MAC V PC - There and Back Again - Part 1

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Gordon Atkinson's picture

One man’s journey from the darkness, into the light, and then back to the darkness, which turned out to be not as dark as he remembered.

I wanted to buy a Macintosh back in 1991 when I sold a bunch of stuff and managed to scrape together $1200 for a computer. Sadly, that left me about $1200 short with nothing left to sell. So instead I bought a XT running DOS 3.1 with 256k of RAM, a 20 meg hard drive, floppy drives, and an amber monochrome monitor. I’ve been joined to my computer(s) at the hip ever since.

What tends to happen is you begin the journey with a Mac or a PC, and you stick with it. Mac people swear they would rather die than switch, and given how they line up like lemmings to buy whatever their Apple overlords tell them to buy, I tend to believe them. PC users, on the other hand, tend to be classic geeks and nerds, which is understandable because these are the sort of people who want to get into their computers - into both the hardware and the software. The Mac hardware and software are locked up tighter than an Amish maiden, while every PC I’ve ever owned had a case held together by its one remaining screw and 2 or 3 hard drives hanging out the side. The last PC I built had a spare CD drive in it, just so I could have somewhere to put my coffee cup.

I chose my path back in 1991 and I stuck with it. I remember how excited I was when DOS 5 came out because it had - gasp - an included TEXT EDITOR! No more edlin. I lived through Windows 3.1, 95, 98, 2000, and XP.

THIS NEXT BIT IS IMPORTANT: I loved my PC. I had no problems with it. There was nothing I couldn’t do. In the early days I connected to bulletin boards with my 1200 baud modem. I ran WordPerfect until it died. I designed websites, downloaded music, did graphics, made slideshows, and started a blog. All those "touchy feely" things the Mac is supposed to be good at? I was doing them just fine with my PC and for a fraction of the cost. I was not having production problems.

And yet, in November of 2007 I bought a MacBook Pro.

“Why? Why?” I can hear you PC users asking. “Why after all those years did you jump ship? Why, for the love of Linux, did you fork out $2500 for a freakin notebook computer?”

And “What? What?” I can hear you Mac users asking. “What took you so long to forsake the darkness and enter, redeemed, into the light?

I’m going to tell you in a short series of posts here at Spyjournal.

Listen: I am going to be the one who tells you the truth. I’m the guy who loves them both. I’m going to tell you why I left the PC world and went through 9 months of transition troubles, why I love the Mac, and why - for my personal computer - I’ll never go back to PC.

I’m also going to tell you the stunning thing I discovered about Vista when I came back to Windows two months ago, and why I plan to always own a PC from now on. Why not own a PC? I can buy one with a warranty and a licensed copy of Vista for 300 bucks.

I’m also going to tell you the stupid, ridiculous, unthinkably awful and inconvenient design and software flaws I’ve found with the Macintosh. We could start with the Apple mouse, which is an absolute piece of junk. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

In short, I’m going to tell both sides of the story.

Next week: What drove me to dump my computers and years of accumulated software to enter the “barefoot, bluejeans, who’s your daddy, white my God does everything have to be white,” world of Apple.


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Anonymous's picture

I'm surprised there wasn't a

I'm surprised there wasn't a text editor until well after '91. I had a PCjr in '88 that came with a full-screen text editor. About that same time I took a programming class that was running on apple IIc and IIe, and I remember that the IIc at least only had line editing, which was a royal pain. Looking forward to reading your analysis!

Gordon Atkinson's picture

I guess technically DOS 3.3

I guess technically DOS 3.3 had a text editor in edlin. By today's standards it was just unthinkably awkward. I can't remember it all but you were at the DOS prompt, of course.

edlin file name

lines of text from a .txt file would be displayed. I think you had to type commands to display lines, insert stuff, etc. Edlin e saved and exited. But you couldn't just drop the cursor in and delete text. I don't remember how you did it, but it was unbelievably complicated for a task that is so simple now. Of course no mouse or anything then either for PCs.

