Dipping a Toe in the Dark Side

As faithful readers of this blog know, I am a devotee of the true faith.  I am not  referring here to Catholicism, which of course I would refer to as the True Faith.  I am referring to the true computer faith, PCs.  I have been worshiping in the House of Gates since my bride and I purchased our first PC in 1988.  CGA graphics, no hard drive, one floppy disk drive: 1200 bucks, on sale.  You could heat a room with it after it was on for a few hours and it was only a little less loud than a vacumn cleaner.  Love at first sight.  Then of course there was the joy of learning the cryptic MS-DOS and all the arcane symbols to make the computer function, which would have made a medieval alchemist scream in frustration at the complexity.  A true man’s operating system, although my bride somehow mastered it first and imparted the secret knowledge of the PC Craft to me.

Over the years at my home and office I have owned so many PCs I long ago lost count, and we have followed them through all of their transmutations:  Windows 1.0, Windows 2.0, Windows 3.0, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows XP, Vista (Don spits) and Windows 7.

I will turn this over now to my bride of 29 years this coming December, who will explain why we have brought a Mac product into this PC home:

Here is the latest of several news articles Don & I have read extolling the benefits of iPads for autistic children and young adults, and the one which finally decided us to buy an iPad for our autistic teenage son.  Of course, there was the slight problem of last weekend being Launch Weekend for the iPad 2:

“But I thought the iPad 2 was released March 2nd!”

“No, dear, it was announced March 2nd, and the release date is Friday, March 11th.”

And, of course, if you weren’t in line at a brick & mortar store carrying the iPad 2 at 5:00PM on Friday, you weren’t going to get an iPad 2 this weekend.  (Those who ordered online from the Apple Store will get iPad 2s delivered with free shipping eventually, but it may take as long as 3 weeks, depending on when you ordered.)  This was the usual exchange at each of the stores we checked in Bloomington, IL on Saturday morning:

“Did you get iPad 2s yesterday?”  “Yes.”

“Are there any left?”  “No (Are you kidding?).”

“How soon will you get some more?”  “Don’t know . . . maybe next week?”

Best Buy was allowing dissapointed shoppers to reserve an iPad 2 from the next shipment for a $100 deposit; however, Don really wanted to get some kind of iPad that same day — so we got a 1st-generation iPad (AKA the “iPad 1”) instead.

We had made a brief list of apps we thought we’d like to download prior to setting out on our iPad shopping expedition, and started downloading them after installing iTunes on one of the desktop computers and following the brief instructions on the “quickstart” card to get the iPad set up.

(“Are you done downloading the apps, Cathy?”  “I’m getting to it, dear; I have to finish registering the iPad first — and then plug in the charger before it runs out of juice.”)

I’ve installed a couple of free apps for our son so far.  Tap to Talk turns the iPad into a communications board (but way “cooler” than the ones at school), where the child taps his or her way through a heirarchy of PECS pictures (if you have a kid in special ed, you know what they are), organized by subject, to get to the one that shows what the child wants — and the picture “talks” for the child.  (For example:  “Let’s go!”/”Let’s go out to eat!”/”I want to eat pizza.”)  Of course, the free part of Tap to Talk only gives you a few sample libraries of “talking PECS pictures,” and it costs $99/year to get additional libraries and the ability to customize — so we’ll see how much use our son gets from this as a free app before plunking down big bucks for the deluxe subscription version.

Another free app (simpler, yet more successful at our house so far) is AutismXpress, in which one taps an icon of a smiley face/angry face/etc., and the icon goes full-screen and animates, showing what “happy”/”angry”/”sad”/whatever looks like — something that autistic children typically have difficulty identifying.  Our son tapped his way through most of the icons, sort of (“Let him tap, Cathy!”  “He’s the one grabbing my finger and making my finger do the tapping for him, dear — that’s how he chose to do it.”); but was obviously too tired to continue for long.  (Don had just roused him from a nap to shave & take his anti-seizure medication before our own bedtime.)

