Hackers return to MACs

All the best hackers I know are gradually switching to Macs. My friend Robert said his whole research group at MIT recently bought themselves Powerbooks. These guys are not the graphic designers and grandmas who were buying Macs at Apple’s low point in the mid 1990s. They’re about as hardcore OS hackers as you can get.

The reason, of course, is OS X. Powerbooks are beautifully designed and run FreeBSD. What more do you need to know?

I got a Powerbook at the end of last year. When my IBM Thinkpad’s hard disk died soon after, it became my only laptop. And when my friend Trevor showed up at my house recently, he was carrying a Powerbook identical to mine.

For most of us, it’s not a switch to Apple, but a return. Hard as this was to believe in the mid 90s, the Mac was in its time the canonical hacker’s computer.

In the fall of 1983, the professor in one of my college CS classes got up and announced, like a prophet, that there would soon be a computer with half a MIPS of processing power that would fit under an airline seat and cost so little that we could save enough to buy one from a summer job. The whole room gasped. And when the Mac appeared, it was even better than we’d hoped. It was small and powerful and cheap, as promised. But it was also something we’d never considered a computer could be: fabulously well designed.