Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell


Posted by metaphorical on 10 July 2007

My graduation in May was attended by my mother, my wife, and my stepdaughter. Last night, I switched the third and last of them: my mother.

Remember Apple’s “Switched” ad campaign?

It was only 5 years ago, but I barely remember it myself. Occasionally, it included the famous (Yo Yo Ma) and the semi-famous (the surfer Kelly Slater). More common, though were the ads with unknown people, including one that the commercials themselves made famous, at least for 15 minutes. The campaign even inspired some great parodies, such as the Switch Gates.

Anyway, none of these ads had the slightest impact on my mom, or Rachel, or Juliane. They blithely continued their PC ways, even if they thought the ads themselves were cute.

In early 2003, Rachel decided to get herself a new laptop, and did finally consider a Mac. But it seemed pretty unlikely, and I spec’d out the Sony Viao that I was sure she’d end up with. As it happens, I was going on a climbing vacation and invited her to use my Mac for the week. By the second day she was hooked and couldn’t wait for me to get home and help her buy one.

By late 2006, Rachel had just gotten her second Mac when we got a call from Juliane, who was at college, happily using her (of course) Sony Viao laptop. Until she tripped over the power cord and sent it flying across the room. (Has the Will It Blend guy ever done a Viao? If so, his Viao would look a lot worse than Juliane’s. Hers was pretty disfunctional though.) Since the Viao was going to be out for repair, Rachel drove down to Princeton and lent her the first laptop, an iBook. To make a story short, the Viao never went for repair, Juliane’s dad generously bought her a new computer, and she chose a 17-inch MacBook Pro.

I myself was a reluctant Switcher, back in 1999. I was really entrenched, having written my first Autoexec.bat file in 1982. That’s 17 years of DOS and Windows power-use. In 1999, at a new position at work, I was given a G4 PowerBook. I managed to break the little latch on the first day. It took me a week to grudgingly like OS 9, and at least another week to finally love it.

My mother, though, seemed an even less likely candidate for Switchdom. It’s not that she’s resistant to change, or to technology. Back in the late 1980s, she dove into pre-Windows DOS with style. She was working part-time, and when she needed to create and use a database and I set her up with Paradox, and she ended up learning it better than I ever did. She moved through WordPerfect to Word, DOS to Windows. She uses cellphones, DVRs, and anything else the world, me, or her grandsons throw at her. (Digglahhh is the one who made her get a DVR.)

Still, that was a history of 20 years of familiarity, if not exactly comfort, with Microsoft. So when she decided to give herself a new computer and her old one to Digglahhh’s brother, she could have gotten a nice ThinkPad or another Dell. I’m still not sure what the turning point was toward the Mac, but it might have been viruses and worms. She’s just beside herself that it just isn’t much of a problem at all for a Mac. (Yes, I know, someday it will be precisely because so many 71 year old grandmothers are switching.)

She got last year’s black 2.0 GHz MacBook at a close-out sale price, adding a second gig of RAM. We went back to her apartment to get her set up – online with her router, Office installed, a .mac account, and so on. I just called her to see if she loves it yet. “I haven’t had much time with it today,” she said. “But I’m liking a lot already.”

She has a couple of learning curves. I had suggested she try getting used to the trackpad and only get a mouse if she can’t. But she, a southpaw, isn’t very dextrous with her right hand. And she’ll probably cling to AOL for a while. There’s also the whole similar-menus-across-the-top, the Finder, and getting used to the idea that just clicking something that should do something will, 9 times out of 10, actually do it. All the things all of us who were switched have had to get used to, much to our delight.

One Response to “Switched”

  1. digglahhh said

    Wow. I guess I have to find out that my grandmother bought a Mac through a blog. Sheesh, I guess this must be what Bill Burroughs Sr. felt like when he read “The Town and the City” only to find that his son was a bisexual junkie. I guess, it’s not really the same, but a shocking development nonetheless.

    Now, if only she can only learn to differentiate between AOL and the internet…

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