Why My Mac is Not My Favorite Computer

by Chris Howard Mar 29, 2006

My favorite computer is not a Mac. There I’ve said it.

Ok. Maybe that’s a bit misleading…

What is a computer?
How complicated does an electronic machine have to be to be a computer? Does it even have to be electronic? My previous car had a computer in it, and was able to compute things like fuel economy. But it also could calculate distance travelled and speed. Does this make the standard analogue odometer and speedometer computers? No electronics at all in them, yet technically they are computers. On technicalities, even an abacus is a computer, even though manually operated.

What’s your favorite computer? Is it the simple calculator? Your slide rule maybe? Maybe you’ve got a Cray or a multi-machine setup like Virginia Tech?

My favorite computer is my electronic typewriter. Sure it’s got less computational grunt than the trackball on my Mac, which puts it marginally ahead of the abacus, but it does what it does and does it well.

What’s not to like about a device that never needs rebooting? Even my mobile phone sometimes hangs and has to be given the royal salute.

I would have liked to say my manual typewriter but I don’t think it has enough mechanical computation ability to count as a computer – although it does cleverly remember a tab stop. Although the manual typewriter is a great source of amusement for tech heads like me… where is the “return” key? How do I do italics? How do I get my fingers dislodged from between the keys? My electronic typewriter though has a few features to assist the bumbling writer – such as correction tape; a one line memory; multiple tab stops; and it even has a built in spell-checker.

This article is a perfect example of though of why I really like my typewriter more than my Mac. I am sitting at the Mac. I am meant to be doing an assignment for the writing course I am undertaking. I am meant to be in Word. But the idea for this article pops into my brain. It quickly realizes it is all alone and wants to get out, so asks me to write it down. So, rather than jot down a quick note, I dive into DevonTHINK and start writing it. Sure that is going to save me time next week when I would normally be writing this article, but it’s not want I’m meant to be doing now.  And that’s a problem I have with my Mac - and any personal computer. It’s a box full of distractions.

But on my favorite computer, how many distractions are there? Can I play solitaire? Chess? Tweak the CSS for my blog? Calculate how close I am to the poverty line? Add events to iCal? Can I browse eBay? Search Google? Search MacUpdate? Check the cricket scores?

None of the above. I can write on it and that’s all. Now the smarties among you might say “But couldn’t you write this article on your typewriter? Hmmm?!” Of course I could, but I wouldn’t. I write these articles on my Mac, in DevonTHINK. How’s Hadley going to post it online if its on a bit of paper? “Hi welcome to the new hardcopy Apple Matters website. Available in one location only.” Geez, and imagine the pain RSS feeds would be?!

Since using the typewriter, another interesting downside of computers I’ve discovered is they make you lazy. Complacent may be a better word. Computers let you type anything, misspellings, bad grammar, the lot. Why? Because it’s easy to correct it later. Whereas on my typewriter, I’ve been chewing through the correction tape.

Could I survive without my Mac?
Hardly! As a writer, full stop (period if you’re in the US), end of story, I only really need a typewriter.

Yet take that even one smidgey step further to my assignments and I need a word processor. Take it another step and I need the internet. So, except for pure unadulterated writing, I too often need to be on the Time Vac. (One day someone is going to find out what computers do with all the time they suck off us.)

As soon as I get on the Mac, my day is shot. What should take 30 minutes can take three hours as I check RSS feeds, email, iChat, iCal, eBay, CricInfo and so on.

When I sit down each morning at 6am at the typewriter to write, that’s all I do (besides banging my head against the keyboard to stay awake at that ungodly hour).

And I guess that’s sums up why the typewriter is my favorite computer. It doesn’t waste my time. Oh okay, let me rephrase that, it doesn’t provide ways for me to waste my time.

If folks can ever build a computer that doesn’t suck time out of our lives like a Kirby on deflock, then they will be a seriously rich, and Bill Gates’ income will be like the loose change they lose down the back of the couch.

Is that possible though that one day computers could be that user-friendly? Why not? Surely one day I’ll be able to walk up to my Mac and say, “For the next hour, no matter what I say, I only want you to let me use Pages.”

And then after about two minutes I’d be all: “Can I just check my email?”

Mac: “I’m sorry Chris, I can’t let you do that.”

Me: “But, but it’s been like nearly 5 minutes now since I last checked. I need to know if I’ve got any friends. Maybe that nice man from Russia who cares about my abilty to please women might have written to me again - for the 600th time this week. I think he really wants to be my friend.”

Mac: “Chris, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.”

What harm could come from having a computer with that sort of intelligence?

The way Windows is going though, it will be in a Mac long before it will be in a PC.

And now wouldn’t I like to see that in Leopard!


  • Unplug your computer from your network or turn off your wifi, Chris, and your computer becomes little more than an expensive, fancy shmancy electric typewriter.

    For some of us, of course, pulling the network cable from our computers is only slightly less difficult than unplugging our mothers from life support.  But it can be done and, like television, when it’s gone you realize how little you actually miss it.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Mar 29, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • *coughmanwith564commentsandrisingcough*

    Benji had this to say on Mar 29, 2006 Posts: 927
  • You can also make another user account which has no priveledges to things like browsers, iChat, email, etc.

    Or make it so that you can only visit those site helpful in your research for your writing.

    e:leaf had this to say on Mar 29, 2006 Posts: 32
  • Sorry Chris,
    but checking the cricket score can’t be construed as time wasting in my book. And no journalist with a typewriter could keep up with Shane Warne’s achievments. smile

    serveblunted had this to say on Mar 30, 2006 Posts: 8
  • serveblunted you’re right, of course, how stupid of me. Hey - and the Thirs Test starts in an hour. Put everything else on hold. Go Aussies!

    Chris Howard had this to say on Mar 31, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • “You can also make another user account which has no priveledges to things like browsers, iChat, email, etc.”

    ^ yeah, this is exactly what I did.
    ...except I never bring myself to use that account hmmm

    Although Beeblebrox is also right. I once lost my internet connection for a few hours. It’s like my computer was stranded. No more distractions. No nothing. It was scary.

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on Mar 31, 2006 Posts: 299
  • This article reminds me of when I had a seriously looming deadline for teachers college.

    I found I was being too easily distracted by all the things that my iMac could do so I wrote the assignment on a Mac Portable which essentially was the same as using an electric typewriter.

    It was a stand alone machine - file transfer via sneakernet.

    Handed the assignment in on time and good a great mark too…

    There’s something to be said for fewer distractions.

    David Czepanski had this to say on Mar 31, 2006 Posts: 25
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