Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Film: Inside the cult of Mac

March 2, 2009: 12:30 PM ET

Violet Blue"First of all," says San Francisco Chronicle sex columnist Violet Blue, in glasses, Mary Janes and peek-a-boo top, "I never knowingly slept with a Windows user. Ever."

That tells you pretty much all you need to know about MacHeads, the 2008 film now enjoying a second life at Amazon (where it's currently the No. 4 top-selling documentary) and the iTunes Store (No. 8). Both retailers recently added the film for sale and rental.

If you want to meet a lot of people who wear funny hats, stroke and kiss their personal computers, and care passionately enough about Apple (AAPL) to make sexual decisions based on what OS you're using, you've come to the right section in the video store.

A labor of love by Ron and Kobi Shely, two Israeli brothers who discovered the cult of Mac late in the game (circa 2000), the film opens with the lines at Macworld 2007 in San Francisco and closes five months later in New York City with the lines that formed the day the first iPhone went on sale.

But it's the Mac community that provides the arc -- and the pathos -- of the film.

There was an Apple community before 1984, but it blossomed with the "Big Brother" ad that defined the Mac culture as something separate from and hostile to IBM (IBM) and Microsoft (MSFT). According to the Shely brothers, it sustained the company during the dark "crisis" years when Apple management lost its way and it fell to the user groups -- like monks in the Middle Ages -- to keep the faith alive. Or maybe more like penguins, as columnist Andy Ihnatko puts it in the film, huddled together to share their body warmth.

Ultimately, this is a story of lost innocence. Even as the community celebrated the return of Steve Jobs -- their prodigal son and savior -- it was being undermined by the Web (which obviated the need for local user groups) and a grown-up company that no longer required a fanatical user base to achieve financial success.

"Oh Apple?" says Ty Shipman, a member of the now defunct Berkeley Mac Users Group (BMUG). "They could care less."

Apple fans will find much to love in this film. Windows users may find their prejudices confirmed.

You can rent or purchase MacHeads here. The official trailer is available here. The YouTube version of the trailer is pasted below the fold.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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