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Umberto Eco on the Macintosh

Tom met Steve Jobs and talked about Freedom vs Simplicity. This is something Umberto Eco wrote on the topic quite a while ago.

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…..

And machine code, which lies beneath both systems (or environments, if you prefer)? Ah, that is to do with the Old Testament, and is Talmudic and cabalistic.

(I dug this up at this website.)

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  1. What about atheists? Do they work with paper and pencils?

  2. Interesting.

    Use of paper and pencils might be akin to more primitive religions? How one could be an atheist in this system I’m not sure.

    What about linux, all unices, symbian, … dishwasher OS 1.03 ? 🙂

    Funny how gnu/linux ideal (freedom of software) results in intolerant and fundamentalist views against other licenced software. ( 🙂 views which are of course balanced with base in reality, not ever forced on groups/individuals and only held against non-sentient entities!)
    Although groups using any OS do tend to have the full range of types of users from fundamentilists to generally agnostic or open-minded users.


    woah! thought tangent.


  • Current » Who influences your thinking? April 30, 2007

    […] Umberto Eco (I first encountered him when I was 14 and picked up a copy of “The Name of the Rose” that someone left on the bus; another novel of his I enjoyed was “Foucault’s Pendulum” though it’s his essays I enjoy the most, for example his essay on computer operating systems, and his collected works, like “How to Travel with a Salmon: And Other Essays”; but also, “On Ugliness” is a marvelous demonstration on what his profession’s all about). […]