Men are from PCs, women are from Macs

by Chris Howard Feb 01, 2006

Women aren’t like men. Or so I’ve heard, because I’m not one afterall - I’m a bloke, Chris. And advertisers seem to know this about women. When you’re watching TV you know which ads are aimed at women and which at men. This difference set me wondering about Apple, Macs and women. If a woman designed a computer - including the OS -  would it be much more like a Mac than a PC? Furthermore, could Apple better leverage this advantage?

One difference between men and women - and this is a generalization, but a reliable one as generalizations go - is men seem to have an uncontrollable urge to to tinker, to know how things work. We men folk have to know how to fix things - or at least think we know. That’s why we love maps but won’t use them. We’ll read the map and learn all the different ways and means to get around but once we get behind the wheel it’s different. We don’t need the map, we know this stuff, we know how to get somewhere. Just don’t tell us to read the manual… errr… map. We take offense at that because actually we don’t mind getting lost - although won’t admit it when we are. Getting lost gives us a problem to solve. Something to fix. And then afterwards of course, we can say we never were lost.

My wife - and seemingly most other women - just want to get from A to B as simply and effortlessly as possible. And if she gets lost, she will read a map because she wants to get unlost as simply and effortlessly as possible.

It’s the same with computers. We blokes learn enough to be dangerous and then end up breaking them. But that’s cool - because we like fixing them. As a last resort we’ll look at the manual. Sometimes we might read it beforehand - well, skim it…

Guys just can’t help being geeks. Whether it’s being a computer geek or a car geek or whatever.

In my teens and early 20s I got more than a few appreciative remarks from girls about how they were glad I didn’t spend weeekends with my head under the bonnet of a car. What I didn’t admit to them though, was I spent my weekends with my head inside a computer learning programming, how to swap a CPU, tweak the BIOS and so on.

Women are the saner sex. They just want to use things. They don’t care how a car works, they just want to get from A to B. They don’t care how a computer works. They just want to get the report done for the board meeting.

Apple - and even us blokes who use them - tout that one of the greatest things about Macs are they don’t get in the way of what you are trying to do, they don’t require heaps of maintenance, they just let you get the job done as simply and effortlessly as possible.

Not to say Macs are perfect - my wife still finds things to confuse her. Apple does a fantastic job on the design of Macs and OS X but could they use even more female input?

Women seem to have better things to do with their time than learning how a carburetor works. Or how to tweak a BIOS. They want things that “just work”. Women are the ideal customers for Macs.

Should Apple be taking more advantage of this? Should they have a campaign such as “It just works”? Maybe an ad with hubby frustrated and losing his enjoyment of fixing the screwed up PC yet again and then his wife saying, “Enough of this, let’s get a Mac. They just work.”

Disclaimer: It’s hard to write this piece without possibly sounding sexist, patronizing or condescending. I promise it’s not meant that way - except maybe the dig at guys.


  • I find this an interesting thought. Women are often portrayed as the more creative, emotional portions of the human while men are the more logical, rationizing portion. You could actually do two kinds of ads: One in which the husband is frustrated because he can’t get Windows/Linux to operate correctly and meanwhile the wife has typed a report, downloaded a new recipe for dinner and created a new playlist in iTunes all in the same amount of time it took for the husband to finally get his computer to function. The second add would be geared towards the women who DO like tinkering with their OS X. You could show one ad with a woman installing more RAM or one where she’s pairing her Blooetooth phone to her Mac or even on in which a woamn effortlessly configures OS X server for her blog. I’d also show ads of women using Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro or Photoshop CS2. The second set of ads would be aimed at showing that tasks that seem unbearably difficult in Windows/Linux are so easy with OS X that women have no problem performing the tasks themselves.

    Frank 'viperteq' Young had this to say on Feb 01, 2006 Posts: 32
  • God my typing was horrible. Chris, please ask Hadley to add an edit function to the comments section!

    Frank 'viperteq' Young had this to say on Feb 01, 2006 Posts: 32
  • I agree that men like tinkering more than women—but men like tinkering with things that genuinely interest them and I would say that only a subset of men treat PCs as a “hobby”. In comparison, cars are not a hobby for me, just utility. I don’t enjoy tinkering with a car and if I had to get under the hood and adjust things just to keep the car running, it wouldn’t be too long before I’d just get another car. There are guys who love working on their cars, but not the majority. I think that most guys, your workers and managers who are stressed out and want to get home to their families (or the bar) aren’t much interested in tinkering with their computers. They just want the damn things to work so they can get their job done and go home! There are certainly IT departments staffed across the country with people whose PCs are as much a hobby as their job. Those are the ones who love fixing them (and God knows they get lots of practice). But most people in the company are not in IT.

