DOS is to Mac as Protestantism is to Catholicism
Date: Mon, 31 Oct 94 11:44:52 PST
Subject: DOS is to Mac as Protestantism is to Catholicism
[It's not as good as Stu Feldman's talk/slide show on the "architecture" of
Unix that draws parallels betweeen the development of the Unix operating system
and the development of western architecture, but it does cover a little more
ground... -psl (p.s. I corrected a few minor typos.)]
Forwarded-by: lanih@info.Berkeley.EDU (J. Lani Herrmann)
Forwarded-by: Jerry McDonough <jmcd@lucien.Berkeley.EDU>
Excerpted-from: Umberto Eco's back-page column, "La bustina di Minerva,"
in the Italian news weekly "Espresso," September 30, 1994.
"... Insufficient consideration has been given to the new underground
religious war which is modifying the modern world. It's an old idea of
mine, but I find that whenever I tell people about it they immediately
agree with me.
"The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh
computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the
opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant.
Indeed, the Macintosh is counter-reformist and has been influenced by
the 'ratio studiorum' of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly,
conciliatory, it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step
to reach--if not the Kingdom of Heaven--the moment in which their
document is printed. It is catechistic: the essence of revelation is
dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a
right to salvation.
"DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation
of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle
hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all
can reach salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the
program yourself: a long way from the baroque community of revellers,
the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.
"You may object that, with the passage to Windows, the DOS universe
has come to resemble more closely the counter-reformist tolerance of the
Macintosh. It's true: Windows represents an Anglican-style schism,
big ceremonies in the cathedral, but there is always the possibility of
a return to DOS to change things in accordance with bizarre decisions;
when it comes down to it, you can decide to allow women and gays to be
ministers if you want to.
"And machine code, which lies beneath both systems (or environments,
if you prefer)? Ah,that is to do with the Old Testament, and is talmudic
[Hmm. Unix: everything is obviously possessed of a malign intelligence
devoted entirely to making your life difficult. Perhaps a paranoid animism?
[No, no, that's Windows NT. I would characterize Unix as having initially
represented some kind of scientism that believed everything to be based on a
few simple principles from which everything else could be derived. In time, as
promoters try to make Unix more user-friendly and accessible to the masses, it
becomes Scientology... -psl]
© 1994 Peter Langston