The Mac mini promises to bring lots more switchers to OS X. It makes me think that older Mac users like myself need a little attitude readjustment. Longtime Mac users often sport old battle wounds from pub arguments about which platform is best. I stopped, or at least tried to stop, arguing the merits of the Mac to blinkered PC users in around 1996. It had become clear that nobody wants to hear that they chose the wrong computer, jumper, football team or girlfriend. It’s simply not polite to cast aspersions on somebody else’s choices, whatever they may be. In my defence, these heated tête-à-têtes were usually me responding to some PC geek telling me that System 7’s non-multithreaded architecture was rubbish and I should be using a system where you could “really get into the command line”.

How times have changed. Mac OS X has more threads than Pavarotti’s cardigan, and, yes, I do occasionally delve into a command-line interface in emergencies. The point, however, is that years of being cornered at parties by geeks – or worse, know-nothing PC users berating the Mac – is bound to put a chip on one’s shoulder. I try to rise above it, but even today the occasional PC zealot tries to explain to me how the iPod is rubbish, or that Macs are OK for graphics; oh, the times I’ve been told Macs are “OK for graphics” by the kind of people that consider clip art the height of design chic...

Worse still is being told what the Mac can’t do by people that say “oh, Macs look nice but you need Microsoft” – by which they mean Microsoft Office, but they are too clueless to know the difference between an application and an operating system. Here’s what a Mac can’t do, it can’t run Windows, it can’t get viruses, it can’t get pop-ups, it can’t be infected with spyware. I know these statements might not be 100 per cent true, but to anybody that thinks Microsoft is an application they may as well be.

But while I may sound bitter, I’m now purging myself of all this bad feeling, and I encourage other old-timers to do the same. Get it all off your chest now because it’s time to change your attitude. Now that these prodigal sons (and daughters) are entering the fold, we don’t want to be unwelcoming. Rather than the whining older son that wondered why he never got a fatted calf to make merry with, we should be like the father in the parable: ready to forgive, happy to see those that drifted from the pack and returned.

Actually, the parable doesn’t quite fit: a true prodigal would have been off having a great time; to be prodigal is to be luxuriously extravagant. That sounds more like a Mac user than a PC user to me. But anyway, you get my point.

PC users often look at Mac users as stuck up, superior, la-de-dah designery types who like to pay double the money for our boutique computers. We must tread a fine line – we should welcome our computing cousins to our lovely, friendly, easy-going operating system. At the same time, though, we mustn’t disappoint those that have always fancied having that superior feeling of knowing they’re using the best computers money can buy.

The key to this is tolerance and patience. The time for name-calling has passed; now we must be ready for a new beginning. The first thing we should learn is that if somebody has a PC, they may well have a good reason for it. Most switchers will likely still have their PC in the house. If a new PC costs £300, a second-hand one isn’t worth selling, so why
not let the kids use it. Many people will continue to use both the old PC and the new Mac for a while. There’s no need
to insist that they cast out Satan’s Pentium; quality time with a Mac will likely mean that the PC will be ignored and gradually forgotten. Unless it’s needed for a special purpose, for work, games or as a paperweight, the PC will start to look ugly and old pretty quickly. Before long people will get used to their new Macs, and doing things the PC way will seem odd.

Of course, the Mac way isn’t for everybody. I’ve come across people that have been so attached to their PCs that even given a spanking new Mac to use they have shunned its unfamiliarity. When put on the spot, people who suddenly realize they don’t know how to use a Mac, even if they are fully au fait with PCs, retreat to what they know. We need to be understanding: Macs aren’t for everybody.

The important thing to remember is to forget the past. No mickey-taking with “remember when you used to be a Windoze loser”. As I mentioned before, nobody likes to be reminded about mistakes they made. It’s the equivalent of being reminded of what you did while drunk at the office Christmas party, or how your ex-girlfriend is so happy with her new bloke. Welcome new users – don’t alienate them, otherwise they might just go back to their PCs thinking they were right all along about the stuck-up, bigheaded Mac users. Let’s just be cool about it.

For those of you who are reading this as a switcher, or prospective switcher, I’d like to welcome you wholeheartedly. From this point forward I’ll not let a bitter word – that dwells on the last 15 years in which I’ve been attacked as a minority computer user – pass my lips (or keyboard for that matter). I’m over it… really. Welcome to Macintosh. MW