Minority > Majority

Originally posted some time earlier. Recycled for maximum blog churn. – dp

Without going into horrendously boring detail regarding my personal computing habits, this post requires the following understanding: my very first computer was an 8088 IBM XT clone. Green screen. Dual 5.25 inch floppy drives. And no C: prompt until I “upgraded” the machine to a 20 megabyte Seagate hard drive running MSDOS 2.2 or so. Been there. Booted that.

But here’s the deal: I’ve never taken a computer class or coded a single line of anything. That means I’ve always (and still do) approach computers with a healthy dose of “I hope I don’t screw this up.” Which is just another way of saying “I’m just like you” to over 97% of the population.

During this multi-decade long foray into the digital world I’ve learned several things:

1. Save/Backup early and often.
2. Every computer I buy is rendered obsolete just by opening the box.
3. Having a minority technology is always better than succumbing to the majority.

#3 goes all the way back to that 8088 XT clone. Because when I bought it for $1000, I could have purchased a friend’s original Macintosh for $1200. I, back then, saved 200 in dollars and bought way more than that in pain. Manually parking my hard drive heads with park.exe. Naming files with never to be divined names like “letsept4.” And missing out on the first wave of what’s become the UI/UX generation.

That all changed when I started my current act as a copywriter at an ad shop that was totally Appled up. Accounting may have had a PC, but the rest of us had various vintages of Macs. Mine was a Apple Performa (if I remember correctly) and I felt like I was given an ice cold Coke after spending an eternity in the MS-circle of hell. But it was a minority, forced to live with an uncaring at best, and actively malevolent at worst, majority.

So how did it live/survive/and eventually thrive in this MS-Thunderdome? By innovating better while playing nice with worse. Painful example: Microsoft Word. I am forced to use this bloated pig of a program every single day even though it’s being run on a gorgeously crafted machine (MacBook Pro.) Mr. Jobs, I will never forgive you for not innovating this crapware to Hades—but fully understand how making a deal with the devil allowed you to live to fight another day.

And what a day it’s been. Over a decades worth.

And so, the minority (Mac OS, OSX, and now iOS) is taking the world to school. As the minority, its superior technology and formats had to be able to handle lesser tech. Now it’s beginning to surpass and in some cases, supersede it. Hallelujah.

But don’t ever forget the lessons learned from being in the minority:

1. Always work within current systems no matter how hobbled, ill founded or blindered.
2. Work harder and smarter than the other guy.
3. Make fewer promises, but over deliver when you do.
4. If you can’t win their game, change it.
5. Doing what’s right for the people/customer/audience it always the right thing to do.

I’m sure there are more lessons that could be added to that list, and I’ll be discovering more for a long time to come. Thanks, Steve: you’ve given me a lot to think about.

– D.P. Knudten

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