Computing’s religious wars

From this morning’s Observer column.

Umberto Eco once wrote an intriguing essay about the differences between the Apple Macintosh and the PC. ‘The fact is’, he wrote, ‘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. The Macintosh 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.’

The PC was very different: ‘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 revellers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.’