Did the Mac Make Me?

by Chris Howard Aug 31, 2005

Who made me? Was it my Mum and Dad? A being called “God” with an Acme chemistry set? Or was it my Mac?

“Who made me creative?” is the real question I’m asking because many people believe the Mac has made them more creative. Count me in. I can’t explain it. I know that there’s a strong argument that it’s simply my perception, or that I changed my thinking - that I got what I thought about, what I expected. Afterall, it’s said if you think about something enough, it will come to pass. (I had a friend once warn me if didn’t stop thinking about women so much, I might turn into one.)

So maybe when I got my Mac I expected myself to be more creative - because that’s what I’d heard - and therefore it became a self-fulfilling prohpecy.

On the other hand, as one who has supported Windows incarnations for 15 years, there is a distinctly different feel when using a Mac. There is a feel of more spit and polish and less distractions. Undoubtedly, a Windows user is required to bring more technical know-how to the table. I do pity Windows users - Joe Average who just wants to use his computer - having to understand viruses, infections, spyware, trojans and adware (thank you Microsoft Vista for giving me an easy way to remember that list). And then poor Joe has to work out how to use the batch of software required to keep those nasties under control. I have heard the conversations in the tea-room at work, seen the frustrated head shakling. It’s not a good start for stimulating creativity.

Before Mac vs After Mac
Before my first Mac, this Powerbook, I was creative. I’d done a bit of cartooning and even made some money from it; I’d written a truckload of songs and poems (though not using any computer); I’d done a lot of programming; dabbled with writing books; and I’d played around a fair bit with photo editing.

Since becoming a Mac owner though, not only have I been more productive in my creative pursuits and the creativity has seemed to flow more but I have gained more recognition from the things I’ve done. Here’s a bit of a list:

  • Had a short story published in an anthology of children’s stories
  • Created an infamous version of a well known song using Garageband. This was picked up by Wired and generated 10,000 downloads in a matter of a week or so.
  • Developed several Konfabulator Widgets that have been downloaded in excess of 100,000 times
  • Developed a new logo for my previous employer
  • Been much more productive in my book writing projects
  • Become a writer on Apple Matters
  • Developed the look and feel and functionality of my previous employer’s website

And then there’s the stuff I’ve done with Pages (which I raved and reviewed here previously). Lately because of the course I’m studying, I’ve had to use MS Word for some documents and I just can’t seem to easily give them the flair that Pages does so effortlessly.

So, although I was creative before I got my Mac, why has it all come together since I got my Mac? I wouldn’t raise this question, I’d just pass it off as a change of attitude or some such, but I hear others say the same thing. And it doesn’t matter what’s inside powering my Mac - even if it’s a tiny little man on a tiny little bike - whether it’s my Powerbook or my kids secondhand ruby iMac, on a Mac my creativity is improved.

So what’s different about the Mac?
Is it the stability of the system? Maybe, but there’s plenty of Windows users who’ll testify their systems are stable.

Is it Apple’s attitude to design? Apple software and hardware has a reputation for simplicity, and being non-invasive. Look at the Shuffle. The one-button mouse - and even it’s successor the multi-buttoned Mighty Mouse. The toolbars.

In an article on CIO Today, Learning Lessons from the Mac, Joe Wilcox, an analyst from Jupiter Research, said

that in terms of functionality, Microsoft’s approach to the common man is too complicated and requires a “walk-him-through-it process.” The user has to plug in something that launches the wizard. Then the user has to go through six or seven steps to get the device to complete a first-time configuration. “Whereas Apple’s common-man approach is you plug it in and it works.”

Using a Windows computer does feel more like a technical experience. I’d worked in PC Support for 16 years before I got my Mac. In the two years since and in a management role rather than a support one, I’ve lost my technical drive. I’m studying a network management course at the moment and really struggling to get excited by all the technical stuff. Last night this really hit home - I’d lost interest in servicing computers. I just want to use them. My techo urges have been replaced by creative ones. And to that, I owe the Mac.