This is supposed to be our son’s iPad, right?  But there’s so many cool game apps, too!  For the first time, Don can play “Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution” without kicking our daughter off the XBox, and play “SmallWorld” without clearing a corner of the living room and growling back at the dog if she gets too close.  (And, well, um, I can play interactive gamebooks like “Fabled Lands” and “Steve Jackson’s Sorcery!” that I remember from their paper versions in the 1980s & 1990s, now with gorgeous graphics (yay!) and automated dice-rolling (no re-rolling until I’m successful/cheating?  Rats!).)

We’ve only just started downloading apps, of course, and I’m sure Don will issue progress reports if we find some more apps that are especially helpful for our autistic son.  (Not just game apps for you & me, dear!)

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. Come to the dark side! My family is following my lead into the Mac world, and we’re also getting an iPad for our 16 year-old autistic boy (who dearly loves his iPod touch). A great device, gratefully received.

    PS: first computer, an Olivetti M-80 in 1985, with TWO 5-inch floppy drive (ooooooh!), amber-colored, not green, lettering on the screen, and daisy-wheel printer that could do—wait for it!—proportional spaced printing. Oh, and DOS as the OS, and Edix/Wordix as the word-processing system.

  2. I can totally relate to this Don. We don’t have an iPad yet, but we will probably get one after the hype dies down and maybe the price comes down a bit.

    We did recently get an iPod Touch, which is basically an iPhone without the phone (though you can use Skype with it as long as you have wi-fi). Our daughter (autistic, but verbal and not in need of PECS, though I do remember those from her younger days) loves it so much she frequently will hang onto it until the battery runs down completely. My husband put some game apps on it for himself. I added an e-book app and even splurged to put a Divine Office app on it. (Haven’t tried the “confession” app yet, though, and don’t plan to.)

    In our house, the One True Faith is in Macs for a number of reasons — a big one being that they are immune or resistant to a lot of the viruses that plague PC/Microsoft products.

  3. “The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant. Indeed, the Macintosh is counter-reformist and has been influenced by the ratio studiorum of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory; it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach — if not the kingdom of Heaven — the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: The essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.
    DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can achieve salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: Far away from the baroque community of revelers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.
    You may object that, with the passage to Windows, the DOS universe has come to resemble more closely the counter-reformist tolerance of the Macintosh. It’s true: Windows represents an Anglican-style schism, big ceremonies in the cathedral, but there is always the possibility of a return to DOS to change things in accordance with bizarre decisions: When it comes down to it, you can decide to ordain women and gays if you want to.
    Naturally, the Catholicism and Protestantism of the two systems have nothing to do with the cultural and religious positions of their users. One may wonder whether, as time goes by, the use of one system rather than another leads to profound inner changes. Can you use DOS and be a Vande supporter? And more: Would Celine have written using Word, WordPerfect, or Wordstar? Would Descartes have programmed in Pascal?
    And machine code, which lies beneath and decides the destiny of both systems (or environments, if you prefer)? Ah, that belongs to the Old Testament, and is talmudic and cabalistic. The Jewish lobby, as always….”

    I wonder who Sean Connery will portray in the film version of this?

  4. “Our daughter (autistic, but verbal and not in need of PECS, though I do remember those from her younger days) loves it so much she frequently will hang onto it until the battery runs down completely.”

    I am in high hopes Elaine that my autistic son will have a similar reaction over time. I think the tactile touch screen control of the Ipad will appeal to him.

  5. If Mac is Catholic and DOS is Protestant, does this mean that Unix/Linux is SSPV?? Perhaps I should consider ‘coming home’ to Macs…

  6. Really, DOS? I suppose if you’re one of those new-fangled guys who wants white letters on a black screen. Me, I’ll take green letters on a black screen, “hex” addresses, and the soothing sounds of a dot-matrix printer.

    The funny thing is, I really have grown soft. I probably couldn’t handle machine language anymore. Still I’d rather play Zork than World of Warcraft.

  7. Seeing as my husband’s primary job is working with computers, and we both like video games and don’t have a lot of cash, we’ll stick with PCs.

