This was originally published at About This Particular Macintosh, January 1998.


I recently had a computer purchase discussion with my sister—She and her husband would like to have a PC so that Jake and Jamie (my niece and nephew—ages 2 1/2 and 4 1/2) can learn computers and have some fun. Every time the Js are over, they have a great time on my Quadra, playing kids’ games I downloaded off the net.

The bad news is my brother-in-law—an otherwise decent fellow—is considering purchasing a Wintel machine for their home. The reason Sis gave for possibly making this egregious error was curious: “Windows is the most popular” computer option.

The phrase “most popular” not the “best” or “most useful,” but most popular—stuck in my craw for a few days.

I was disturbed by the thought of my niece & nephews’ first real computer experiences being Wintel; Disturbed enough to do a little research into some of the world’s most popular (but not necessarily best, or even 3rd or 8th best) things:

• The single that spent the most consecutive weeks (54) on the US charts is “The Macarena,” by Los Del Rio. “The Macarena” dethroned the previous consecutive chart topper, “Oh, What a Night” (by The Four Seasons)

• The world’s most translated author is everyone’s favorite commie, Vladimir Lenin. (3,842 translations). William Shakespeare is a distant fourth with 1,689 translations.

• The longest running Broadway play of all time is Cats (1982 to present).

• The U.S. President who was elected with the largest popular majority was none other than Tricky Dick—Richard M. Nixon won with 47.1 million to McGovern’s 29.1 million votes.

• The most-watched weekly program in television history is Baywatch. Nielsen Media Research puts its weekly viewership in 110 countries at 2.3 billion (That is right, billion). At a distant second is Jim Henson’s The Muppets. With barely 10% of Baywatch’s audience, a mere 235 million people in 106 countries enjoy Kermit the Frog weekly.

• The best selling novel of all time—at 30 million copies—is Valley of the Dolls, by Jacqueline Susann.

• The Number 3 Best Selling Music Video of all time is “Step By Step” by New Kids On The Block. The Number 2 best seller is “Hangin’ Tough” by—that’s right again—New Kids On The Block. Incidentally, Hangin’ Tough was previously the number 1 best selling music video of all time, until it was displaced by (I couldn’t even make this stuff up if I tried) “Hangin’ Tough Live,” by New Kids On The Block.

• The world’s best selling prepared food is that gustatory treat, the Big Mac, at over 14 billion served.

• The world’s largest daily circulation newspaper is neither the Wall Street Journal nor the New York Times, but Pravda, at 10 million copies per day.

• Though not a public corporation (with no accompanying public financial disclosure required), the highest revenue generating infomercial is believed to be The Psychic Friends’ Network (1-900 Psychic).

• The final numbers have not been tallied yet, but it appears that Elton John’s re-release of “Candle In The Wind:” Rose of England (Tribute to Princess Diana) is about to pass Bing Crosby’s White Christmas for best selling single of all time.

• The world’s best selling brewery is Anheiser Busch; makers of many fine products—most notably its biggest seller—Budweiser Beer.

• Not too long ago, “(Whoomp) There It Is” by Tag Team was the year’s best selling single.

• 1996′s best selling non-fiction book was Make the Connection by that literary lion herself, Oprah Winfrey (co-written by her dean of letters, Bob Greene).

• The most watched event in television history is Princess Di’s funeral, which displaced the previous number one: The Royal Wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer. Man’s landing on the moon is a bit further down the list.

• The best selling film soundtrack of all time is The Bodyguard.

• The fastest selling Debut Album of all time was Hootie and the Blowfish’s Cracked Rear View, which sold 14 million copies.

Sources: Top Ten of Everything, by Russel Ash (DIK Publishing); Nielsen Media Research; The Book of Mosts, Aaron Cohl (St. Martin’s Press); Guinness Book of World Records, 1997; Issac Asimov’s Book of Facts.

My purpose in putting together this assortment of “Best Sellers” is not to mock or humiliate people who are fond of popular things (Okay, maybe I can mock fans of Hootie and the Blowfish and tweak Nixon supporters a little). Rather, it was to gather some ammo to poke holes in the blind argument used by the Wintel crowd: it’s the most popular platform, therefore, you should get it.

My apologies in advance if this comes across as too pretentious or condescending; obviously, it is a selective list. There are many fine products and services that sell well—the Beatles, Star Wars, and the Honda Accord are just a few examples. It just seems to me that, for the most part, people have a hard time distinguishing between qualitative and quantitative factors.

I hope my little diatribe provides you with a suitable response the next time you overhear some pinhead using this nonsense to talk someone out of getting a superior product.

-Barry Ritholtz, January 1998.

Category: Film, Media, Music, Psychology, Technology

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

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