DOS 5 brought a real text editor where you could insert text like in a word processor and easily save it.

matt's picture

"Mac people swear they would

"Mac people swear they would rather die than switch, and given how they line up like lemmings to buy whatever their Apple overlords tell them to buy, I tend to believe them. PC users, on the other hand, tend to be classic geeks and nerds, which is understandable because these are the sort of people who want to get into their computers - into both the hardware and the software. The Mac hardware and software are locked up tighter than an Amish maiden"

As both a Mac and Windows user also, I disagree :)

My old Macbook Pro from 2007 I had apart multiple times, they are very intriginguely well put together machines!

My new Macbook Pro that I bought a month ago, had it apart the day I bought it! It's a noticable improvement on the previous model, just in build, before you even consider the improement in hardware and subsequent performance! beautiful machine.

My Vista machine on the other hand, while most of my desktops don't even have cases on them normally, this one has had its case on for around a year now, all screwed on properly and everything. In saying that though, it has 8 hard drives in it, 4 of which are sideways in 3x 5.25" bays and subsequently are not screwed in and have a fan blue tacked to a hole in the front of those bays to keep them cool. Theres that much in there though that they dont fall out or even move more than a few millimetres when you cart the case around.

Similarly, my Macbook Pro hard drive isn't screwed in either, but don't tell Apple that ;)

I also do not queue up to buy my Mac's, but they are in my opinion well worth the cost, as you are aware. Though Windows computers do also have their benefits, no arguments there :)

Gordon Atkinson's picture

It's a silly generalization,

It's a silly generalization, of course. So when you come across general statements, you don't have to ask if they are true with no exceptions.

I think you would have to agree that far fewer Mac users open up their machines to put hard drives in them and change out their sound card. And there are a lot of PCs out there that don't even HAVE cases. I saw a pic on the internet of this guy who just had motherboards laying around connected to power sources. lol.

matt's picture

One of my old computers was

One of my old computers was like that...actually still is, it's currently piled up on top of the cupboard unused. :)

Your generalisations are fair, but I think it's also fair to say while there is an extreme each way, there are those of us like you and I that are very much in the middle!

By the by, I opened up my old Power Mac to change the sound card, RAM and graphics card, over time, as well as the hard drive. ;)

Anonymous's picture

Vista vs. XP

Vista vs. XP

What are your thoughts on Vista, Gordon? Everywhere else, I've heard nothing really positive about it - folks seem to be hanging onto XP and waiting for Windows 7, in the hope it'll be better.

Gordon Atkinson's picture

Only been using it a couple

Only been using it a couple of months. And being in direct contact with Tim Miller has certainly made me rethink what it means to be proficient with a computer! I'm rather a dolt in comparison. ;-)

But I think I've been around long enough to say a couple of things. Maybe next week or the week after. I haven't sorted out in what order I'm going to write.

But let me say this. Vista is amazing. I'm stunned. It's the best Windows operating system I've ever dealt with. It's very different, more different than the jump from 95 to 98. More like the jump from 98 to XP. Like the line in Pulp Fiction, it's got the same stuff but it's the little differences.

I installed Vista on my Mac and use Boot Camp. I tried Parallels and hated it. Really disappointing, though I meet people who like it. Everything runs smoothly. I haven't had a single reboot or freeze. Not one. AND, Microsoft must have made great strides in security because I'm seeing no hint of spyware or adware. And both of those always plagued me with XP.

And you know what's weird? I haven't met a single person who tells me they have had a bad experience with Vista. Not one. And I ask people. Everyone says the same as me - "What? Works fine for me."