  8. I’ve been struggling with this as I will have to buy a new machine soon. I strongly dislike buying new hardware when the old hardware hasn’t broken. I have never replaced a toaster just because a new version came out. I still think a yellow pad and pencil with eraser is advanced technology and seem pretty happy with it – I guess am a traditionalist.

    Nevertheless, there is something called software bloat and it forces the purchase of new hardware even if the old hardware is still working. I think it is a scam. Of course, this comes from an industry that intentionally sells defective products in ‘beta’ version and tells you they’ll sell you an upgrade once the bugs are worked out. Then every other .version has its own unique problems. The PC industry habitually delivers about 80% of what it promises and everyone seems OK with that. Would you buy 80% of a car or house? How about a round-trip on an airplane with only an 80% chance of success. Again, I say scam. The computer industry is more like a cult than any authentic religion. It looks pretty, promises a lot, but delivers a hollow shell.

    Any way, I need a new one and since now it takes about 30 minutes after spyscans, virusscans, malware scans, root-kit scans, updates and who knows what else to boot the thing up I have become convinced that PCs are very cavalier, flip, impure and unchaste. DOS is pagan at best. How else do you explain the numerous diseases and viruses it picks up and the myriad of inoculations the PC with DOS needs? It certainly gets around. I have resisted Macs, primarily because most of the software I have to use is not written for Macs, but I am going to go in that direction – they don’t get sick as often, so they seem more pure.

    I confess my first PC was an Apple IIc with a whopping 128K. Then Apple sold me on the idea that the color Mac was available and it wasn’t even a Mac it was an Apple II! So I bought the Apple IIgs only to find out that they actually were working on a color Mac and scrapping the Apple II all together. I was lied to, jilted and mislead, so I made the leap over to DOS. Not knowing at the time that Gates is nothing more than a copy-cat, groomed for his role by his daddy’s connections and a rabid globalist and supporter of ‘population control’. Sprint did the same thing to me in the DC area with the Sprint Spectrum – the first digital phone network and then scrapped it and went nationwide with a system on which my phone didn’t work. I know we are supposed to be forgiving, but as a conservative with libertarian bent, I feel I must use my power in the market to signal to the corporations when they fail to meet consumer demands!

    Thanks for pointing out that Macs are more Catholic, I’ll feel better making the switch. However, they seem to be as Catholic as pro-abprtion catholics, which is to say not catholic at all, since they supported so-called gay marriage in California. Or am I mistaken?

  9. I’m just not buying the whole Catholic vs. Protestant thing as a comparison and if I did, I would challenge the assertion that Apple is Catholic. If a religious analogy was to be had, I would liken it more to Puritan vs. Scientology. Apple being Puritan, providing its adherents a neat, orderly, all too confining box to play in, all the while the followers are having their very souls stifled. MS would be Scientology. Basically anything goes, an the only real order is that you’re obliged to donate large sums of money for the appearance of a functioning system.

    Android however (and I know this is limited to mobile) was off to a great start as a Catholic OS. Solid, built on first principles, orderly, free, enabling, and free from the bondage of theocratic despotism of Apple and the (a)moral relativism of MS. Unfortunately the cell phone manufactures like power-mad princes of the past started smoking the Apple crack, and have made great efforts to thwart both the faith and the dignity of man. Even Google now is starting to get a contact buzz and may soon fall into a heresy of it’s own making.

  10. Oh, just get Linux. Why bother spending all your money to feed the animals because of intellectual property laws that are contrary to reason and the natural law?

  11. Next you’ll be drinking caramel macchiatos and eating veggie wraps while reading the NY Times on your iPad.

    I’m more conservative so I drink black coffee and eat steak and eggs while reading TAC on my Thinkpad.

  12. Kyle –

    Unix/Linux is Dominican – elegant, but requires deep knowledge.
    Apple is Franciscan – simple, visual, unbounded.
    Windows is Jesuitical – instructing the uneducated masses through simple illustrations.
    DOS is Carmelite.
    Vista is Pelagian – it promises an easy-to-reach Heaven, but follow it and you’ll end up in Hell.

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