A Response To Umberto Eco's "Mac is Catholic, DOS is Protestant" Essay

by Joel Adams (December 1994, ammended 1995)

Eco's original essay

In his September 30, 1994 column "La bustina di Minerva" in the Italian news weekly Espresso, Umberto Eco observed that the ongoing PC operating system war parallels the historic religious conflict between protestants and catholics. Eco further suggests that in this conflict, the Macintosh plays the role of Catholicism and DOS the role of Protestantism.

I must admit to being surprised when I first read his essay, because I had come to the exact opposite conclusion: in the history of the DOS-Macintosh conflict, DOS clearly plays the role of Catholicism and the Macintosh the role of Protestantism. To see why, consider these parallels:

In summary, the historical perspective suggests that the MacOS represents the reformation of personal computing; Apple has never been orthodox.

Epilogue: Where does UNIX fit into all of this? The key is to recognize that UNIX

  1. is even more ritualistic and mysterious than DOS, and
  2. originated at Bell Labs, on the east coast;

and so UNIX is Eastern Orthodox.

This page is part of the collection of Christian Scholarship essays from the Computer Science Department at Calvin College.