World magazine, I came across a quote from "The Holy War: Mac vs. DOS," an English translation of novelist, Umberto Eco's, back-page column, La Bustina di Minerva, in the Italian news weekly Espresso, for September 30, 1994:
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 counter-reformist 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 achieve salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: Far away from the baroque community of revelers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.
Suddenly I understood why I find the Mac so attractive...simple formulae and sumptuous icons, a baroque community of revelers, not to mention elegant design.

Anglican World, did not, however, quote the following from Eco's article:
You may object that, with the passage to Windows, the DOS universe has come to resemble more closely the counter-reformist 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: When it comes down to it, you can decide to ordain women and gays if you want to.
Anglican-style schism and bizarre decisions, indeed! Umberto was being prophetic.

In the meantime, within the loneliness of my own MacLess inner torment, I tap away on my Presario 2200 which really doesn't smell as sweet.