I grew up on the Mac vs. PC debate. Hell, I before that I grew up on Apples. But “Mac or PC” was the first decisive computer issue on which I can remember taking a side.
The first computer I ever programmed was an Apple IIe. I guess I’m dating myself here, but at the time that computer was the greatest thing since .. sliced apples? Not only was I programming on a IIe, but I was programming robots, using a Fischertechnik robotics kit. (Oh, and I was doing it at summer camp, putting me that much higher in the nerd-hierarchy). 5.25″ floppies, CATALOG, LIST, GOTO 10; The whole deal.
At some point we got our first computer at home: A 386SX 16Mhz behemoth with (IIRC) a whopping 2MB of RAM and a 40MB hard drive. I wrote a whole lot of completely pointless programs on that thing.
A few years later, around 1992, I was running a 2 node BBS out of my bedroom on my very own 386SX-25 and 386DX-40 (man, was that thing fast at the time). They were networked using 10base-2 wiring, and ran MS-DOS 5.0. I almost forgot: I also had a file server running Netware 3.12. Man, those were the days.
Mac or PC?
I don’t remember exactly what made me choose. I think it was the peripherals. The original Macintosh had no internal expandability, something that I loved in the IIe. Externally, expansion options were limited, and for a kid on a budget, both Apple products and their peripherals were expensive.
Not so in the commodity PC market. I could stick more internal modems into my PC than I had phone lines. I could add RAM, hard drives, and even cutting edge CD-ROM drives, all for a price that was dropping precipitously every day.
Then there was the software. Sure, Apple computers had a bevy of software that could do just about anything the average user wanted to do. But it was never enough for me. Most good shareware and freeware (remember, I was a kid without money) was released for the PC. Game manufacturers released titles for the PC and not the Mac. (Did Wolfenstein 3D run on Macs? I never bothered to find out). Computer stores (remember those?) had aisles of PC-compatible software, and maybe a couple of shelves of disks for the Mac.
Finally, there was that “I’m smarter than you, even though I know nothing about computers” attitude that seemed to come along with every Mac-related purchase. I could even sense the attitude in my peers. Honestly, even kids would look down on other kids whose parents couldn’t afford a genuine Apple product. In the biz, that’s what we call “good marketing”.
The more intellectual of the Mac users would use the argument, “Apple products are more expensive because they’re of a higher quality than PCs”. Which is of course pure horse sneezes. Apple products were of a consistently high quality. “PCs” were incredibly inconsistent in quality between manufacturers, and even between product lines. Who wouldn’t have wanted a Dell OptiPlex over
a petrified elephant turd used as a paperweight an eMachines eTower?
It’s not as if Macs were better in quality than all PCs. They were just better in quality than many PCs.
Oh, nothing? Let’s move on.
Wait, Did You Say, “Mac or PC?”
Yes, yes I did. And it’s the dumbest premise for an argument in the history of computing (maybe). For you see, dear inflamed Mac user that Safari’d on over to my blog, a Mac is a PC.
PC = Personal Computer. As opposed to a mainframe or other shared computing resource. An Atari 400 is a personal computer. An IBM PC is a personal computer. An Apple IIe is a personal computer. And yes, even your fanciest of Macbook Pros is a .. personal computer.
What’s more, the hardware in your Mac is nothing but commodity IBM PC-compatible hardware. Sure, it wasn’t always that way. For a long time Apple hardware was proprietary. Now it’s not. You can run Windows on a new Mac, and you can run OSX on “PCs”.
That’s right, the latest iteration of Apple’s OS is a Unix operating system. A Unix operating system compiled for a derivation of the “IBM PC” architecture. To blur the lines even more, Unix operating systems have been ported to (or originally developed for) just about every computing platform out there, including the “IBM PC”.
So what a Mac connotes is no longer what a Mac is.
So, What is a Mac Besides a PC?
It’s fancy looking. It’s expensive. It has (allegedly) very good customer support and service. It comes with an operating system that’s (arguably) more user-friendly than any other operating system. Their laptops have a really cool magnetic power cord connector.
And that’s it. If you can find another difference between a Mac and a “PC” (non-Mac PC), please let me know.
As for Me…
…I was a Microsofty for many, many years. I’ll admit it. I like Windows 7. I use Windows 7 for most of my workstations. I still code in C# and even VBScript (for work, mostly), and I know my way around MSSQL, Exchange Server, and BizTalk.
My servers? They were all Windows-based at one time. Now nearly all of them are running CentOS or Ubuntu, except for a couple of legacy hangers-on.
The bottom line for me is that non-Mac, “IBM-PC compatible” computers are way less expensive, way more configurable, and way more fun. They’ll run virtually any OS and any software, and can be stuck in any case and run off any power supply. Macs just seem like stodgy old timers that are stuck in their brushed-metal ways of proprietary thinking.
Don’t Forget the iCrap
One thing that sticks in my craw to this day about Apple is the iPod. They’ve spread DRM like Typhoid Mary at a key party. The BILLIONS of dollars spent on music that people owned but couldn’t use properly. It literally makes me angry. I’d rather have bought an actual CD and rip it down to MP3 or FLAC than pay the same amount for something that someone else controlled.
The iPod itself was (and is) a well-made, highly functional product. I’m not blind to that. iTunes? That’s the piece of fugly bloatware that keeps you tied to Apple for life.
I know that the iPod DRM issue “wasn’t Steve Jobs’ fault” and he “wanted DRM-free music” but those “scary record executives made him do it”. And I would be just as angry at M$ if the Zune had been the preeminent DRM-locked device of the new millennium. The fact of the matter is that it was Apple which proved that consumers will buy anything they don’t understand, even if it hurts them.
And how badly did DRM hurt Apple? What? It didn’t? No. It forced users to continue utilizing Apple/iTunes regardless of any better options that might come along. That seems like it was a pretty good deal for ol’ Mr. Jobs, and that’s why I have it in quotes, above.
But seriously, Apple loves you and cares about you. (Hey, at least you know that Microsoft is evil — they don’t really try to convince you otherwise).
The Mac vs. PC debate was really the “Apple Hardware and Software vs. Commodity PC-compatible Hardware running Microsoft Software“. It’s just a lot harder to say, so I guess it got shortened or something. Plus, with Mac hardware now indistinguishable from “PC” hardware, it’s really an “Apple Industrial Design and OSX vs. Every Other Personal Computing Option” debate.
It’s still a debate which makes no sense.
Rather than tie myself to one manufacturer, I’ll build my own computers. I’ll even amass some Dells, some IBMs, some HPs (well, maybe not HPs). I’ll run Windows when it fits the need, and I’ll run Linux whenever I can.
I’ll buy my components and peripherals wherever I want, and not limit myself to the sterile field of an Apple Store with their “geniuses”. (Don’t get me started on that).
I’ll avoid DRM like the plague.
Oh, and if you want a “Linux vs. Windows” debate, I think I’m going to leave that one be for now.