I’ve recently finished reading Neal Stephenson’s extended essay In the Beginning was the Command Line (1999) in which he discusses the histories of the Microsoft, Apple, and Linux with a heavy Linux bias. If you’re familiar with Stephenson’s work (Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, The Baroque Cycle), his looks at recent computing history will seem very familiar.
His initial analogy of Windows to an old MGB that requires constant fiddling and is always on the verge of breaking down, Macs to Batmobiles and the flavours of Linux to tanks gives you an idea of his perspective. He’s not without respect for the other sides. The most fascinating point (and one that’s not counterintuitive). is that Linux as we know it has three parents: Stallman, Torvalds and Gates. Yeah. Torvalds required the cheap development tools that came out of Stallman’s GNU project to create the first Linux kernel, but Linux wouldn’t have taken off without the glut of cheap hardware on the market make possible by the Microsoft model.
Amusingly, not long after this article was initially published, OSX came out. Stephenson bought a new Mac (not his first) and apparently hasn’t looked back.