Sep 21 2006


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“Well,” said Alex, “compare just two items. The Macs had a little applet called ‘Oscar’ which, when they emptied their trash, would make a little animated Oscar the Grouch pop up and sing ‘I Love Trash’.”

“I had that!” said Brigid. “I used to love that.”

“I’m not surprised,” said Alex. “Anyway, Windows 95+ had something on a similar scale, which was a little VB thing you could put into your startup that would superimpose a silhouette of Joel and the Bots from MST3K over your wallpaper, and randomly play the occasional sound clip as if they were riffing on your work.”

“Heh,” said Brigid.

“Now, here’s the thing — the Oscar program was made for a Mac, so it was one of these ‘drag this into your startup folder and you’re done’ installs, fine and good. The Windows MST3K thing took a little more effort, because you had to have the Visual Basic DLL on your machine. Of course, that was simple to find on any file-sharing BBS, and all you had to do was drop it into your Windows directory, easy-peasy. But Mac people, being basically a bunch of effort-hating technophobes, would hiss and squeal and shrivel up into a little black raisin at even this much, crying about how Windows was so haaaarrrrd and rattling off a lot of nonsense about autoexec.bat and config.sys that they all got off of some Apple corporate white paper and didn’t even begin to really understand!”

“Ha!” said Brigid. “It hasn’t been that long since the days of Windows 95 — I remember watching people’s Windows computers crash and crash and crash, mouse drivers unexpectedly stop working, and the good old days of ‘plug and pray’. You’re not fooling me, mister!”

“Oh yeah,” said Alex, “all that stuff happened, I won’t deny it. But the thing is, Macs did all that crap too, but to hear Macvangelists talk, you’d think that reliable and useful computing on the Macs of the era was the norm, when I happen to know from hard personal experience that is was the rare, rare exception!”

“Ha!” said Brigid again.

“Well look, ask Greg,” said Alex. “I bet he remembers.” Turning to Greg, Alex said, “Well, what about you? What side did you take in the platform wars?”

Greg, who’d been in a kind of reverie, staring across the restaurant at a television set, raised his eyebrows. “Huh? Oh. Well, I was still at school and living off my parents’ life insurance in those days, so I certainly couldn’t afford a computer. I used to do all my word processing on the Unix mainframe, in the ‘vi’ editor. I still remember typing in ‘.ti5’ at the beginning of every paragraph to make line indents — man, what I wouldn’t have given for cascading stylesheets in those days! Or even just a copy of WordPerfect.”

Alex blinked at him for a moment, then suddenly started genuflecting in a wildly exaggerated manner and crying out, “We are not worthy! We are not worthy!”

“Eh?” said Greg.

-The Gneech

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