Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Thursday, December 18, 2008

end of an era

This is perhaps slightly off-topic for this blog, but — caveat lector — I have a certain susceptibility to the Cult of Mac, so I might do this kind of thing from time to time. John Gruber, the most consistently sharp commentator on the Apple scene, just posted his thoughts on Apple’s recent announcement that in January they will make their final appearance at the annual Macworld Expo in San Francisco, and that during this last appearance the keynote address will be given not by Steve Jobs but by an Apple VP, Phill Schiller. Gruber:

Repetition blinds us to just how odd certain rituals of tradition are. Like how it seems perfectly normal that every December we chop down millions of small trees, decorate them with electric lights and glass balls, and display them prominently in our homes.

Likewise, it has somehow come to feel normal that on a Tuesday morning in early January each year, thousands of people from around the country come to San Francisco to stand in line for hours — hundreds of them waiting all night long in a queue stretching around the block — to sit in a large auditorium and watch the CEO of an electronics company announce new products. That is not normal; it is extraordinary.

It is extraordinary. And one has to wonder how long this kind of excitement will last. My sense is that as Apple grows in its reach and influence, largely thanks to the iPhone, the Cult will become less cultish and will eventually fade away altogether. All cults thrive on marginalization: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. . . .”

(Tech note for the geeky: I owe Gruber a great debt, because Markdown, the — what to call it? — formatting syntax and text-conversion tool he and Aaron Swartz wrote, and the Markdown plug-in he wrote for BBEdit, are what make it possible for me to do all my writing in one text editor. Thanks, John!)