Author, columnist and documentary maker Jon Ronson is so attached to his Macs that he suffered an extreme reaction when his PowerBook stopped working, “I thought I was having a heart attack so I checked myself into casualty.
“They told me I was having a panic attack. This may seem funny now, but it wasn't funny at the time.” Ronson explains.
Ronson has only been a Mac user for the past two years or so, but is already an owner of two Apple machines. His first machine was the heart-stopping G4 PowerBook, joined recently by a G5 17” desktop.
Having been a Windows PC user previously Ronson was drawn to the G4 PowerBook because, “it was physically attractive. Yes, I had been using PCs for years, but when it came to getting a new one, I found the physical beauty of the G4 enticing.”
The aesthetics of the Apple range helped in the choice of the new desktop, with Ronson liking “it's physical beauty - and I guess the fact that the two are compatible, although I don't quite know what that means.”
The beauty of Apple’s machines was slightly dented in Ronson’s eyes with that first laptop. “Unfortunately it all went wrong at first. The screen started pixillating madly whenever a moving image appeared.
“Apple Care were very kind and helpful, and they all had appealing twinkly Dublin voices, but the thing that drove me crazy was that my G4 had to be in the shop three times before they gave me a new one. I had to go through that incredibly stressful and annoying three-times-in-the-shop rule. After the third time it went wrong I got so upset and stressed out my arm went completely numb.” That is when Ronson ended up in casualty.
Jon’s concern about the loss of a working PowerBook is apparent when he describes what he uses it for. “Everything. Mainly writing - on Word - and the Internet. Sometimes listening to the radio. Or music with the iTunes visualizer. Emails. A massive amounts of research for my stories. From time to time I inadvertently look myself up on google and accidentally press search. I also play online poker - pokerroom.com - and spend hours at a time on lexis nexis.”
Ronson admits to rarely upgrading any of his hardware or software, hence a difference in OS versions between his two Macs. “My G4 is 10.2.8. The G5 downstairs is 10.4 with Tiger,” he explains. “I tend not to keep up with these things, although I'm pretty sure that everything I buy from now on will be Apple.”
This loyalty isn’t due to a hatred of Microsoft. “Well, let's face it, Apple is not a little village shop either. The feud between Apple and Microsoft didn't influence my decision to have a Mac.”
It’s been over a decade since Ronson first got online though he feels that “the 'net wasn't much fun back then. I think it consisted of one CIX chat-room.”
Now Ronson can’t imagine not having net access. “I love the Internet. I can't believe that I managed to write for so many years without using the Internet. How did I do it? My book ‘Them’ - and subsequent book ‘The Men Who Stare At Goats’ - were both written with massive and incalculable help from the internet.”
Despite having such a heavy requirement from the Internet, it was only by accident that Jon got his own website. “A man called John Lundberg approached me out of the blue when I was doing a public event in Belfast in 2001. He asked me if I wanted him to set up a website for me. I like it. We have a very friendly forum. It used to basically be a Why I Hate Jon Ronson discussion group. After a while I thought, why are we hosting a forum dedicated to people who hate me? So we banned them all. The forum is great, and jonronson.com is also a good place for me to link to my various books and articles, and to publicize upcoming events and appearances. And people can email me.”
Apart from the two Macs Ronson is also the owner of an iPod, not that it is his favourite piece of Apple equipment. He rarely uses the iPod, and only then to listen to one or two items. “On the rare occasions that I use the iPod, I tend to listen to Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison over and over again on a continuous loop.”
While Ronson agrees that the iPod is a revolutionary device, his reason for not using it is very simple. “It is because I like to listen to the radio when I'm walking. I have a great portable DAB digital radio. I walk maybe three miles a day, and I listen to that.
“What I did love about the iPod was that I could download old ‘This American Life’ shows. ‘This American Life’ is the best radio show ever. It comes from public radio in Chicago, is hosted by Ira Glass, who is a broadcasting genius, and consists of hilarious, poignant, moving pieces of non-fiction - monologues, mini-documentaries, interviews. The show sets a theme each week, and then the contributors do something based tangentially around the theme. ‘This American Life’ was the radio show that first introduced the world to David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell.
“I have appeared in a few episodes. In ‘THEM’ I tell the story of my year with Omar Bakri Mohammed, an Islamic Fundamentalist in London and in ‘Family Physics’ I tell the story of how my parents commissioned a brilliant yet troubled local artist to paint a family portrait. I would encourage iPod users to download some random ‘This American Life’ shows from the music store.”
While now being a confirmed Mac fan, Ronson refuses to be drawn on what he would like Apple to create in the future. “I have no skill in imagining the future. So if it is okay with you I will leave any ideas of where Mac should move into to the people who are paid to come up with those ideas. If I do have any ideas like that, I think I ought to try and get Apple to pay me for them. Surely if I have a really good idea they would pay me millions, wouldn't they? I'd need to somehow tempt them with a little clue as to what the idea was, because if I gave them the whole idea, I'd have no leverage.”
Let’s just hope that whatever Apple comes up with next, it doesn’t end up giving Jon Ronson another trip to casualty.
Visit www.jonronson.com to find out more about Jon.