Macs are a Myth

I teach in a Computer Science classroom. One of my chief duties is to introduce freshmen, 14 year olds, to computers in general. Although most have a computer at home (I do surveys in the beginning of the year), only 1/4 of those that are familiar with computers have ever heard of the Macintosh, or realize that there is another platform choice.

Those that realize that there is such a thing as a Mac, consider it, at best, of some historical importance, but no more relevance to today than the Model T. At worst, they simply sneer, although they haven’t actually ever worked on one.

You and I grew up during the advent of the personal computer. Like the microwave and the remote control, it has taken us a long time to take these things for granted, and we still consider them, at some level, a novelty. We remember the Mac revolution, and the development of click-n-drag; we remember seeing them appear on desktops, their usefulness and functionality becoming more and more apparent. Some of us have switched from Mac (infidel!), but it was a conscious decision–you and I had to make that decision for ourselves, and consider the merits and weaknesses of all the options. We have had to at least consider the Mac, even if ultimately dismissing it.

My students have had no chance to make this decision — it’s been made. They grow up with a PC, they learn on a PC, and, if they consider a Mac at all, it is as a historical anachronism rather than a viable computing choice. I do my best to illustrate the differences, and the strengths, of the Mac; I share jokes with my students who do have a Mac at home. But for others, they would no more consider purchasing a Mac than they would consider an Edsel a reasonable automobile purchase. These are the same people that will buy computers in the next 4 years, as they go off to college, and in the next 8 years, when they enter the workforce. These are the same people that will sit in committees that make IT purchases for their corporation.

Apple needs to win more of this new generation, and they had better do it fast. Although they needn’t actually make sales, they do need to present a strong enough alternative that their option is at least considered. As it is, Mac isn’t even within the scope of their perspective. Otherwise, in 4 years, when these college computers are purchased, Macs will surely be relegated to the ‘dustbin of history.’