The Orthodox World of the Tech Guy

The Orthodox World of the Tech Guy

You have to understand something important about techies: they're probably the most religious people on the planet.

What do I mean by that? Well, what I've learned about techies is that like clerics, they have specialized knowledge that most people don't. They form communities of like-minded individuals and with this specialized knowledge, they have considerable influence and sway over ordinary people. We look to them for guidance about esoteric questions because they set the standard for our computing lives. And like clerics, they are extremely orthodox in their thinking. Yet here's the paradox: they almost all consider themselves as thinking outside the box, able to see the larger computing picture and embrace new technologies.

This is pretty much a self-delusional lie.

For techies, the universe revolves around their desktop. This is a machine that they've customized to the hilt, tweaked the operating system and gone beyond the normal limits of what you and I use on an everyday basis. The issue is, the desktop is the only true paradigm they know, and they want it replicated everywhere: laptops, netbooks, smartphones and now, tablets. For techies, there is no other substitute for the desktop and if you suggest otherwise, you're a heretic and a fool.

Along comes Steve Jobs of Apple and his iPad. I don't think there's been such hatred for a device or a concept since Luther nailed his 95 theses to a cathedral door. Techies loathe this device, and for a group that claims it is cutting edge and establishes the standards, the hatred has all the reactionary froth of an orthodox, true believer: it doesn't have Flash, USB ports, a removable battery and most of all, a full-blown operating system. Where do you find those things? On a desktop of course. And it's on their laptops and netbooks. And if it fails to appear on a tablet computer, it's utterly worthless.

The iPad may be neither "revolutionary" nor "magical," but its extended (and enlarged) approach to how an ordinary user interacts with it removes the mediator between OS and man, and this is deeply offensive to techies. If you listen to Steve Jobs, he's come this close to describing using the iPad as a mystical union (he used the word "intimate") and this is not how techies conceive of the computing world. To the orthodox, it is all file systems, keyboards, mice, peripheral ports, and a vigorous defense of a proprietary format (Flash) accompanied by a hellfire and brimstone condemnation of "closed" computing ecosystems. This is a common thinking disorder that occurs after the wagons have been circled, but it's oblivious to the high priests of the computing world.

The late Ayatollah Khomeini once famously said, "There is no fun in Islam," and he could have not found more understanding acolytes than with techies. Outside of dedicated (and proprietary) gaming consoles, electronic devices are not supposed to be fun. (Or rather, not fun for you and me.) It's productivity all the way through. One of the bigger complaints about the iPad is the perceived lack of "getting work done," as if a mobile computer is supposed to be about editing spreadsheets for the big presentation while sitting on the couch. This is also where the charge of a lack of multitasking comes in, because as you know, if you cannot replicate the Desktop and have multiple windows open, then it is not the true religion. It's heresy.

(Of course, techies do like to have fun, but's a namely Kabbalah-like practice called "jailbreaking" although you have to be an inititate into that esoteric practice as well.)

Only the market will determine if a product like the iPad will succeed, but even before its launch, it's seemingly started to influence the computing industry like no other product. But the reaction to the device is tried, true and deeply religious: the computing experience proceeds from the Desktop and it is one with the Desktop as they share the same nature. In other words, no Desktop, no computing salvation.

Welcome to the Reformation, boys.