Brilliant marketing my friends. Just brilliant on the part of Apple. I don't think they created the Vista scare, but they have jumped on it, helped it stay alive, and made the most of it. I don't feel to sorry for Microsoft either. They've done some rough work themselves over the years, right? Lots of dead software companies would attest to that.

jethro's picture

you think vista is nice

you think vista is nice Gordon - wait til you see Windows 7!!!
and you are right about vista. i meet two sort of people who complain about vista - those who dont even have and are stuck using buggy xp installs with spyware and toolbars and all sorts of crap infesting their systems, and the other sort are those who have not been shown how to use it.
usually the first people cant be convinced anyway - they are the people still using ie6 for goodness sake! When i show the others some of vistas killer features, the uac prompt for security, the built in search features, the built in media centre etc they love it. add in the windows live suite and the very classy office 2007 and they are sold.
but windows 7 is a step up again and its great!

Lee's picture

I'm glad to see you doing

I'm glad to see you doing this, Gordon. I use both Mac and PC -- Mac at home, PC at work. I was a DOS/Windows user for 17 years. I never had problems with Windows, fact, I was sure I was somehow blessed by the higher beings at Microsoft, because I never encountered even a quarter of the problems and horror stories I heard of from others.

But when it came time to get a new laptop in early 2007, my wife and I both bought refurnished Macbook Pros. I didn't want a machine with Vista, I wanted something Linux or Unix-based, and Linux wouldn't recognize the wireless card on my old Dell.

I've never been happier with a computer as I have with my Apple. But I have no qualms about using Windows at work, or helping my two kids and our parents and many friends with Windows machines. Windows isn't the work of the devil, but I think OS X may be the work of angels.

BTW, I use a PC mouse on my MBP, when I feel I actually need to use a mouse (I like the trackpad just fine). I've never heard good things about the Mighty Mouse.

Gordon Atkinson's picture

My mac mouse is okay for the

My mac mouse is okay for the notebook. But I probably won't buy another one. I cannot get used to the trackpad. I wish I could. I'm jealous of those who are comfortable using it because it's so convenient. I've forced myself to use it until I'm good enough that I'm not totally paralyzed if I forget my mouse or the battery goes out.

And I do LOVE the Mac trackpad shortcurts. Tap with two fingers for a right click. Rub with two fingers for verticle scroll. Work perfectly. Sadly, I keep trying to do that now when I'm on a PC notebook.

jethro's picture

pc notebooks "skid pads" have

pc notebooks "skid pads" have double tap for left click, and scroll features. many notebooks have secondary functions built into the pad with an on off toggle.
and get a logitech 4 or 5 button mouse gordon - i recommend a MX revolution with the freewheel spinner. logitech make the best interface stuff there is. you wont ever go back to the mac mouse!

Steven Fisher's picture

While Logitech's mice seem

While Logitech's mice seem decent enough, all five of the Logitech mice I've owned died when some internal component burst and started leaking. And the drivers were horrible!

I bought Apple's new mouse when it came out, and it's still working. So I'm never going back to Logitech, even on PCs.

jethro's picture

wow thats weird ive used

wow thats weird
ive used nothing but logitech mice for the last 12 years - and love them, when i have to use someones microsoft mouse or mac mouse im so unimpressed by the poor build quality, bad ergonomics (especially with the mac) that i can t help but love logitech. Did you try replacing under warranty? ive only ever had one mouse go bad on in all that time and it was replaced under warranty.
we use logitech for mice, keyboards and gaming wheels - they make awesome gear!

Betsy's picture

Goodness, I think that

Goodness, I think that previous commenter is my long-lost cousin or something. I got my first PC in 1985 or so. Didn't even have a hard drive, just two floppies. I have actually used a Commodore 64 that used a cassette tape for storage, but we won't go there.

Never had any trouble with Windows, but I needed a new machine, my old Sony laptop being a little slow with a miniscule hard drive. I didn't want Vista, so went to a MacBook. February 2007. Ah, the memories.

I found it surprisingly easy to learn to use a Mac. I hung out on a few forums to pick up pointers. I subscribed to some blogs. I use Windows at work, but I don't think I'll ever go back for personal use.

And I have a dandy Logitech PC trackball mouse. I can sit in the recliner with the MacBook on a table by my side, put the mouse in my lap and surf away.

