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Home > Culture and Society

Macs vs PCs: Geek Against Geek, Nerd Against Nerd

11 February 2007

Ructions on the Internet this week as comedians Mitchell and Webb appeared in a series of adverts for Macs based on their characters in 'Peep Show'. Thus PCs (David Mitchell/Mark) are boring office computers, while Macs (Robert Webb/Jeremy) are fun music-and-pictures machines. Although why anyone would want a computer that's also a drugged-up, self-obsessed wanker isn't clear.

The ads came in for a disproportionate amount of criticism, some reasonable (you can't escape the fucking things), some just weird, such as the claim that Mitchell and Webb have somehow 'sold out', as though they'd previously been strident anti-capitalists, or were advertising landmines.

But much more interesting was the response to an article about the ads by Charlie Brooker. In an article in The Guardian, simply entitled 'I hate Macs', Brooker took the piss out of Mac obsessives. You know the sort - people with an enthusiasm for Macs that goes way beyond mere appreciation of the performance of the computer. He playfully accused Macs of being pretentious and ridiculed the idea of defining yourself with your choice of technology: 'If you truly believe you need to pick a mobile phone that "says something" about your personality, don't bother. You don't have a personality.'

At the time of writing the online version of the article had attracted more than 400 comments, the majority of which were Mac users singing the praises of their computers and slagging Brooker, with smug geek comments like this: 'Enjoy your new Vista OS [operating system], people. You'll be forced to upgrade to a new computer to use it. And it still won't be as good as Mac OS X.'

Which kind of proves Brooker's point about people who believe that owning a Mac marks them out as free-thinking individualists, if not rebels. It's a lack of perspective that only the true computer geek could have. If you spend your spare time as a human shield in the West Bank, base jumping, writing a novel, building a perpetual motion machine or for that matter putting on puppet shows with a pro-paedophilia message, you can probably be said to be exhibiting some form of individuality. For computer geeks, however, individuality seems to mean having a slightly better operating system.

But perhaps worst of all, the Mac obsessives were quickly castigated by - you guessed it - PC obsessives. Given that using a Mac and a PC are, fundamentally, fairly similar experiences (it's not like arguing about the merits of cheese sandwiches versus sadomasochism) it makes you despair at how passionate people can become about utterly trivial things. So vehement were the arguments that it's a wonder we're not still living in caves angrily debating the relative merits of grey rocks versus brown ones.

Hey, maybe, in a way, we are.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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