Shortly after I turned 13, I was faced with a choice many young people faced in the early 2000s — Windows or Mac? (The Get a Mac ads wouldn’t air for another two years).
I had a bit of cash from my Bar Mitzvah, and a burgeoning interest in filmmaking. I remember going to Circuit City with my father, and I know that I gawked for a full minute at a $999 Apple Cinema Display, which was impossibly thin and impossibly expensive. (“A thousand dollars just for a monitor?” I remember thinking. Little did I know that 2019 would bring a $999 Apple monitor stand). I moved on past the Apple sub-section, and ended up in the Windows aisle, where I bought an eMachines desktop for $800. It was a totally logical choice. I ended up buying a bunch of video editing software — Pinnacle Studio — for about $150, too.
I spent the next few years attempting to edit videos using Pinnacle. It was awful. It crashed constantly and couldn’t properly import files or render projects. I didn’t complete as many projects as I started — in large part because of the bugginess and instability of the software.
There is of course the tired cliche, “a poor workman blames his tools.” This is, of course, said to stifle a potential excuse for poor performance or not delivering on some commitment or expectation. But, I swear, this software was terrible. Budget video editing on Windows back in 2004 was just a nightmare.
I often wonder if I had instead lingered in the Apple section, if I had played with a colorful iBook, or tried a sleek PowerBook, that I would have overcome my understandable hesitation to paying $1,100 for a laptop in seventh grade, and eventually discovered iMovie or Final Cut. I wonder what I might have created if I hadn’t been stifled by the limitations of my tools.
Three years later, in 2007, I bought a MacBook Pro and a copy of Final Cut. It unlocked doors for me in high school, and enabled me to embrace my creativity in real ways, in projects that could be finished, in DVDs that could be burned. I’m currently on my second MacBook Pro (a 2012 model, still going strong).
I know that, in general, our tools should precede our interests, and that we shouldn’t drop thousands of dollars on a potential hobby or flight of fancy. But I do sometimes wonder about the times that tools — or the right tools — help unlock passion or creativity in a way that a half-measure does not.