Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Why A Mac?

Twenty years ago this coming December, I made my first visit to the Apple Campus in Cupertino, California. I had an interview in the second week of December of 1987 for a position as a contractor in the System Software department. I almost hit another car on the way into the parking lot. The first thing I smelled on entering the lobby was fresh popcorn. The first two people to greet me were Jane Leech and the late Richard Riffey.

My first thought? I had arrived at a company I could work for for the rest of my life.

Turns out I spent most of the next fourteen years there.

I'll go into some details about my times at Apple later but I want to try to convey why I think people considering a new computer should consider a Macintosh now.

First of all, a successful virus hasn't been written for the Mac yet. A lot of people will tell you that it's because there are so few Macs to infect. That's not true. The truth is that it's too hard to write an effective virus for the Mac. There are those who'd argue that it's too difficult to write a legitimate application for the Mac, but the argument stands. When Windows was invented, the conventional wisdom was "why would more than one person want to use a computer?" The architecture reflects that thinking. The advent of computer networking and the Internet would expose the flaw in that philosophy and Microsoft has spent uncounted amounts of money dealing with it since then. As frustrating as it is for true hackers, Macintosh file sharing was created to accommodate a specific user granted access by a specific password. And these had to be EXACTLY CORRECT or you couldn't get in. Still secure to this day.

I was hired on as a contractor December 13th of 1987. I spent the next fourteen years dedicated to a cause--a cause that was shared by thousands of other people. The cause was the creation of a machine that would allow people to express themselves in whatever way they chose to do so without undue attention to the machine itself. My specialty was quality assurance--specifically, human interface. That meant insuring the part about "undue attention to the machine." That meant attention to a lot of little things. Things like having the system cursor disappear while you're typing--something so small you didn't notice it until you used a machine that didn't have it.

One of the advantages of Macintosh is consistency; if you know the operating system, you'll always know where to find what you want. The menu bar across the top of the screen contains known quantities and if what you want isn't there, it's not your fault--it's the fault of the company supplying the program.

When you get a Mac, you get all the software you need to do the things you need to do. iPhoto automatically understands your digital camera. iMovie understands your digital video recorder. iTunes deals with any ordinary .mp3 file. Buying the software to replicate these functions on a PC more than accounts for the Macintosh price difference. Add that to the saving (both monetary and operationally) of not having to buy anti-virus software, and you're talking real money as well as peace of mind.

Finally, I return to something I said before: By-and-large, a Mac stays out of your way. It lets you do what you want to do. The last thing I worked on before I left Apple to start my own consultancy was wireless networking. I still haven't found an operating system that allows more ease-of-use or more security if you're looking for a machine that has wireless.

I fix Macs for a living and I do so exclusively. The virus load on PC's is just too much to deal with in a reasonable amount of time, so I'm not unbiased. Countervailing opinions are welcome.


Anonymous said...

Hi MacDaffy-

Looking forward to reading more of your blog. I'm another TT lurker who enjoys your commentary there. Our whole household is Apple-only PCs. My husband runs his business on them too. I recently switched from PC to Mac when my workplace remote-connect software added support. It's so nice not to need to run those endless virus-protection updates.


MacDaffy said...

I just converted a couple from PC to Mac yesterday. Wanna know the biggest problem I had? Defeating all the security measures on the PC that kept me from connecting it to the Mac so that I could transfer their data.

I've seen two of the new iMacs in the last week and they're gorgeous machines. If you're tired of the Windows rat race, check out a Mac. And it runs Windows via VMWare Fusion or Parallels. Get the most memory you can afford if you're going to run either of the aforementioned Windows emulators.