Far too often, the soul of someone who happens to be a Mac user is seen through the lens of corporate communications — about crazy ones, misfits and round pegs in square holes.
I'm a Mac user and have been so for most of my life. Growing up, System 6 was a staple, but I also remember a Compaq portable with the mouse trackball at the right side of the screen and the mouse buttons on the lid, and eventually using Windows 95 and 98. I came back to Mac with Mac OS X when I left a really powerful PC for a computationally dinky Aluminum PowerBook G4, and have not owned a full-on desktop since, even if I do own a NUC and a few Raspberry Pis.
I recently have been in a mode of deep (Windows-based) user interface focus at work, and was describing Panic to someone recently when something came over me. I love these guys. I love the attention to detail of every large, small and medium thing, the time put into making an application that feels right and flows right, that's easy to use, that has just enough user interface that you can get done what you need to get done, that has style, function and whimsy.
Panic is just an example, but there are so many of their ilk that I can point to. Many Tricks and their excellent Witch; Ranchero's NetNewsWire; Omni and their myriad of productivity tools; Noodlesoft's Hazel; and so on, and so on, and so on.
I've used Windows every day for as long as I can remember in one way or another. I can find my way around there as well as on any other platform. But while on the world's biggest desktop OS, I still feel constrained by a meandering vision, by a lack of common conceptual ground, by the infuriating feeling that so much is built and left unfinished, unpolished and put out to rot.
The Mac gets a lot of flack from people who are nose deep in technical specifications and price matchups. What they don't see — or aren't interested in — is the intangible: the culture that people with big dreams and small means have made the unconventional available, the complex seemingly simple and the advanced accessible. This culture doesn't live or die by Apple in particular, although the original Macintosh being a product of a similar mindset helped set the tone. This culture produces things that are hard to find elsewhere, not because it's technically impossible to do, but because the values that drive those other platforms produce different outcomes.
I am upset with a lot of recent technology, because it all seems intent on burying history as part of remaking the world. Not everything new is bad or worse than what came before, but so many important learnings are being thrown out. You can't make a web app without first filling it with a big framework to implement basic interactions, and most of them lose the tactility and the richness of most native interfaces of any platform. You can definitely build good web interfaces driven by snappy and well-thought-out engines, but it takes intense focus and hard work to do so, and it's easier (but not cheaper) to just throw in Bootstrap and work just as poorly as most other web sites. Electron takes all this and wraps it up in a computationally horrible footprint, under the insulting guise of "native".
iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS and now macOS with Big Sur – all the recent advancements seem to come at the expense of the wide berth that used to produce great results. The freedom that allowed a seamless experience is chopped up by security concerns ham-handedly and haphazardly applied, and on most platforms most of the time topped with having to pass the needle's eye of a trillion dollar enterprise's hungry bean-counting and control. All for the purpose of being a populous platform for its own sake; for having more apps that cost little, grey gruel instead of food; for padding a bottom line if you're cynical, or stroking a corporate self-image run amok.
The reason, all these things considered, that I haven't left these platforms yet is that there's still the feeling of being in a garden of my own cultivation. I can control every nut and bolt and swap out infinitesimal details and fundamental building blocks in Linux, that's true. But that means that people do, and you end up with worrying about technological fundaments because of this uneven foundation. This soil does not bear great fruit, efforts by GNOME etc notwithstanding, and the culture lionizing the endless flexibility of the command line and architectural purity of UNIX gives an easy escape hatch for any problem.
Windows is seemingly more stable in this aspect, but while I am able to live in that house, I am not able to make it my home, and it's not for a lack of trying. Microsoft's repeated wallpaper-stripping and ever-changing priorities make it feel like an enormous mansion under constant renovation, with uneven floors, studs poking through the walls and fundamental features left broken or half-finished since the last time they cared. (The less said about the impressionistic "Fluent" wing entirely in featureless acrylic, the better.)
The culture and the people and the shared values and what it all comes together to produce. That's why I'm still here. You can live in many houses, but not all of them will ever feel like home. I'm upset with the landlord and the building manager who ignores leaking pipes and oiled floors catching on fire while upping the rent and turning a blind eye to hustlers running Three-card Monte, but aside from that, I love the neighborhood, I love the surroundings, I love that they value the things I do and I love what it can build over time.