I’ve been preparing for my ABA TechShow presentation on practicing law with a Mac and reading about Microsoft’s most recent advertising blitz explaining Laura is not “cool enough” for a Mac. It got me thinking about why I use Apple computers.
First, My Short History
I’m part of the original computer generation. I got my start programming basic on a Radio Shack (before “Tandy”) Color Computer with a whopping 4k of memory. I didn’t actually own one. I just rode my Schwinn 10-speed to the Radio Shack a few days a week where the sales guys were kind enough to leave me alone so long as I agreed to save my programs (to cassette tape of course) so they could show customers the great stuff you could do with it.
I eventually got my hands on an Atari 400. I loved it. It had this spectacularly crappy plastic keyboard that made you stop and press each “key” or your code was a mess. It didn’t matter. I had it hooked up to a recycled 13” color TV and was in bliss.
I was in High School when the Macintosh made its debut and while I certainly lusted after one, there was no way I could afford it. It wasn’t until college that I started spending serious time on Macs and it quickly became my platform of choice. When I got to law school, I was told (very gently) there was no point in using Macs since they were completely absent from the practice of law. So I bought a PC clone and learned to use Windows 3. The first time I opened Windows, I was astonished at how bad it was. It crashed. It fought me every step. I didn’t really have a choice, so I adapted and learned to tiptoe the Windows minefield. Over a period of years, Windows evolved and I grew used to its quirks. In short, the software trained me and I grew accustomed to its limits. I became a Windows power user and was able to get get through that minefield pretty quickly without getting any limbs blown off, very often.
The universe then combined to bring me back to Apple. Looking back, I can identify exactly how this happened:
1. I Watched Al Gore’s Movie.
I do a lot of presentation work and was blown away by Al’s presentation. I was a PowerPoint ninja and had no clue how he was doing those transitions or making those fonts render so nicely. A little research disclosed that he did it on a Mac. That got me thinking.
2. Steve Moved the Mac to Intel.
This really was the watershed event. When Macs started shipping with Intel chips, I *knew* it wouldn’t be long before I could run any necessary Windows applications on them. I was right.
The final straw was my new Dell. It was three months old and I was already having issues with it. The hardware was fine. The trouble was the rubber band and scotch tape hodge podge that is Windows. It occurred to me that even 15 years after the “switch”, the process of using a Windows computer was still more tedious than the Mac 512 I used “back in the day.” I spent more time taking care of the computer than the computer did taking care of me. I had enough. I quit. I sold the relatively new Dell at a small loss and went to the Apple Store.
Why I Use a Mac
I’m sure part of my infatuation with Macs is reverting to the computers I loved growing up but there are also a few practical reasons:
My Mac Saves Time
From the first time I booted up my Intel Mac, I immediately became more productive on my computer. It was like someone finally turned off that white noise that started the first time I booted Windows 3. No longer does the computer require me to adapt to it. The user experience is designed to serve me, not the opposite.
I’m sure there are lots of reasons why this is true. One company, with the Steve Jobs’ “no compromise” mentality part of its culture, controlling every component from the hardware to operating system to software development environment is one reason. A group of dedicated developers (with a sense of taste and style) is another. Perhaps the most underestimated part of the Mac experience is the massively supportive user base. Today I was sitting in an airport working on this post on my MacBook Air when a complete stranger walks up to me and points at my Mac and says, “So did you buy the new MacHeist?” There is no other computer where you get that experience. The only discussions about other computers usually involve some sort of pain. “So, how DID you get all that crapware off your new Dell?”
I’m sure there are more reasons. The bottom line is I got a noticeable bump in productivity when I switched. I also found my self-trained limits on what I could do with my prior PC’s needed to be thrown out. Suddenly I found myself able to make movies (good movies), produce music, manage photography, diagram and manage work projects better, faster, and easier than ever before.
The Mac is My Edge
I’m a strange duck as an attorney. About half of my work is transactional. This is where I make deals for clients, write contracts, wills, trusts and help people purchase, form, and sell companies. This is what I call “win-win” work. If I do my job right, everybody benefits from these transactional matters. The other half of my work is litigation. That is where there are two groups at odds. These matters are usually resolved by a guy in a black robe and nearly always involve a winner and a loser. The rub is, I hate to lose.
A computer does not allow you to magically win lawsuits, but technology is certainly a factor. I have always used technology in my practice. I am in a small firm and often find myself against attorneys from very large firms with many more assets, attorneys, and support staff behind them. The smart use of technology is how I even the playing field. I have been hauling projectors to the courthouse since before anyone even knew what a “Powerpoint” was. Switching to the Mac was my next step in staying ahead of the technology curve. It worked. My Keynote presentations are fantastic. Likewise, everything from planning strategies through generating trial graphics and editing deposition video that I do on my Mac is, frankly, better than anything I’ve ever seen my PC opponents put together. My technology is so much better, that I’ve even been accused of being “slick” at trial because the other guy simply doesn’t know what else to say when the jury looks at my animated Keynote against his random scriblings on a chalkboard.
The Mac is Fun
Using a computer should not be compared to getting teeth drilled. Nonetheless, that was my Windows experience. In contrast, the Mac has been a joy. I had no idea when I switched how much better I would get at photography or that I would rekindle a 20-year dormant hobby of writing music simply by switching computer hardware.
I don’t think owning a Mac has as much to do with being “cool” as it does with demanding that the technology serve you and not the opposite.