Mrs. Rat sees an iMac and cries, 'It's so cute!' Rat cries sourApples

Packet Rat
R. Fink

The Rat’s heart is gladdened by the resurgence of Apple Computer Inc.

The Cupertino, Calif., crowd has always been an innovative force in the computer biz,
and, after all, Microsoft Corp. needs someone to steal ideas from.

But the Rat’s gladness has limits. His feelings of good will toward Apple
evaporate when the iMac becomes the subject of conversation. It’s the first computer
that has ever placed the cyberrodent at odds with Mrs. Rat.

“It’s not a real computer,” he says.

“It is so,” she says. “It’s so cute.”

“The thing doesn’t even have a floppy drive.”

“But who needs a floppy drive?” she shrugs. “Besides, it’s so

It’s the same debate they had over the new Volkswagen Beetle.

The old Beetle was a hobbyist’s dream: It was easy to maintain and, with all the
car kits out there, you could even turn an old VW Bug into a flatbed truck if you wanted.
The new Beetle may be cute, but you can’t haul drywall in it.

Old all-in-one Macintoshes fulfilled a true wirehead’s dreams. There was no more
exalted symbol of hackerhood than owning your very own Mac cracker, and the upgrade
business boomed. Somehow, the iMac doesn’t seem terribly cracker-friendly.

The whiskered one has a strong utilitarian streak. He can’t deal with a computer
that has no expansion slots—even if it does have a built-in modem and Ethernet
adapter—unless it’s a portable. But that doesn’t completely explain his
violent aversion to the iMac. He suspects it has something to do with the translucent case
and keyboard. And what’s with the dinky round mouse?

What drives the Rat to distraction is that Apple does have an all-in-one computer he
could learn to love: one with the fastest G3 chip, expansion slots and all the other
things a truly wired user desires, not to mention a bigger screen. Problem is, Apple only
sells it to the educational market.

Mrs. Rat, meanwhile, is enamored of the iMac’s decorator potential. Ever since the
wirebiter taught her about networking, his better half has been looking for
color-coordinated Level 5 patch cables and designer 100Base-T hubs.

The iMac is too soft and unintimidating. It can be accessorized with tony little
Universal Serial Bus peripherals. And its translucent case and keyboard conceal dust and
dirt well.

The Rat, however, craves something you can take apart, that won’t tip over and
crack when you vent your download frustrations with a whack upside the case. What’s a
computer without a tangle of cables attached to cryptically labeled ports and plugs?

Sure, artsy stuff is fine for a notebook computer, as long as it’s fully loaded
and has fast enough screen refresh to run Quake II. But a true hacker notebook must have
the case held together with electrical tape and all the little flaps and doors snapped

The iMac reeks fashion. It gives off the toy vibes that kept Apple computers from being
accepted by the business world. So what if it’s got a G3 processor? It’s still
too cute to run Quake on.

But Mrs. Rat has already cleared a space for her iMac on the breakfast bar and is
running turquoise surface-mount wiring conduit with her Martha Stewart signature hot glue
gun. And she’s shopping for a VW Beetle that will match the new green Apple logo.

The cyberrodent will show her. He’ll load Linux on the iMac while she’s

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad
packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at

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