Chris' Rant- by Chris Wenham

The Elitist's Manifesto

Excuse me for a moment while I call you a selfish, egotistical elitist.

Very rarely is the word 'elitist' used in a phrase that isn't meant to be an insult. But the premise that gives the insult strength hinges on the insulted person's values and judgment; it depends on you to feel guilty for being better than another person. But if you felt truly proud of your accomplishments and no shame at being smarter and more capable than others, then the insult wouldn't work. If you refused to accept mediocrity as a virtue, then the insult would have no power over you. This is the insult hidden in every sneer, frown and giggle that's expressed or implied when someone learns that you use OS/2.

As I see it, a major force driving people away from OS/2 is shame and apology, a peer pressure based on a moral code that penalizes you for making the right choice. This is only self destructive because caving in isn't going to earn you any respect and neither will sticking with it for all the wrong reasons.

So let's assume that you knew what you were doing when you bought OS/2 in the first place, meaning there aren't any wrong reasons in your mind. If that isn't the case, then you'd better rethink your premise and choose another platform before you do yourself a lot of harm. Yep, now is the time to bail out, or bail in if you're from another platform, reading this e-zine out of curiosity.

Warp 4 is an elitist's operating system. It is not a game machine, it is not a home entertainment center, and it isn't for grandma. PlayStations, WebTV and the Macintosh already handle those three niches quite nicely and far better than Warp can (although don't count out a stripped down OS/2 for these tasks either -- I think OS/2 could scale down way better than what Microsoft has done to make WinCE).

Its obscurity acts as a kind of automatic qualification system; only those smart enough to respect and handle its power are savvy enough to know it exists. This has helped OS/2 thrive and be profitable to write software for, since users are a lot more clued in and accustomed to taking initiative ("What? You installed OS/2 and increased your productivity 30%? Who told you to do that?") they need less hand holding and technical support.

If we had the same average IQ as a Windows user, our population would never be enough to earn any apps. We'd require more marketing to get us to buy ("But I didn't see Photo>Graphics advertised in Readers Digest, so it can't be any good"), more support to get us to use the programs we buy ("The file menu, Sir.... File.... F-I-L-E. It's under the title bar... The blue strip with the name of the program on it"), and offer less feedback when the developers came to improving the product in a new version ("I guess it's okay, do you mind if I make copies of it for all my friends?").

Like amateur radio operators, who need to be a wee bit more technically adept than the average CB jockey, OS/2 users are both a valuable resource to the industry and a group that, by and large, pays its way. OS/2 users have given birth to, tested and refined new technology (e.g.: component software, object models, voice navigation), created a market for young companies to get their footing while remaining out of the glare of Microsoft (e.g.: Stardock, TrueSpectra, SouthSoft), increased awareness of the benefits of computers (such as through evangelical events, product demos at malls, and word of mouth), and been the first to add their voice to important issues that deal with the whole industry (witness the large presence of OS/2 users in the InfoWorld forums, focus groups, mailing lists and so on).

Warp's technical superiority has been discussed and studied in such detail that it feels cliché now, yet that doesn't stop me from praising it again and again. Whoever chooses OS/2, doing so because they know what they're getting into rather than "because it's not Microsoft," are some of the most selfish, egotistical elitists in the world. They're not computing to be compatible with everyone else, they're not working to subsidize software who's only virtue is that "everyone else has it". They're satisfying a selfish greed for power, capability, ability and excellence.

And its because only this kind flocks to OS/2 in droves that we have the stellar talent of some of the most capable people on Earth. Partition Magic, Photo>Graphics, ColorWorks, ZipStream, The Win32-OS/2 Project, you see examples of their work everywhere in software that embodies the technical excellence one comes to expect from the elite.

That's why OS/2 does not die, it's a magnet for brains who keep it alive.

So does this mean I'm advocating the status quo? For if Warp's obscurity has been helping it by screening out all the idiots (I'm sure they don't mind being called that, they seem to like those books...) then doesn't this mean it'd be hurt by any attempts to market it? That depends on what gets marketed. OS/2, or a product based on OS/2? When one company is proposing to put Linux in refrigerator-door embedded PCs (surf while you chug a carton of milk, hey!) it makes you realize that a blue and white box with the label "Warp" on the side isn't the only possible incarnation of OS/2, but that it is still the version you prefer.

Like a lock-pickers club can easily guarantee its membership by locking the door to the clubhouse (duh,) we could guarantee the elitist status of Warp by keeping its most powerful version out of the public circus and in the reach of only those who know how to reach. Let's seek to expand the user base, but not by stocking it on the shelves of K-Mart, not by advertising it in the Enquirer or on reruns of Star Trek. Advertise it in InfoWorld, and on Babylon 5. In other words, go to where the brains are.

If you're peeved about the insult at the top (I was assuming that you are a selfish elitist), or want to know if I've been going at the Ayn Rand again, drop into our Hypernews Forum and bite my head off.

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Chris Wenham is the Senior Editor of OS/2 e-Zine!, an Englishman living in Endicott, NY, who now thinks he owes someone a bar of chocolate for that Babylon 5 idea.

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