But isn’t the Mac just a computer?
Over on my technology blog, I raised the question Is the Mac just a computer?. After I switched, and the initial excitement passed, I went through this anti-climax when I realized the Mac just seemed to be computer. But as I’ve said in conclusion in that article:

Unlike Windows which felt more like a second job, the Mac is just a computer, and that’s the way it’s meant to be. A tool to get a task done, not a task in itself.

And the task - for me - is to be creative. No wonder Macs are popular in the creative community.

So, no the Mac didn’t make me creative, but it has allowed that creativity to flow more easily.


  • Agreed.  I’ve been writing, producing, and performing music of various types for over 15 years using a computer of some sort.  From early Atari ST sequencing packages and the like up to present with Logic I’ve nearly always been doing so in some form or another.  During my PC “days” there is a nearly 6 year gap where I just didn’t have any creative output at all, or at least it was very minimal.  It wasn’t for a lack of trying mind you, I must have purchased 4 or 5 software packages for Windows during that time, none of which were stable enough or provided good enough (zero) latency to successfully record much of anything.  In my frustration I tried everything, pro sound cards, internal and external hardware, etc. and just never managed to get anything going.

    Enter my Mac’s.  Now I’m doing composition, recording, and production on a daily basis - and making a living at it AND tackling visual arts in my spare time for extra money (and enjoyment).  The PC is more a distraction at times than an actual tool.  There’s nothing wrong with Windows, but there is something VERY wrong with the way Windows works and plays with certain types of hardware, and something extremely wrong with a tool that makes work that much harder.  I had spent thousands trying to get a useful audio production PC up and running, probably around $10K over those years, always to be let down.  Not so with the Mac. 

    The answer to the question is simple though.  I was creative long before the Mac and I’ll be creative long after.  I’m inspired by sex, drugs, and rock’n roll - not Steve Jobs.  I see the Mac almost as an instrument these days, a very fine one at that.  I see a Windows PC as that horrible out of time drummer with a bad coke habit.

    dickrichards2000 had this to say on Aug 31, 2005 Posts: 112
  • horrible out of time drummer with a bad coke habit

    dickrichards makes an interesting metaphor that sparked a thought in my mind.

    A couple years ago I was in a casual band (2 - 4 gigs a month) with a drummer who was ok, but did have some tempo and style issues. We also had another guitarist, who was also ok, but had his own musical problems. We worked really hard, played out and had a good time, but it wasn’t as fulfilling of an experience as I’d hoped.

    After than line up fell apart, I fell in with a new guitarist and drummer, both of whom were exceptional talents.  Suddenly, the whole band experience changed. We improvised more, wrote more originals, worked a lot less hard for the same level of progress and generally raised the level of our “game” to a point where it was more than just fun - it was what I looked forward to all week… Not just gigging, but plain old rehearsals. Not having the musical issue getting in the way made me allowed me a larger outlet for my creativity.

    So, with the old group, I was creative, but we never quite meshed musically to where we could get to the next level. With the new guys, a whole musical world opened up that I didn’t have access to before.

    Now, when you extend this metaphor to your computer as a tool, there are parallels.  If your machine not only stays out of the way of your creativity, but helps facilitate it, you can achieve more than you thought you would before.

    For most of us here, the Macintosh has allowed us that wider outlet for our computing pursuits. There may be Windows users who feel that MS gives them a similar feeling, but I think most of us here who have worked on multiple platforms probably feel the way the Chris does.

    Our Macs stay out of our way and even help us down that creative road, partly because of the OS interface and also because of the inexpensive or free tools Apple provides for our pursuits (iPhoto, iMovie, Garage Band, etc).

    Does the Mac make us more creative?  No… it was in there all along. It has just allowed us to open our person spigots that much more.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Aug 31, 2005 Posts: 243
  • What inspires people obviously differs from person to person.  For me, it might be my wife or a sunset.  For you, it’s a mass computer product.  So it’s certainly viable to say that Macs make YOU more creative as long as you are speaking for yourself.  It’s not the same thing to say that Macs make PEOPLE more creative.  For many of us, it’s just a tool, a means to an end.  And while we definitely want out tools to work with us and not against us, it doesn’t mean that we are relying on the tool to spark the creativity.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 31, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • Absolutely, Beeb. I am speaking from my own experience. But I wrote this article because I’ve heard others say the same thing, so I wanted to get some feedback on the notion.

