This might surprise my friends. I don’t hate Macs any more. I did, for a long time. At least I said I did. My hate had roots that came from experience. Although I should also admit that the experience was from over 20 years ago. I changed companies and moved from being involved in software development on DOS and Windows on PC to a support role for a company whose primary software product only ran on the Mac. In fact the whole office only ran on Mac. It was only the support guys who had PCs to support customers using PCs. I was struck by how closed and obstructive the Mac was. Yes the graphics were pretty but , too often, the answer to the question “Can I do that…?” was “No, not on a Mac.” Despite it’s comparative lack of sophistication, on a PC the answer was almost always “Yes”. And even then the PC community was bigger and more vibrant. I was so happy when within 2 years, both the main product and the office had transitioned to PC and Windows.
This was 1995.
Remember the buzz around Windows 95? The TV ads with the Rolling Stones “Start me up…”?
For the following 20 years, I would always recommend Windows and PCs for all users. Yes, I dabbled with other Apple products, especially iPods. But not Macs and certainly not the iPhone. Over-priced, closed, inflexible and …. well you get the idea.
I always scoffed at colleagues who got a Mac and then tried to get it to work in the corporate environment. “Well xxxx application isn’t available on Mac so installed Parallels (or Bootcamp) and I use the Windows version.” I could not understand why you would do this. But I did, often, secretly admire their willingness to standout. And their MacBooks did look good. I’m not sure Apple was helping their case with ads like this.
Or it’s British English “translation”
You see, I think a lot of my emotional commitment to the PC and Windows stems from a time when that was the outlandish choice. Early in my working life, I was part of a team that used PCs to rapidly innovate a number of “skunkworks-like” projects. I did most of my first paid software development work on an Olivetti M24, an IBM PC clone.
At the time, the rest of the company was using mini-computers (DEC and Data General) for “real” products. We constantly heard the refrain “That’s not a real computer”. Having developed a 2D FFT algorithm on a 286 based IBM AT and watched it take 5 minutes to crunch a 256 by 256 array, they had a point. Then 2 months later we got our hands on an HP Vectra 386/25, with a 387 co-processor. One re-compile later and the time was down to 20 seconds. And of course, even the lowliest PC would eat that up in milliseconds.
Now I can’t claim that Moore’s Law didn’t benefit closed platforms like the Mac as well. It did, but just not as fast. And if your current PC supplier screwed up, you could always choose a different one. That rapid innovation, open architecture and ability to customise really pushed all my engineer buttons. It really was the PC (and not Mac) that drove the massive adoption of desktop computing and the innovation and productivity that enabled. That’s how it earned my loyalty.
But I reached a personal tipping point some time towards then end of last year. I started to seriously consider trying a Mac. Yes, it is still a somewhat closed platform . But the OS is now based on something more open. It even has a console. They are more popular, the range of available software and apps is greater. And with a greater range of services being delivered via the cloud and web browser, making the exact hardware platform somewhat irrelevant, it seemed like now was the time to try a Mac again. Added to that, over the last 20 years, the PC and Windows have got less and less open. The need for greater security and the growing complexity of the hardware has meant that the Windows OS is much more isolated from the underlying system. The gap between Mac and PC is still there, it’s just very small.
I just needed an excuse to buy a Mac. It came along when I realised that my new business venture was going to have customers who needed support on Macs. So I pulled the trigger and got a MacBook Pro. It’s pretty. It just worked straight away. It slotted into my network, found my server, connected to my wireless network and runs Office. And it has gradually become my main computer. I am trying hard to analyse why. It’s not easy to identify specifics. It’s definitely lighter, the battery lasts longer and I can do all the day-to-day things I want on it. It’s on my desk now, next to a Dell laptop running Windows 10. I have them both hooked into a monitor, mouse and keyboard via a little KVM switch. It’s just as easy to use the MacBook or the Dell. I am even drafting this blog post in OneNote which is saving to OneDrive, which I have on both machines. But I find myself using the Mac most of the time. Like now.
So I confess. My name is Ian and I used to be a Mac hater. But I’ll never get an iPhone … probably.