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The Cult of Mac 374

Posted by timothy
from the distant-drumbeats dept.
cgjherr (Jack Herrington) writes "The Cult of Mac, a new book by Leander Kahney, is a love letter to the Macintosh community. The book seeks to simultaneously define and evangelize the Apple cultural phenomenon. With 25 million users (in the author's estimation) there is a lot of culture to go around. The tattoos. The modified machines. The pilgrimage to MacWorld. The sub-cult of iPod. It's all here." Read on for the rest of Herrington's review.
The Cult of Mac
author Leander Kahney
pages 268
publisher No Starch
rating Excellent
reviewer Jack Herrington
ISBN 1886411832
summary A love letter to the Mac community

The form and structure of the book is a cross between a Wired magazine (for which Kahney has long written on Apple) and a coffee table book. There are great pictures of people, machines and art to appeal to the eye. Some pages are all pictures, while others are primarily text -- most are a combination of the two. The layout is always attractive. If this were a book from Apple, the style would be cleaner and there would be less emphasis on the past; this book is from and for the fans, though, so the style is more edgy and chaotic.

The book is divided into five large sections. The first covers the Macintosh itself, its users, its evangelists, and a little of its history. Including, to my amusement, but not surprise, its connection with pot, which occupies three pages. Wozniak is covered lovingly, and Jobs is painted with the same awe, love and hate brush that the community uses. Leander even covers the TV and movie Macintosh spotting, where the good guys always use Macs and the bad guys always use PCs.

Section two takes us into the MacWorld phenomenon. The secrecy, the crazy crowds, the keynote -- the whole shebang. We also get a look into the Mac phenomenon in Japan.

The final three sections are the most interesting to the hardware lovers. Section four covers modifying the Macintosh, futuristic designs, and the variety of things that have been built from dead Macs. The fourth section is about collecting Macintoshes; there is an excellent image here of a reception desk built entirely of old Mac Classics. Some attention is also paid to the devotees of Apple tsotchkes -- the shirts, the pins, the shoes, and other logo-branded novelties.

The final section is all about what comes next. Here Leander covers the iPod and its subculture, as well as the ongoing cultural battle between Microsoft users and the Mac world. The author even goes so far as to associate the construction of the swivel head iMac to that of a newborn baby to justify our attachment to it. And that makes my Powerbook a what?

There is a lot of great material in this book just to flip through, or to sit down for an enjoyable read. For the technically minded, there is nothing here to help you write better code or get more out of the operating system. This is a book about a culture, its icons, its people, and its ideology.

I can't recommend this book for a PC person, Unless he's interested in learning about the phenomenon or becoming part of it, I doubt there is much he'd interesting in this book. A PC user uses his machine to perform a task and thinks little of the machine itself. A Mac, on the other hand, is a key component of an integrated lifestyle. If you don't live the lifestyle and you care to know more about it, then check out the book. Otherwise, you might as well skip it.

As a Mac enthusiast myself I really enjoy this book. I started programming on the Macintosh with the first 128K machine, took a hiatus on Windows for a couple of years, and switched back with OS X. I've been to a MacWorld and seen some of the phenomenon first-hand. But it's nice to see it catalogued here in such an attractive, nicely constructed, well-written book.

In the early days of Apple versus Microsoft we had a real culture war, command line versus GUI. Windows won. Which is bad because Mac is, IMHO, better. But the Windows victory does allow us in the Mac camp to revel in our own individuality. This book is a fun way for new and old Mac fans alike to share in the common insanity which is our somewhat unrealistic love for this computer and it's company.

I'm certainly glad this book came out before Christmas. Now I know what I am going to give a couple of my fellow Macaddicts.


Reviewer Jack Herrington authored Code Generation in Action, and edits the Code Generation Network. You can purchase The Cult of Mac from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, carefully read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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The Cult of Mac

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  • Re:apple tattoos (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 29, 2004 @04:52PM (#10667348)
    You can find several under the 'Geek Tattoos' subsection on bmezine.com.
  • Re:Is like a cult... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Rude Turnip (49495) <(valuation) (at) (gmail.com)> on Friday October 29, 2004 @05:14PM (#10667568)
    A Powermac is not an entry-level system; it is a workstation system for people who really need the power. An entry-level system is what you buy a kid or grandparent, such as an eMac ($800) or iMac ($1,300).

    Similarly:
    Dell Dimension desktop: entry level
    Dell Precision workstation: professional
  • Re:Newton (Score:2, Informative)

    by PriceIke (751512) on Friday October 29, 2004 @05:15PM (#10667574)

    Bet [dyndns.org] you [blogspot.com] thought [splorp.com] you [newtontalk.net] were [dyndns.org] kidding. [unna.org]

  • by sudog (101964) on Friday October 29, 2004 @05:30PM (#10667729) Homepage
    However cult-ish you think Mac users are, or ever were, the Amiga users were zealots for their machines on a scale you probably will never truly comprehend unless you were there, a part of it.

    Oh sure, Mac users love their machines.

    Amiga users went beyond love. They worshipped their computers, fought for them, spent money they didn't have to keep the companies who sold Amigas and Amiga-related soft- and hardware in business. You wanna talk hardcore, you look at the former Amiga communities. THAT will forever define the meaning of the term hardcore for me, and nothing I've seen yet comes close.

    Even now, a decade after the platform basically folded up, there are large groups of people who want to revive the spirit of the Amiga.

    Mac users may think they're a cult, but they're just a pale shadow compared to Amiga users.

    Ha ha ha.. too funny.
  • Ugh (Score:3, Informative)

    by DaveCBio (659840) on Friday October 29, 2004 @07:44PM (#10668844)
    Kahney is a religious zealot when it comes to the Mac. In fact when I wrote him once to ask him about an obvious bias in a Mac article he wrote for Wired he told me he likes posting stories with a twist that pisses off PC users even if the story doesn't need to.
  • Re:Excuse me? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Moofie (22272) <lee&ringofsaturn,com> on Friday October 29, 2004 @08:29PM (#10669105) Homepage
    I've built my own PCs for ten years, and I've never found one that is as well designed as a stock Macintosh.

    There simply isn't a PC case that's as well-engineered and designed as the G5 case (Or the G4 case. Or the new iMac.) There doesn't exist a cooling system that's as well designed and elegant as the current Apple state-of-the-art. You can't find an operating system that works as well, as elegantly, as flexibly as Apple's.

    There are a lot of reasons not to own a Mac. Quality of the user experience (from end to end) isn't among them.

There is hardly a thing in the world that some man can not make a little worse and sell a little cheaper.

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