January 28, 2014

Stephen Fry Got It Right

The Mac turned 30 years old a little while back, sparking not only articles and blog posts of nostalgia, but also this awesome Apple site celebrating the Mac. Among all the pieces, Stephen Fry’s post is the one I like the most. I especially like this part:

What cannot be denied is that the first Macintosh changed my life completely. It made me want to write, I couldn’t wait to get to it every morning. If you compare computers to offices, the Mac was the equivalent of the most beautifully designed colourful space, with jazzy carpets on shiny oak floors, a pool table, wooden beams, a cappuccino machine, posters and great music playing. The rest of the world trudged into Microsoft’s operating system: a grey, soulless partitioned office, with nylon carpets, flickering fluorescent lamps and a faintly damp smell.

Whatever tool you choose, the one that you’re happy with is the one that’ll let you perform best. I Stephen Fry’s case, back in the day, the Macintosh was empowering him, making him want to write. Today lots of writers dream of MacBook Airs because it just seems like a sexier way to churn out words than the black fat plastic Windows laptops they’re stuck with. It’s nothing special really, we all want better tools.

Screenshot from Apple's site celebrating the Mac's 30th birthday.
Screenshot from Apple’s site celebrating the Mac’s 30th birthday.

What really struck me with the Stephen Fry quote however, is how well it resonates with the iPad today. I absolutely adore my 13” retina MacBook Pro, even more than I did the MacBook Air that preceded it. It’s a long line of Mac computers, swapped out about once a year since the whitebook launched, every one a little bit better than the last. They’re all great tools for writing (among other things), and this one’s the best one yet. Still, despite all its glory and marvelous screen, my retina MacBook Pro doesn’t make me want to write.

The iPad (Air at the moment) makes me want to write.

So what’s the difference? Is the iPad Air in any way superior to the MacBook Pro in terms of being a writing tool? Of course not, on the contrary in fact, but that matters little. The iPad to me is the modern typewriter, amazing in its own right. I can easily borrow Stephen Fry’s analogy above, declaring the iPad Air the luscious office with great oak desks and canisters of whisky, whereas PCs (not to mention competing tablets) are boring grey office landscapes with cubicles as far as the eye can see.

In The Writer’s iPad I talk about that the tool you’ve got with you is the one right for the job, at the moment at least. The same reasoning is true when thinking about the tool you want to use, because if you can in fact use said tool, that’s the one that’ll empower you and make you perform better.

Thoughts? Let @tdh know on Twitter, or find me elsewhere. There is also a newsletter.