    Kris Thom White had this to say on Feb 01, 2006 Posts: 18
  • After changing a water pump in a car many years ago I decided that I really didn’t want to tinker under the hood of a car, or a PC.  I just want them to work.  I did, about 30 years ago, take a course on Computer based Information Systems and loved it.  No need of programming required - you just designed an information system.  The course led me to a job 10 years later developing merchandising systems for a chain of department stores.  The IT guys had no idea what merchandising was and the merchants didn’t understand computers.  I got the seat between the two and started every project with a clean sheet off paper.  Lots of fun and a software house did the dirty work.

    Now days I want a computer to work as easily as a TV.  I run my little one man business on it, fix up old family pics I have scanned in (thank you Photoshop Elements 3 for the Healing Tool!) and generally enjoy myself.  I don’t even bother with Automator - I just do my thing knowing I’m safe with a Mac.

    MacKen had this to say on Feb 01, 2006 Posts: 88
  • This post tied a lot of loose ends together for me.

    Here in the U.S., we have a lot of radio call-in computer help programs. Almost always, they are run by guys for guys. Their jargon-filled discussion centers almost obsessively on fixing and tinkering and degunking.

    Like a dum-dum, I tried one time to call in to one of these shows to point out that fixing and tinkering and dealing with malware didn’t have to happen and that one could use one’s time much more productively. The people on the show were mightily offended and viciously attacked me as well as attacking Macs.

    I could never figure out what was going on with those guys, but now I know, thanks to this post. Those guys were afraid that I was going to ruin all their fun, and maybe force them to revert to something mundane like sports and cars to obsess over.

    Even though I have degrees in engineering and computing and know that I could easily handle all this tinkering, I still say that I have better things to do with my time.  I still choose to have machines that just work—Macs.

    I’m afraid that what this post is telling us is that Windows will never go away— it feeds a deep human psychological need that is mediated by a gene most often carried on the X chromosome. wink  I can coexist with that. What I would hate to see happen though is that the tinkerers would use their aggression to force their viewpoint on all of us by driving Apple out of business, thus depriving the other half of the human race of a product that we find much more to our liking.

    In my view, Steve came back on the scene just in time, and I really appreciate all that he has done to keep the Mac alternative available to the rest of us.


    salsa had this to say on Feb 01, 2006 Posts: 1
  • While it might be true that a mac just works, I argue that it’s also better suited for the serious tinkerer than windows could ever be

    Valarc had this to say on Feb 01, 2006 Posts: 1
  • Nice article, the writter has SOME valid points as do the people posting. Lets not get to guttered minded on the fact that women like things to be simple though, no harm to any of the ladies, but apparently Chris you have never went shopping with a woman, because on average there is nothing simple about it. If I need something I go and get it, in and out, and home. On the other hand I don’t think that I have ever dated or married a woman that didn’t make a trip to the mall a major project. And if you say ....welll…. women like to shop, keep in mind men like to tinker….....most of the time anyways. Only down part on my behalf is I really hate to do anything that is a necessity at home, but if it’s at a friend house, considerate done and in record time. Thats the largest downfall my wife belittles me with.

    Macster2 had this to say on Feb 01, 2006 Posts: 40
  • A lot of this “men and women have different brains” stuff has really been progressively debunked from 1970s era psychology.

    There are differences certainly, the size of the corpus callosum (the brain’s data bus) for one, meaning that women are potentially better at multitasking, but the differences probably aren’t as large as…

    ...cultural differences.

    For example, if you look at South Korea, the number of girl geeks who like to do a lot of the stuff talked about above is at least equal or greater than guy geeks.

    mikataur had this to say on Feb 01, 2006 Posts: 19
  • When I think “tinker” on the PC side I think building my own computer and customizing the GUI to fit what I want. “Tinker” has a positive connotation. “Fix” is the bad word. I would hate to have a computer I had to fix all the time. Surprisingly, I’ve let my XP computer run 24/7 (except for the odd power outages) for the past 5 years, and I haven’t had to fix it yet. Though I have “tinkered” with it. smile

    dsiglin had this to say on Feb 01, 2006 Posts: 4
  • Two bits of totally irrelevant science:
    1. Simple size differences in the corpus callosum reckoned to exist in the 1980s haven’t been borne out by modern methods.

    2. Salsa, I think you mean the Y chromosome… tongue laugh

    Benji had this to say on Feb 01, 2006 Posts: 927
  • The funny thing is that you can do plenty of tinkering on OSX.  Unix and x11 are great for that kind of stuff.  Besides, who wants to mess with malware?

    tedbare had this to say on Feb 01, 2006 Posts: 1
  • I like lego

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on Feb 02, 2006 Posts: 299
  • Well there’s a difference between tinkering and fixing.

    Benji had this to say on Feb 02, 2006 Posts: 927
  • Did you steal the premise of this article from “MicroSerfs” by Doug Coupland?  Most geeks have read it…  Please give credit where credit is due.

    obskanobi had this to say on Feb 02, 2006 Posts: 2
  • My household is the opposite.

    Shiba had this to say on Feb 02, 2006 Posts: 2
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