Surprisingly enough, I was directed to this humorous little excerpt in pure ecosian (or ecoish, if you like) style while listening to a brilliant lecture on how to read the drama of Job through its questions (by Declan Hurley of Dublin) at the Biblical Studies Seminar (QUB, Institute of Theology).
The seemingly endless quarrel between Mac and PC doesn’t need to be rehearsed here. However, I will point to one tiny peculiar thing that often gets overlooked, namely how fond and appreciative, often sentimental, are Mac users when it comes to their computers. Have you seen the explosive smile on their face when they point to it? Have you noticed how overjoyed, dignified and categorical they speak of their Mac being virus-free, the most advanced and stable OS in the world etc. etc.? Have you noticed how informed, up-to-date they are (most of them anyways) when it comes to the esteemed if not veneered company – Apple? Virtually everyone knows when upgrades are due, what were the latest products that were launched at the latest WWDC (no, that’s not WWJD) conference and what Steve Jobs talked about in his „keynote address” . By contrast, by (stark!) contrast, have you ever, I mean ever heard a PC user say something along the lines „Oh, how I love this PC computer of mine!”? or to speak highly of… Bill Gates? No way. Has anybody seen any Microsoft lovers walking around? Ok. That’s enough. Point made. Now for Eco…
Read below a ‘reading’ of the Mac – PC quarrel in a religious hermeneutical key. Unmistakable Eco. (The piece goes back to 1994, when Mac was still Macintosh, and PC users quite frequently pronounced MS-DOS. While the times have changed, the rivalry „must go on”)
The fact is 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. Indeed, the Macintosh is counterreformist 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.
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 reach salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: a long way from the baroque community of revelers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.
You may object that, with the passage to Windows, the DOS universe has come to resemble more closely the counterreformist 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…”
(Excerpt taken from an English translation of Umberto Eco’s back-page column, „La bustina di Minerva,” in the Italian newsweekly Espresso (September 30, 1994).
So it looks like I’m a Protestant using a Catholic computer. How’bout that?
P.S. – apropos „sumptuous icons”, it looks like Snow Leopard confirms this through its preposterously large icons, as large as 512 by 512 pixels, four times as big as Leopard’s largest (256 by 256).