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.