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User of PCs and Macs shares his insights

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

A user of both PCs and Macs shares his insights into the platform controversy 

Dec. 28, 1997

I guess you could call me both a MAC and a PC user. Let me give you a couple of my comments:

When I worked at GE in Pittsfield, MA in the 80's, everything was PC-based. I felt privileged when I managed to latch on to an IBM PC AT that I could keep right on my very own desk. I'd used CP/M in the past and DOS seemed OK to me.

In 88 I transferred to Syracuse and while the Leading Edge Model D was the computer of choice, one of the offices had a MAC SE (or something like that). For a lot of the work I was doing, the Model D was fine - large databases and so forth. But the couple of times that I tried the MAC I couldn't believe how intuitive it's operating system was. Totally different than DOS but I could sit down and begin to use it almost immediately.

Over the years since then, I've continued to use both PCs and MACs. My home system is a PC running Windows 95. At work I'll use an X-terminal connected to a UNIX server from my desk. Or, when I have occasion to work with the Marketing Communications group, I'll use their networked MACs.

The bottom line today? The three platforms are almost indistinguishable from each other. Sure the MACs handle some graphics applications a little better, but the UNIX system seems to crash less often (the MACs were running System 7 the last time I checked). There are differences but not the night-and-day differences I noted in 1998.

When I see people buy computers today, they frequently just get whatever model can be picked up at their local electronics outlet, at a reasonable price, that offers the ability to run the few software packages they want. Does it make a difference to them that one model may take an hour to setup while another takes 15 minutes? Probably, but nobody's ever told me that it really swayed them between models unless the price was almost the same. Personally, I'd be willing to spend a couple of hours of my time to save a few hundred dollars.

Upgrades? Most folks don't even want to try this themselves. Yeah, I've gone through the battles of selecting the right IRQs to get a scanner to work on my PC, but it seems to me that most folks buy a complete package at the beginning and then never "mess" with it too much.

Could be that I'm wrong, but it seems to me today that computers are almost a commodity - like spaghetti sauce. You decide how much you need and then go to your nearby story and get the least expensive brand that has the features (flavors?) you need.

Are MACs better than PCs in some areas? Sure. But is it enough to make consumers go out of their way to buy one, or pay more than a hundred or so more? I doubt it.

Steve Auyer

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