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Preaching the Gospel of Mac
by Brandt Williams
May 22, 2000
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In the computer world, users of the MacIntosh and Windows operating systems often clash over which system is best. In fact, some Mac users are so fanatical, that they call themselves Mac evangelists. However, columnist and self-described Mac advocate Rodney Lain, doesn't like the cult-like attitude adopted by some Mac-enthusiasts. Lain says Apple Computers, the maker of the MacIntosh, is just a company, not an idol of worship.
Read Rodney Lain's online columns.

EVERY OTHER WEEKEND, Rodney Lain talks to the Mac-faithful and the Mac-curious at the Roseville CompUSA. Patrolling the corner of the store devoted to Apple products, Lain is eager to help anyone with questions or who just wants to talk shop like Charles, a devoted Mac user since 1987.

Lain began working at the computer store on a part-time basis after he kept hearing people decrying the demise of Apple computers. Some of that information was being disseminated by computer salespersons. So, to spread the word of the MacIntosh's ease of use and the company's new found stability, Lain carried his message to the sales floor.

Charles says he's a regular CompUSA customer who's seen Lain work the aisles. "One thing about Rodney is, he's a personable fellow and he has an easy rapport with people and I think that you'll see a lot of people walking out through those registers with big shopping carts and they usually have an iMac in them," he says. "I don't see a lot of PCs and Compaqs. I'm sure more of those kind of computers sell to corporations but when it's individuals, when granny comes in here, granny's not walking out with a PC; it's usually an iMac that he's sold them."

His work at CompUSA, led to his day job as a tech-support specialist at Power On Software. Lain says some Power On Software employees saw him preaching the gospel of MacIntosh to store customers one day and were impressed by his passion and his knowledge.

However Lain is best known as a columnist for several online MacIntosh User magazines or e-zines. His columns are almost always prefaced by quotes from famous thinkers, from Lao Tzu to W.E.B. DuBois to H.L. Mencken. As a Mac advocate, Lain is controversial because he is known to occasionally criticize the company that makes his beloved MacIntosh.

"From my experience, I think I have a better grasp on the platform from an objective standpoint because I've worked in the stores, I've used the software, I've done the tech support, I've seen that the platform is not a perfect platform," he says.

Lain is also controversial because he is an African American who is not afraid to integrate race into his columns. One column is titled The MacIntosh is the Nigger of the Computer Industry. In the slightly tongue-in-cheek article, Lain wrote that both Mac users and African-Americans feel oppressed by the man. In the computer world, "the man" is Microsoft - maker of the Windows operating system.

He also wrote that both Macintosh computers and Blacks are seen as inferior. Lain was criticized by many readers who thought he took the parallels too far, but Mac Addict content editor Rich Pizor says critics often react before they've read through an entire column.

"I think most of the people who react negatively to him do so because they just read the first couple of sentences, instantly get a reaction, and fire off a response before they have time to think about what he is writing," says Pizor. "He puts a lot of effort into choosing his words and you have to put at least a shared amount of effort into understanding him."

Though racism is still one of his big concerns, Lain says the biggest danger to society is "otherism," or the tendency of humans to separate themselves from each other over their differences. He says that's one of reasons he avoids further polarizing the debate between Mac and Windows users.

Lain says there are even times when he recommends the Windows operating system to certain computer users. Another reason that Lain avoids Mac-worship is because he's knows what it's like to be in a cult. Lain says he experienced spiritual abuse at the hands of church leaders and left with emotional scars. And though he's crazy about MacIntosh computers, he's no fanatic.

"I've been a fanatic," he admits. "I've been a mainstream church fanatic, I've been a fringe church fanatic. I've been all over that stuff. It helps me understand this MacIntosh thing too. I know not to take it too seriously like some of the other people do. If Apple were to die today, I'd find something else to write about."

Apparently, Apple isn't dying anytime soon. With the success of its iMac computers, Apple has brought itself into the black. However, not everyone is aware of Apple's success. So Lain's mission, is to keep spreading the good word.

"Maybe this is my religion," he says. "In a way, this is the serving and stuff I used to do when I was in the church. I was always one of the most active people; always the first to step up and do something. It's no different now. And I believe I can worship God by just helping people, and that's what I'm doing."

Currently Lain is working on a novel and will begin writing a periodic column for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.