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Rosetta and Lion: Get Over It?

On March 11th I found myself standing in line outside of the local Apple Store, waiting for an opportunity to buy an iPad 2 so I could get to work on a book I was contracted to write about the new iPad. Coincidentally, standing in line behind me was an old friend and colleague I hadn’t seen for some time. As we conversed, talk turned to Apple’s forthcoming Mac OS X Lion release. I mentioned the rumor that Lion would not include Rosetta and said that it bothered me. My friend snorted derisively and said, “Get over it.” His glib remark rankled me then, and it still rankles.

“Get over it.” I’ve seen the same sentiment pop up a lot, recently, and not just regarding Apple’s rumored abandonment of Rosetta. I’ve seen it in posts and comments about privacy issues (“Privacy is dead. Get over it.”). I’ve seen it, too, in political posts and articles (“Your candidate lost. Get over it.”). I’ve seen it on sports pages (“Your favorite player got traded. Get over it.”) and on entertainment sites (“The show was cancelled. Get over it.”). I’ve seen it in all sorts of contexts, about all sorts of transitions. Every time I see it, even when I understand, and even when I agree with the necessity of moving on, I get angry.

I get angry not because I hate change. Change happens. The cheese moves. I know this, and I accept it. I get angry because the remark is not meant as advice. Rather, it’s an order, and one aimed — at least subconsciously — at elevating the speaker’s own self-image and dismissing the recipient’s feelings. It is a way of saying, “I am above those petty concerns that you, if only you were as wise as I am, would agree are petty.” It is glib advice. It is smug advice. And it is, in many cases, bad advice.

Take Rosetta. Rosetta was introduced by Apple as a way to ease the transition from PowerPC-based Macs to Intel-based Macs. It was designed to run, transparently as far as the user was concerned, PowerPC-compatible applications on an Intel processor, a non-trivial feat of magic, given the differences in the processor architectures. Because of Rosetta, Mac users could upgrade to the newer Intel-based Macs without having to throw out all of their existing software. On the Apple Web page that introduced Rosetta, Apple said, “You’ll never see it, you’ll never configure it, you’ll never have to think about it. It’s built into Mac OS X to ensure that most of your existing applications live a long and fruitful life.”

Now, two major versions of Mac OS X later, it appears that Rosetta is going away. And if it does, it will be accompanied by a number of applications that I use frequently. Quicken 2007. Photoshop CS1. FileMaker Pro 8. Microsoft Word 2004. Among many others.

According to my friend, I should just “get over it.” At a basic level, he’s right: if Apple does indeed drop Rosetta in Lion, I’ll have no recourse but either to abandon these applications (and at least some of the data I produced using these applications), or to spend many hundreds of dollars, in addition to whatever Lion costs, to replace these applications with their current Intel-native versions. In that sense, I’ll have no choice but to get over it.

But in another sense, I won’t be able to get over it, and there is no reason that I should. Coping with a change does not mean wholeheartedly embracing that change — not when that change has real, unpleasant consequences. The loss of Rosetta has just such consequences. In my case, they are financial (it will cost a lot to replace that software), logistical (I’ll have to devote a good deal of time and energy finding replacement software and, in many cases, converting data and work processes), and emotional (Apple’s promise about Rosetta — “you’ll never have to think about it” — has been broken, and with it goes some part of the trust I have in Apple’s claims for the future). The emotional consequences are no more trivial than the financial or logistical ones. To glibly advise me to just “get over it” denies the validity and the reality of what I feel. It denies me as a person.

I may spend my days using computers, but I am not one. I am a human being. My relationship with technology is both intellectual and emotional. All humans have an emotional relationship with the products they use, whether or not they admit it. When the creators of those products make changes, even for sound engineering or business reasons, we users have to deal with both the practical and emotional consequences of those changes.

So I’ll deal with losing Rosetta, if that is what I have to do if I want to upgrade to Lion or buy a new Mac that can only run Lion. But part of that dealing will be my viewing each marketing statement that comes from Apple in the future with a more cynical, more jaundiced eye. And another part of dealing will be changing what I say when people ask me what computer to buy. I will still likely recommend Apple products, but there will be more caveats and more on-the-other-hands than I might have offered formerly.

Yes, change happens, but no, I won’t just get over it.

[Editor’s Note: Folks, before commenting, please think about what Michael is really saying in this article. He’s not complaining about the fact that things change, and he’s perfectly capable of dealing with those changes. He’s pointing out that the “Get over it” response to people who express concern about change is dismissive and unhelpful, and doesn’t acknowledge how people really do feel. And he’s noting that, despite Apple’s public description of Rosetta through late 2010, there has been no official word from Apple about something that — if it’s true — will eventually affect a vast number of Mac users. -Adam]

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