Telling a Person from Trash: A Macintosh Computer's Psychological Problem

My first face-to-face encounter with a Mac was when, as an undergraduate working late one night in a lab, I dared insert a floppy disk into the slot which I have since come to know as the black hole. When I was done working, I had the perhaps silly pretension of getting my disk back. I looked for an eject button, but alas, without success. After a long while of imploring this computer with a personality to return my precious data, I had the good fortune of a passer-by telling me to throw my disk to the trash.

'What?! My disk, to the trash?!'

Reassured that the trash actually represented me, and that if I moved the disk there it would finally move to me, I hesitatingly did so. Bad start: any computer who calls its user trash has a serious psychological problem.

But then again, who doesn't have a psychological problem, and so I learned to live with Macs' incomplete command of the English language. But last week, the psychological problem went physical, and became real impotence. My Mac was having a bad day, and decided not to load the operating system. 'Fine', I said, 'could I just have my disk back?' And then I remembered: a Mac does not even remember I am trash if unable to boot. My User's Guide gave the obvious answer: press Shift-Apple-1. My Mac responded with a blank stare. The Owner's Guide was helpless, as was Getting Started. Obviously, ejecting a disk was not a good place to start. Finally, after I had become a Mac librarian, I found a source of disc-ejecting knowledge: the Mac Reference suggested I boot the computer while pressing the mouse button (and holding my left little finger to the back of my head, for luck). This self-evident procedure produced the response that should have by now been as obvious: none at all. My manual had but one more recipe before sending me to the all-powerful nearest Mac dealer. 'Take a pin', it said, 'straighten it and insert it into the tiny hole beside the disk slot until the disk is ejected'. Finding a pin late at night was not trivial, but doable. The real problem was when I found out there was a size mismatch: my 'normal' pin wasn't up to the job, and would not satisfy the black hole into yielding the promised prize. It took finding a big strong pin to do the job. And believe it or not, several hours after I had begun, I finally got my disk back.

So if you ever wonder who invented eject buttons, you know now it was a heck of a smart man (or woman). And you know he or she never worked for Apple.

MS-Windows-compatible PCs, on the other hand, know all about ejections and rejections: look up 'unable to get a date' in Microsoft Word's Thesaurus. You'll scarcely believe your eyes when you see how honest Bill Gates' employees can be. (Editor's Note: This feature has since been removed from Word's latests versions, as Bill has gone on to marry and have a daughter).

Alex Bäcker

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