At exactly the right time, Steve Jobs has turned me away from the Dark Side.

I have been agonizing over a laptop purchase for several months now.

My first “real” personal computer (after the Interact I helped manufacture here in Kenosha) was an Apple //e purchased in 1983. Since then, I have stayed loyally on the Apple side of the PC divide. Apple’s products have always seemed inspired, sleek, solid and fun compared to the clunky, patched-together monstrosities of the PC world.

My current laptop, an Apple 12″ iBook G3/500, is almost four years old. This model dates back to Apple’s switch to OS X.

It was that leap on Apple’s part which first gave me pause. While OS X looked very swell and neato and everything, switching over would mean that I would have to upgrade an awful lot of software at considerable expense. Start adding up packages like Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Flash, Director, and Microsoft Office plus dozens of smaller applications, and pretty soon it’s some serious money. Besides, Apple wanted me to make these expenditures to fix something that wasn’t broke. All of my tools were working just fine already.

So I balked. I decided to stick with OS 9 for the time being and let things shake out. I use OS X for things like iTunes, but not for work.

Entire calendars have come and gone, and now I really do need to update my whole computer situation. But just when I had convinced myself that I was going to get an Apple Powerbook, Apple announced that it is going to switch to an Intel processor. No matter what Apple says, this is going to produce at least some additional upheaval.

Having once captured ten percent of the computer market, Apple’s gear shifts have cut that to five and now less than three percent. How much longer before the iris closes completely and the stuttering pig announces “That’s all, folks”?

I have been taking a hard look at (sigh) Windows-based laptops. I have tried to picture myself dutifully updating my virus definitions, reassociating all sorts of little doohickies in various obtuse control panels and installing patches and service packs just like brushing my teeth. I have imagined posing for my Microsoft passport photo and then taking a seat with all the other drudges in the “1984” ad.

But my heart isn’t in it. I just want things to work, and this whole computer fiasco is becoming so depressing that I’m almost tempted to move to the mountains and take up dowsing instead.

Then, yesterday, I read about Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford over the weekend:

“Death is very likely the single best invention of life,” he said. “It’s life’s change agent, it clears out the old to make way for the new.

“Right now, the new is you. But someday, not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away,” he warned the 5,000 graduating students. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

There’s another story about Jobs’ speech on Stanford’s site.

Steve Jobs has the kind of humanity that Bill Gates never can. He understands change and beauty and creativity — not just market domination. However, as Robert Cringely observes, he might be on to something there as well. At any rate, Steve Jobs is still the one I would bet on to produce elegant and civilized tools.

That settles it. I am going to get a Powerbook after all.

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