    Some tools do “work with us”, and from my experience, the Mac is one. Which is why I concluded with:

    So, no the Mac didn’t make me creative, but it has allowed that creativity to flow more easily.

    It’d be really interesting to hear from people with the reverse experience - i.e. Macs hindered their creative flow whereas Windows enhanced it.

    I know with you Beeb, and few others it’s neither one way or the other, but is there that third group?

    Chris Howard had this to say on Aug 31, 2005 Posts: 1209
  • I really doubt that you’ll find too many people that are “hindered” either way, especially if you through maintenance and such out the window and concentrate solely on available software and ease of use.  My music experience described above aside, I never had trouble designing websites, editing photos, or doing DTP/graphic design work on a Windows based PC (again ignoring the several instances when virus’s destroyed my data).

    I do know that in working with more and more video lately there has certainly been more occasions where I’ve had to use Windows because of better (more reliable) support for certain video codecs - and I’ve wasted a lot of time dealing with the Mac’s distinct lack of Divx and other MPEG-4 support.  Though it isn’t necessarily disprupting the “creative flow” it was definitely wasting a lot of my time.  This may not really be Apple’s fault directly but I’d love to see apps like Motion be able to compress directly to whatever codecs I have installed rather than always having to use Quicktime, etc.  Regardless of what the Apple analysts and statistics say, I believe my own target demographic to be more in tune with Divx than just about anything else - even if none of the pack-in media players natively support it.

    On the other hand, I just received my second set of color photos and my first photo book from Apple in the mail today and am beyond impressed.  Built-in and easy to use capabilities like these may not make me more creative but they certainly make me want to be - and with that enthusiasm I get more done.

    dickrichards2000 had this to say on Aug 31, 2005 Posts: 112
  • But I wrote this article because I’ve heard others say the same thing, so I wanted to get some feedback on the notion.

    Fair enough. 

    As you might guess, however, I don’t put much stock in the more unquantifiable testiomonials about the Mac.  “It lets you be more creative” qualifies as unquantifiable.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Sep 01, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • I’ve had a more or less similar experience with dickrichardson.  I produce video on both platforms, with the Mac filling in some holes and the PC filling in others.  I’m doing my current production work and rendering most of my video on the PC (it’s faster).  I’m using the Mac for H.264 rendering (and watching DVDs/listening to podcasts while I work).

    However, later this year I’ll be producing another film that will be cut on FCP.  In that case, the PC will be providing support for some compositing effects and other ancillary issues.

    My ability to create motion pictures depends on both platforms, but the creativity comes from neither.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Sep 01, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • No, MacGlee, that exact phrase wasn’t in the article, but Chris Howard noted that “many people believe the Mac has made them more creative” and wondered if it was true, or if it was just the outlook brought to the table.

    Ster had this to say on Sep 02, 2005 Posts: 12
  • I started with them eek, back in the System 6 days and was already creative…heck I was studying graphics at the time. I don’t think they altered me being creative, as it was more just a tool for the job. And Photoshop was by far the best tool (and still is) for the job, as is Illustrator, and (back then) Quark. Later on I made the switch to Windows and the first thing I noticed was how the operating system, no matter how much people whine about them, or evangelise about them, makes no real difference at all to the creative process. For me the tools we’re the same on the Mac and Windows (Quark, Illustrator and Photoshop again).

    Late on I spent time using pretty much everything. MkLinux back in the day was a curious distraction. The BeOS which I have to admit I loved for its performance, even with its lack of software. Solaris, Linux, BSD, all good at something due to the applications available. But one thing kind of came out through it all and that was that the operating system is pretty much irrelevant in the creative process. Its the tools, the applications at your disposal which makes for the better end result.

    Nyadach had this to say on Sep 21, 2005 Posts: 29
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