For some ridiculous period of time, I’ve been peeking in on a debate that’s raged in an online discussion group since someone first dared to start the topic, “Mac or PC?”
Unsurprisingly, more than 2,300 reader comments have now failed to resolve the question. Though seriously outnumbered in this design-oriented forum, those pesky PC users have not yet rushed off to the Apple Store, credit card in hand. Instead, they’ve tweaked the Mac users for being blindly loyal, not understanding that computers are just tools or that PCs deliver greater flexibility at a lesser price.
Some of what they say is actually true. However, these people ignore the existence of measures that don’t show up in spec charts and invoices.
These are the intangibles. Invisible to some, yet clear as a bell to others. Worthless to some, worth any price to others. Intangibles not only caused the PC/Mac wars, they’ve caused just about every rift since good taste had its first fight with bad taste. They are the reason this debate will never, ever die.
Forgive me while I step outside the category to illustrate the point. I direct you to an article that ran in The New York Times last summer. It was written in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Electric Lady Studios — the recording studio built by Jimi Hendrix, where some of the greatest recordings in rock history (past and present) was captured.
I’m sure most people aren’t aware, or have long forgotten, that Jimi built this as the studio of his dreams — where the technology and ambience would inspire musicians to create some real magic. And this was long before Apple invented the word magic.
Rather than mimic the bigger, more sterile studios in use at the time, Jimi built a studio that reflected his values. It was psychedelic, with odd lighting and arty murals featuring “sci-fi erotica,” all designed to help musicians be more creative.
Hendrix actually died less than a month after the studio’s opening, but the list of artists who have been attracted to this place is pretty amazing: from the Stones, Stevie Wonder and Led Zeppelin, to Coldplay, Rhianna and Sheryl Crow.
Interestingly, despite the fact that bigger studios with great technology and engineers have folded in recent years, Electric Lady remains a creative beacon.
Eddie Kramer, Hendrix’s “favored engineer,” sums up the difference in a word: “vibe.” The studio’s goal, he explains, “was to create an environment where Jimi could feel really happy, and feel that he could create anything.”
At other points in this article, the studio is described as a “mix of high-tech equipment and mellow atmosphere” and “a friendly place to make art.”
In another article, studio designer John Storyk says that Jimi personally instructed him to “have things soft, curved and with changing lights.”
It was all part of the vibe. Clearly a ton of big-name musicians believe in it. But we may safely assume there are many out there who do not.
The vibe is something you either appreciate, or you don’t.
There’s a parallel between choosing a studio and choosing a computer — technically, a personal studio. Some make their decision based on the cold, hard facts. Others seek out the environment that will help them do their thing better — or a computer that will simply provide a happier place to work.
If you can’t appreciate the intangibles, it doesn’t make you a bad person. It just means you have different priorities. There’s room in this world for people who think both ways.
For the PC users in that discussion group who believe OS’s are OS’s, apps are apps, and computers are just tools, Mac users will always appear to be first-class fools.
That’s interesting. Because I imagine that these very same people can appreciate the special magic of the music that Electric Lady made possible.