January 24, 2014, marks the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the first Macintosh computer. Five years ago, on the 25th anniversary, I wrote the following short post; with the rise of the iPad and hints of future Apple products (iWatch, anyone?) that are likely to continue to change the way we interact with the world, not to mention the election of the first Jesuit Pope, it seems worth revisiting today.
January 24, 2009, is the 25th anniversary of the introduction of the first Macintosh computer. The famous "1984" Superbowl ad had aired two days earlier, on January 22, 1984; but the first time the Macintosh was seen in public was on January 24, when Steve Jobs gave a demonstration of the new machine to a crowd of 3,000 people. For anyone who has ever used a Mac, an iPod, an iPhone, or even a Windows PC, that day changed history.
For many years, when Apple's marketshare was relatively small, people used to speak of the "cult of the Mac"--and as a longtime Mac user, I'll admit that there can be an element of almost religious devotion to the machine that makes my life easier every day. But I've also noticed a rather interesting correlation between prominent Catholics on the web and Mac users.
Those who want to understand why should read a 15-year-old essay by novelist Umberto Eco, "The Holy War: Mac vs. DOS." Published in the Italian newsweekly Espresso on September 30, 1994, the essay is firmly tongue-in-cheek, but like the best humor, it works because it's based in truth.
Eco writes, "I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant." Explaining this distinction, he continues:
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.
What a difference from the world of MS-DOS:
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.
But DOS, of course, is a distant memory in 2009, and even in 1994, when Eco wrote his essay, it was on its way out:
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.
One wonders what Eco would say of the disaster known as Windows Vista.
Eco's essay was all in good fun, of course, but what do you think? Is there a grain of truth in it? Why are so many prominent Catholics on the web Mac users? Leave your thoughts in the comments!
More on Apple and Catholicism:
- A Catholic Looks at Steve Jobs
- The Christian Vision of Steve Jobs
- Selling Your Soul for an iPhone?
- Why 2009 Will Be Like 1984
- A Saint He Ain't
- Pope2You.net: The Vatican Gets Hip
- Best Catholic iPhone App - 2011 Catholicism Readers' Choice Awards Winners
- Best Catholic iPad App - 2011 Catholicism Readers' Choice Awards Winners
- Best Catholic iOS App - 2012 About Catholicism Readers' Choice Awards Winners
- Best Catholic iOS App - 2013 About Catholicism Readers' Choice Awards Winners