Inert Detritus The Internet's dust bunnies

18 October 2007 @ 1pm

The Finder

While reading long-ago posts from John Gruber about the OS X Finder, I came to realize something odd, curious, and a touch disturbing about my usage of OS 9 and OS X.

I grew up on an OS 8/9 machine. From a Mac IIsi to a Bondi Blue iMac (it’s still in the basement back home, and when semi-opaque plastics come back in 2028, I’m totally bringing it out), the only computer I knew and used was a Mac. As a toddler to an adolescent to a teenager, I rocked the spatial orientation of the OS on a daily basis.

And yet, when I first installed the OS X Public Beta on that same iMac—something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies, it was so slow—I don’t remember any feelings of being lost navigating in the Finder. Either my memory has purged my worst days of the OS 9→OS X transition, or my brain simply didn’t miss the spatial view at all.

As I read through Gruber’s articles, starting with an interview he did with GUIdebook and continuing linearly through time from That Finder Thing to Finder Reflux, I struggled to understand his complaints about the OS X Finder. It occurred to me that I don’t think in a spatial sense: my brain doesn’t mind the spatial assistance, but when I made the jump to OS X, and started learning Unix via Terminal, I started thinking more in paths and working directories, and that’s how I view the Finder now. Every Finder window is another shell instance, with an ability to change working directories and copy and rename files. An icon view of a folder doesn’t “represent” that folder to me any more than pwd; ls does in a Terminal instance: my mind abstracts that folder back to a fuzzy, difficult to grasp entity somewhere within the machine, containing files and folders X and Y, and existing at such-and-such path.

The OS X Finder: I don’t understand how I use it, or how I perceive it, but I do my best to get by with what the OS has given me.