Channelling Jack, the Atari Spirit

by Guy J Kewney | posted on 22 April 2008

Twenty years ago, there was the Atari Evangelist. He wrote a column for a national UK newspaper (and a very good one) and every time he had to report a new bit of IBM-compatible software, he would finish: "Of course, you can do the same thing for half the price with the Atari."

He was, often, quite right. Nonetheless, he became a figure of fun, because his enthusiasm went beyond rationality, into the realms of OCD - obsessive compulsive disorder.

Mac Evangelism is quite understandable. "My Registry is corrupt!" says the Windows-using layman, "can you help?" is bound to trigger an exasperated response. The world is full of technically competent people who have simply become exhausted by trying to keep up with Windows problems and fix their friends' machines. But heck, guys... there are limits.

The Windows architecture has definite flaws, and the Registry is obviously a nasty one. And I could easily produce a long list of other Windows design features which don't work as well as they might, and where an Apple design is superior.

Then again, you don't have to be a Sherlock Holmes to find areas where the Apple product falls short of perfection. I particularly remember the silence from the Jack Channellers the other day, when I was trying to use Safari to view a web site that used script-based forms editors...

Religious wars, or rwars as we used to call them, about tribal preferences in IT, will always be with us. But there's a difference between preferring one to the other, and obsessiveness.

For example, Windows has wasted more than a week of my time recently, because of a corrupt Registry. The panacea offered by most sysadmin experts to a request for help is: "Vape the installation, restore from backup... erm, you do have a valid backup, don't you?" - with the smug assurance that you probably don't. A nice riposte if your purpose is to get out of offering genuine help.

But of course, if the Registry is corrupt, reinstalling Windows from a recent backup will simply reinstall the corruption. And if you install Windows afresh, you've thrown the Registry away, and will have to re-install all your applications.

Faced with a non-expert friend who wants to waste your time with the futile task of trying to analyse which Registry entry is causing a Windows problem, any sensible professional will say: "Why don't you get a Mac?" because the time wasted will be considerable, and it's the sort of problem Mac users don't have.

There are limits, however! And the Atari Channelling Gang are way beyond those limits.

"I want to edit a movie including clips from Quicktime and Windows video and Real" is a problem which has a perfectly simple Windows solution. "I can do that easily on a Mac" is perfectly true, no doubt. But what it really means is:

"I don't know, but I'm not going to admit that."

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