The musical version of a new operating system

The musical version of a new operating system

I'm working with a new computer operating system in my new job, using a Mac every day after using only PCs for five years (and Macs irregularly before that).

It's a lot to learn -- the same up to a point, then thoroughly different, often when I least expect a difference.

After a couple of weeks, the difference came to me on a dark Saturday night: It's like learning to play a new instrument.

I've adopted my dad's violin, and I keep it near my cello. Sometimes, they need the same care, as a Mac and a PC would. Putting rosin on the bow and tuning the strings feel just the same for the violin and cello -- to a point.

The violin's bow is lighter and thinner than the cello's, so it moves differently (even on the cake of rosin, not just on the instrument). The way my hand grips each bow is different, like the way I grip different computer mice, but the motions differ.

As for tuning, I can use the same tuning fork to "give me an A" for both instruments -- but A is the highest string on the cello and only the second-highest on the violin.

Suddenly, as I think of the different instruments, it doesn't seem so foreign to have an Option/Command button on the Mac and a Control button on the PC.

Then there's the problem of distance. I'm used to big distances, having to stretch my fingers to reach some notes and move my hand and arm to reach others on the cello. It's taken years of practice, but it feels correct.

I don't have a violin teacher, but I can imagine one telling me that the tiny distances between notes on the violin -- and the tiny distances between strings -- are easier to handle. It's much easier to carry, too -- it's the slim laptop to my cello's big desktop computer.

But I'm catching myself these days as I use the Mac keyboard. (I nearly wrote that as "catching myself now," but I'm writing this back on a PC.) This piece -- a term used in both writing and music -- began the day I told myself "Hey! Wrong fingering!" and meant a computer command, which I adjusted my hands and did.

Actually, the change in computers is coming faster to me than the change to (or addition of) the violin. Maybe using the violin more, playing with it as well as on it, would knock something loose about adjusting to the Mac again in the office.

It could be the way I learned about the mouse earlier in my career, when the company where I worked was sold. After 11 years using the same computer without a mouse, and not a big enough bank account to have one at home yet, I had to adjust to Windows and 11 years of hardware changes in a week of classes and two weeks of on-the-job training. Hmm.

I thought I'd never get my right hand to run the mouse. Strangely, it was the chance of using my left hand to do it that made me realize what to do, how to "file" the experience.

My left hand needed to use the keyboard, because it was the detail work like putting fingers on strings.

The big, sweeping movements of the mouse would need to be my right hand's job -- just like the big movements of my cello bow.

It all fit my brain's operating system then, and it does now.

Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.



Leave a comment
  • I can't comment on the cello, but it reminds me that I took an adult education course of the Mac, which was fun until I had to use one at work, at which time it wasn't fun anymore. Also, the difference between MacPaint and MacDraw was only slightly explained (and come to think of it, whether they were your countrymen)

    After that I got a Mac IIsi, but to do real work, I've gone through 3 PCs. On OSs, Windows 10 wouldn't work on my computer, so I stuck with 7, which still works fine.

    What probably would make a difference is if we all had to migrate to a Chromebook..

  • Thanks for MacPerspective, Jack. As for them being my (cousins') countrymen, the Macintosh behind getting his name on the apple (the fruit) was a Scot, but Apple (the company) is from the U.S.

Leave a comment