Looking forward to the rest of the series, Gordon.

ryangrant's picture

Hey Betsy You brought back

Hey Betsy
You brought back some really nice memories by mentioning your Commodore 64 here. I had one too, and I was absolutely fascinated by it. I quickly learned BASIC, the programming language and I could make some pretty nifty "software" with it. But most of all I loved the games.

Those games that were stored on tapes changed my life, as they are the reason I started learning about programming. As for present times, I can only say I am happy to see there are so many fans of Logitech peripherals commenting on this blog. I don't use a mouse from this manufacturer for the moment, but I do use the Logitech G930 wireless headset, and I think it's top notch quality.

PS: Gordon, keep up the good work and we're waiting for more cool posts.

xyp's picture

i support both at work, and

i support both at work, and find the macs to be alot less trouble, and use mac personally. i also have several PCs, running vista. (business and ultimate) i far prefer vista to xp. and windows 7 (im running the release candidate) looks better than vista.

Reverend Mommy's picture

Gordon, Was religion not

Was religion not enough for you? You HAD to enter into this conversation (with all its religions overtones.)
I own both as well -- several of both, in fact. Desktops, laptops, you name it. In the end, they are tools, pure and simple. You use the screwdriver for screwdriver type stuff; the hammer for hammer type stuff. You usually pick up the tool that "feels the best in my hand." For certain things, I use a PC; for most, one of my *4* Mac notebooks.
Looking forward to the rest of the articles...

Anonymous's picture

Interesting series--looking

Interesting series--looking forward to the rest. I have used both systems. I had a Dell PC, then bought the iMac in 2002, and when that stopped working in 2007, I went back to a Windows machine (getting everything I needed on an HP notebook for WAY less than the price of a MacBook). I'm perfectly satisfied with it, and get a kick out of the scandalized, bemused looks I get from Mac folk when I tell them I went back to PC. I liked my iMac, and think no one beats Apple when it comes to cool product design, but never found it to be the life-changing experience it was touted to be. And remember how Mac used to brag about "no more 'blue screen of death'"? Well, I spent far too much time with Apple's spinning beach ball of death...

Loans's picture

2 years on with Vista and I

2 years on with Vista and I am now seriously looking at switching to Windows 7. I like the features of Vista, but as a business OS it lets me down a lot, right at the most inopportune moment. For no apparant reason it just locks up and then that is that. Reboot time. I have to say that XP was much more stable, albeit more basic. Has anyone had any stability issues with Windows 7? I have HP Pavillion PC.

jethro's picture

definitely buy windows 7 -

definitely buy windows 7 - its an easy upgrade from windows vista. you wont lose any data or applications, your machine will run faster and more stably.
if you are worried there is an upgrade advisor and compatibility tester you can use to check your hardware.
in addition you can check the hp website your your machine - if it supports windows 7 (and if it ran vista it should) you should have no problems at all.
Do it!

Make Money Online's picture

Win 7 is by far the best OS

Win 7 is by far the best OS MS has ever released. I think in many ways it has finally caught up with the mac OS, and in some was surpassed it. I don't know of anyone who has purchased win 7 that has not been impressed. MS finally got it right this time.

Debt Help Here's picture

Well, I've gone from PC's

Well, I've gone from PC's from way back in the 286 days, to Windows 98, XP, Vista (for a short while) that drove me to a Mac, but my latest purchase wasn't a Mac, but a Windows 7 PC. Must say Mac is going to get a bit of a challenge with this new one from MS

led lighting's picture

I have heard a lot of

I have heard a lot of complaints about the newest features that Mac is offering. I doubt if they can outrun the latest innovation on PC applications created by Microsoft. It's going to be a great challenge for Mac.

Doug's picture

Anybody remember the

Anybody remember the Commodore 64, that was my first computer. After that bought a PC, never heard of Mac until later. I still like using Windows XP.

Barbecue grills

sgdess30's picture

I think so far today

I think so far today Microsoft products are still much popular than Mac especially the OS. Both have different features and applications and it's up to the users which one will they prefer to use.