The Macintosh Curio Cabinet
The good folk at TidBITS, perhaps suffering from spiked Seattle drizzle, have asked me to write an article about my Web site, "Oddities, Curios, and Rarities for Macintosh." Well, hey, why not? We all need love, admiration, and a chance to work off our 15 minutes of Andy Warhol-allotted fame.
The theme of my page is simple enough: it is a downloadable collection of odd, curious, and rare shareware for the Mac. Each item comes with an informative description or a long rant about something completely irrelevant. People take a read and think to themselves, "Oh, I say, that sounds jolly interesting. I’ll download this program that simulates a stapler and entertain myself with it for hours." And they do. And they love it. And they write to me and tell me so.
It’s increasingly evident the Macintosh has bred a unique and silly brand of software. From Grouches that pop out of trash cans and satirical emulations of Windows 95 to utilities displaying hypnotizing, spinning yellow wheels, the Macintosh has developed a humorous freeware underground. There are, of course, reasons for this. Studies have shown we Macintosh users often lack important enzymes required for the stable processing of thought, and that as a group we are disproportionately inbred (due at least in part to our innate attractiveness and sexual magnetism).
Oh, whoops, did I say that? What I meant to say was that something sets us Mac users apart from the crowd. The original aesthetic that went into the creation of Macintosh continues to this day. This aesthetic is not only the idea that software should be easy to use, but also that it be fun to use. And, let’s make it not just fun to use; let’s be crazy and waste space cramming goofy pictures of the developers into our operating system. The Mac has that sort of mentality as a constant undertow.
This means my Web page has no lack of material. Every time I think I’ve hit the oddity ceiling, I uncover more treasures. Recently, on a foray into Hotline (a part of the Internet only a few of you will have explored), I came across a utility called Psychomatic that displays an animated stick figure in a small window. The author "was bored" that day and took time out from writing executive software to create this useless item (which is actually clever and contains artistic merit). In another context, you could easily imagine it projected on the wall of a contemporary art gallery, right next to the exciting multimedia display of nostril hair.
Not all items in my Curios collection have such obvious merit. A good example is Lobsterpetting, a utility that displays a picture of a lobster which you then proceed to pat. As it squeaks appreciatively, you wonder what on earth you are doing and try to comprehend what was going through the mind of its creator. Very little, you find out when you peruse the accompanying ReadMe. Is it bad art? Comedy? An existential statement channelled through the mind of the proverbial fool?
Probably none of the above. But Lobsterpetting is unique to the Macintosh. People who are bi-platformal (oh yes, very modern) tell me Windows has not spawned a similar genre. Sad really. The cold, grey corporate machine strides into the infinite night, filled with a frigid unswerving purpose, dragging its empty and corrupt creators into the dawn of an emotionless void.
Meanwhile, somewhere in a field on the outskirts of the Empire, a band of madmen and fools plot the beginning of a new age. They buy colorful paints, sniff and drink a good variety of them, laugh, and paint their way into a joyous crimson-stained sunrise. They are destitute and their profits are poor, but there is something appealing about them; they seem to be filled with life. The software I catalogue may be foolish, inane, or trivial (and often a solid combination of all three), but it shows that a crazy spirit lives on in the Macintosh world.