Fanboys

The Quick Version

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Fanboys are irrational people who attach themselves to one type of computer and defend its honour as if it were a religion. They are sadly rather common and you should be aware of their existence when reading online comments. 

Brace yourself. I am going to describe a type of person who you will be hard pushed to believe actually exists. What us geeks call a “fanboy” (although the term applies to ladies as well, I have never come across a lady who is weird enough to be a fanboy, they always seem to be male). When I describe a fanboy to people outside of the geek world they look at me in disbelief.  “Do people like that really exist” they ask. Yep they do and not just inside institutes for the mentally ill. Here’s what it means:

I guess I should start by saying a fanboy is not a personal servant employed to fan a high society lady when she is too tired or too important to do it for herself. No, he is a fan of a particular brand of technology in the same way that someone is a fan of a groovy rock band.

You would think that people obsessed with technology would be a very logical lot, all focused on comparison charts of features with points and weightings trying to figure out which product is better than another. And indeed, there is a fair bit of that going on (probably rather too much), but there’s something else... folks get tribal.

In computing we have what are generally known as “platforms”. Things like Microsoft Windows, iOS (On iPhone and iPad), Linux etc. It’s not a single model of computer or a single maker, it’s a lot of stuff that over time works in a similar way. 

An Apple fanboy will not accept that any other platform, Android for example, is better in any way what so ever to an Apple product. Android fanboys think that anyone using Apple products is arrogant and vain, and so on. Each tribe loves everything about their stuff and hates everything about all the other tribes.

A fanboy’s head will explode if he sees someone point out a good feature of a rival platform. Look at the comments on any website. They will be there going bonkers, up to and including death threats (they really do get terribly worked up about this stuff, which makes them a figure of fun amongst the rest of us).  Or they will be posting one star reviews for products from the other tribes, products they have never used and would probably be physically sick if they picked up by accident.

We used to have a saying back in the old days before Microsoft Word became the only Word processor anyone used and there were lots to choose from: “Which is the best word processor in the World? The one you know”. It’s true, if you knew all the messy key strokes for any given Word Processor you could make that thing sing and dance compared to anything else on the market. Did that make it the best in absolute terms? Who knows? The fanboy has invested a lot of time in his platform, he knows it, he can make it sing and dance, for him, it's the best possible choice and it would be madness to choose anything else.

There is also sunk resource to consider. Few people have the money to buy every system available and the time to get to know the good and bad points of them all. So they get to know the system they have. If they do try and use something else it's confusing and in their words S*$£t.

I’m lucky. I handle different type of machines all the time as part of my day job. I have to make them work and make them work together. I can't stop and give the customer a long lecture on how he had bought the wrong thing, I have to make it work. I am constantly being reminded that they all have their strengths and weaknesses.

You would expect fanboys to be confused by this website. I might heap praise on their precious in one sentence and then point out its weakness in the next. They won't be confused. Any mention of anything negative about their religion and every word I have ever said on any topic is wrong. That's how they think.

Some fanboys are clearly bigoted idiots. However, you have to be careful to correctly interpret the use of the term. You will often hear a fanboy describe a rational person as a fanboy because they have said something positive about a competing tribe. In their world, you have to be in a tribe. Being a free thinker is not an option.

It's all just lazy thinking. Things are sometimes good, things are sometimes bad and it's fine to say so. You only get to be a real fanboy if you consistently and irrationally support one side and trash the others with no substance to your arguments.

OK, so that was an amusing diversion into the stranger side of geek culture, but why do you need to know about any of this? Because for any product you look at, there will be fanboys posting over excited reviews about how this is worse that what comes out the back end of a hyena after it ate a chilly dog. There will be people commenting here about how everything I say is nonsense (because at some point I said something nice about one of their competitors or did not put their favourite at the top of every list). You will meet people in real life who will put down any notion of you buying a system that is different to the one they are familiar with (although in real life they are never brave enough to be as impolite as they are online, they move very quickly from death threats to suggestions).

It's OK to get hysterical about mass murder, but if someone is commenting that way about screen resolutions, look stern, point a finger at them and shout "Fanboy!".


But this is all nonsense!

The slaying of myths and misunderstandings

There's a staggering amount of misinformation and urban myth doing the rounds on the subject of home computers, often nonsense that is most definitely against your best interests. So let's prepare you for when someone "who knows about computers" comes knocking by covering the popular hogwash in advance.

But I'm not a fan boy!

I think most geeks would agree with this description of fanboys. The problem is very few will admit that they themselves are fanboys. It's everyone else. 


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