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Part: 1 Looking at the Mac

Part 1: Looking at the Mac

Editors' Poll: What Makes a Mac a Mac?

CB: The Great Cloning Experiment of the late 1990s demonstrated that a Mac is more than a hunk of plastic, wires, and circuits stamped with an Apple logo. What made these beige boxes Macs was the Mac OS. Although the clones are gone and Apple has gussied up its designs, what continues to make a Mac a Mac is an operating system that makes sense from the tips of its toes to the top of its pointy little head. The Mac OS has a consistency of design and ease of use that allows people to concentrate on the work they're doing with the computer rather than on the computer itself.

DM: Two qualities mark the Mac platform: its deep integration of hardware and operating system and its tradition of user-centric values. First, Macs just work, and that's not just an accident; rather, it's the result of hardware and software engineering working together from the beginning of the design process. That's impossible on the Wintel side. From the beginning, the Mac was intended to be easy to set up, use, and manage—and for the most part Apple has delivered on that goal (forgetting the horror of the round iMac mouse). Hey, I almost wept when I first opened the side panel of the current Power Mac enclosure. Everything is open and accessible. That's the Mac way.

MC: That furshlugginer one-button mouse. Now you might consider that a flip, smart-aleck response—and it was—but after some thought, I stick by it. On the one hand, you've got simplicity, the Mac's hallmark. You can't press the wrong mouse button if there's only one. Beautiful. On the other hand, you've got Apple's stubbornness. Clearly, there are uses for a second button on a mouse. But does Apple make one or even offer one with its computers? No, of course not. So the one-button mouse, to me, is the perfect symbol for the Macintosh.

BF: After all these years, for me it's still the interface and ease of use. When I got my first iMac, I was absolutely stunned at how easy it was to set up, and that ease of use transfers through to all aspects of the Macintosh experience.

DR: It's kind of a Zen answer, but the whole of the Mac really is more than the sum of its parts. Ease of use, great integration, a sense of style, powerful software and hardware—a Mac has to have all of these things to be what it is.

MEC: The friendly smile it gives you every time you turn it on (although you see it much less often with Mac OS X, because you have to reboot so rarely!).

SS: Even with the introduction of Mac OS X, the Mac remains a Mac because of the intuitive way we can perform common (and not-so-common) tasks and because of consistency. Whether we're working on the Desktop or within almost any major program, we're seldom forced to guess how things work or to learn a whole new paradigm.

JO: It sounds corny, but to me the entire user experience is what makes a Mac. Having used PCs for as long as I've used a Mac, I really appreciate the consistency I get (most of the time) with a Mac that I can't count on when using a PC. Like many users, I like to start using an application or game before cracking open the manual. The consistency of the Macintosh user experience makes this possible nine times out of ten. Another great aspect of the Macintosh is the community. Some call us crazy zealots, but our passion for the computer is part of what makes the community so supportive of one another.

JF: As opposed to a Wintel PC? Well, it's sort of like what makes a Yankee a Yankee instead of a Met, or a White Sock instead of a Cub. As PCs have become easier to use and Macs more difficult (I use both), the main difference I see these days is the attitude of the person at the keyboard. Sometimes I think that the only thing that gives the Mac its Macness is the fanatical devotion of its users. Without that, there would be no Macs at all.



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