The Cult of Rails, The Cult of Mac

by Joey deVilla on May 15, 2007

Mac, Mac, Mac…

One of the first things I noticed at last year’s RailsConf conference was that Mac laptops far outnumbered PC laptops. Outside of Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (and possible FOO and BarCamp), you normally don’t see this sort of Mac-PC ratio.

I took the snapshot below last year. It of a group of attendees hanging out between sessions. Note that every laptop in the shot, including that of conference organizer Chad Fowler (4th from left) and presenter Adam Keys (5th from right) — is a Mac:

Geeks sitting with their Mac laptops at RailsConf 2006

Here’s a closer look — a video of a sea of Macs on developers’ laps:

Fearless Leader Uses a Mac

David Heinemeier Hansson: The Hottest Hacker on Earth

While most Rails projects are eventually deployed as production apps on Linux-based servers, OS X is the preferred development environment for Rails geeks. That’s no surprise, considering that Rails creator/figurehead/supermodel David Heinemeier Hansson is himself a Mac guy, as he writes in this article on his blog, Loud Thinking:

Paul Graham is writing about the Mac adoption amongst hackers in general and his own return in particular:

“All the best hackers I know are gradually switching to Macs… The reason, of course, is OS X. Powerbooks are beautifully designed and run FreeBSD. What more do you need to know? I got a Powerbook at the end of last year. When my IBM Thinkpad’s hard disk died soon after, it became my only laptop.”

It’s great to see that over the past few years it has become the norm, not the exception, that good programmers are wielding Macs. There’s the odd exception of Linux here and there, but the writing’s on the wall: OS X offers the best personal computing experience available today.

While I can certainly understand the reasons why some people go with Linux, I have run all but dry of understanding for programmers that willfully pick Windows as their platform of choice. I know a few that are still stuck in the rut for various reasons — none of them desire.

I would have a hard time imagining hiring a programmer who was still on Windows for 37signals. If you don’t care enough about your tools to get the best, your burden of proof just got a lot heavier.

It’s another interesting chapter in the rise of the Mac among the not-quite-mainstream programmer crowd, a trend that first became apparent during the first O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference back in 2002. All through RailsConf 2006, I was reminded of Tim O’Reilly’s remarks in his 2002 WWDC keynote, Watching the “Alpha Geeks”: OS X and the Next Big Thing.

The Nonconformists

Seeing they were in the minority, RailsConf 2006 attendee Christian Metts handed out “Certificates of Nonconformity” to people sporting non-Macintosh laptops and took their photos. These RailsConf nonconformists were also photographed for posterity, and the photos have been collected in this Flickr set.

The most famous of the nonconformists was none other than the enigmatic Rubyist known only as why the lucky stiff, who posed in classic “why” fashion with his certificate:

“Why the Lucky Stiff” poses with his nonconformist certificate
Click the photo to see it on its original Flickr page.

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