The Rats 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 Rats gladness has limits. His feelings of good will toward Apple
evaporate when the iMac becomes the subject of conversation. Its the first computer
that has ever placed the cyberrodent at odds with Mrs. Rat.
Its not a real computer, he says.
It is so, she says. Its so cute.
The thing doesnt even have a floppy drive.
But who needs a floppy drive? she shrugs. Besides, its so
Its the same debate they had over the new Volkswagen Beetle.
The old Beetle was a hobbyists 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 cant haul drywall in it.
Old all-in-one Macintoshes fulfilled a true wireheads dreams. There was no more
exalted symbol of hackerhood than owning your very own Mac cracker, and the upgrade
business boomed. Somehow, the iMac doesnt seem terribly cracker-friendly.
The whiskered one has a strong utilitarian streak. He cant deal with a computer
that has no expansion slotseven if it does have a built-in modem and Ethernet
adapterunless its a portable. But that doesnt completely explain his
violent aversion to the iMac. He suspects it has something to do with the translucent case
and keyboard. And whats 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 iMacs 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
The Rat, however, craves something you can take apart, that wont tip over and
crack when you vent your download frustrations with a whack upside the case. Whats 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 its 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 its got a G3 processor? Its 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 shes shopping for a VW Beetle that will match the new green Apple logo.
The cyberrodent will show her. Hell load Linux on the iMac while shes
The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad
packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at email@example.com.