What Determines If You're a PC or a Mac?

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The PC vs. Mac debate has zealots on both sides, and any debate on the matter is sure to elicit passionate responses. But, did those people choose to be a PC or a Mac, or was that decision made for them?

I'm sure you're familiar with the iconic "Hello, I'm a Mac" ad campaign. Now, a new survey from Hunch contrasts Mac and PC users based on a variety of social and cultural comparisons. But, such comparisons beg the question of which came first--the chicken or the egg. In other words, do cultural forces drive a choice in OS platform, or does a choice in OS platform lead to certain social conclusions.

Mac and Windows puzzle pieces
Did you choose your OS platform, or did peer pressure choose it for you?
Graphic: Chip Taylor
Since many seem to identify with their choice of OS as much or more than they identify with their religious faith, let's examine religion as a base of comparison. If someone were conducting a survey and asked what your religion is, you might respond Christian, or Muslim, or Jewish, or atheist, or whatever. However, odds are quite high that you had nothing to do with selecting your religion, and even if you did that selection was affected by your religious upbringing and established cultural norms.

Put another way, almost every child is indoctrinated into the faith of one or both of their parents virtually from birth. Whether it is based on a firm conviction in a chosen faith on the part of the parent, and a desire to convey that faith to the child, or based on a parent simply passing along whatever religious traditions they themselves were raised to follow, that is just the way religion is propagated for the most part. Christian parents raise Christian children. Jewish parents raise Jewish children. Muslim parents raise Muslim children.

Even if a person eventually chooses to take a look at what the world has to offer and choose a different spiritual path, or simply abandon religious faith altogether, there is still a familial and cultural indoctrination that takes place first. It is difficult, if not impossible, to be completely objective in choosing a faith after that because other faiths will be viewed and judged through that lens. Even a complete rejection of the religion one was raised in is a reflection of having been indoctrinated into that religion in the first place.

So, let's bring this back to PCs. Were your parents PCs or Macs? Odds are fair that if you grew up using a PC or a Mac, that is the OS platform you are most comfortable with, and the software that you are most familiar with, so obviously you are more likely to stick with that platform when it comes time to get your own computer. By the same token, choosing to go against the grain and get a different OS platform is still a reflection of your experience with the OS platform you were "raised on".

There are other arguments to be made--like my Linux-loving PCWorld peer Katherine Noyes taking issue with the conflation that a PC is assumed by definition to mean a Windows PC. For starters, Linux has been around for more than two decades and has less than one percent market share. It is behind both iOS and Java, so I don't really believe we need to consider it an equal in the debate just yet.

But, even if I accept that a PC can also mean Linux, it is silly to argue that a PC doesn't mean Windows because to the world it does. It is like arguing that a "hacker" is technically not a cyber-criminal, or that Spam is actually a form of meat (which could be a whole other debate). In all of those cases, the word has already been coopted and engrained into the social lexicon and trying to fight it is pointless.

But, I digress. When it comes to the Hunch survey, I would have to respond that I am a PC. I am Windows born and raised, and I have never owned a Mac. However, I find that I am about equally split on the survey responses between being a PC or a Mac, so it is hard to say what value that survey really has.

Whether you choose to be a PC, or a Mac, or even a Linux PC, that choice is a semi-subjective one that is affected by the computer platforms you are most familiar with, and those that are accepted as the norm in your social circles like your friends or your workplace. You can't really examine the PC vs. Mac debate without also exploring the impact of Nature vs. Nurture.

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