For more than a decade, the Apple Macintosh personal computer has set the
standard for ease of use. It is still the easiest one to set up, learn to use,
operate, and upgrade.
The Mac remains innovative in several technical areas and currently offers the
most powerful microprocessor and the most intuitive operating system software on
the market. It is an ideal platform for the multimedia and graphics-intensive
software that makes personal computers so much fun these days.
Despite such advantages, Apple Computer Inc. has been unable to increase the
Mac's market share significantly beyond 15 percent, which may ultimately drive
away the people who create the innovative software that makes the Mac so
appealing. Perhaps more important, its "mind share" among consumers appears to be
eroding. Apple has lost the bold, irreverent attitude that once set it apart from
With the expected arrival next year of Plug and Play PC technology and a
significantly Mac-like Windows 95 operating system, what was once known as the
IBM-compatible side of the personal computer industry may finally catch up to the
Macintosh ease-of-use standard. The fierce competition has driven down prices
faster and fostered more technical innovation, while Apple, as the sole maker of
Macintosh computers, seems remote from such stimuli.
So, why is my next computer probably going to be a Macintosh instead of one of
the more popular Windows-Intel (Wintel?) machines?
The answer is simple. I hate reading manuals and resent the time I have to spend
configuring dip switches, loading device drivers, mediating IRQ conflicts and
suffering other nonproductive distractions.
Snags are inevitable with any product designed by people who think in abstract
code, measuring distances in submicrons and feed on Jolt Cola and Twinkies. But a
decade of experience suggests that such anomalies occur less frequently with Macs
than with PC's.
The PC companies promise that next year I will be able to buy a CD-ROM player,
plug it into my Windows computer, turn it on, load it with a disk, click a button
or two, and begin enjoying the software. With a Mac, I can do that now.
The Mac permits me to be oblivious to the plumbing and wiring nightmares
associated with multimedia, networking and cross-platform operations, the ability
to work with Windows and Macintosh programs and files on the same machine. I can
add a printer, a big monitor -- two, even -- a backup drive, a modem, a scanner,
a video camera and other peripherals without an advanced degree from the
University of Saturn. Typically, I never need to crack a manual.
That is not to say that the Mac is foolproof, or immune to odd conflicts and
cryptic error messages. Even with the Mac, a new computer user may be baffled by
something as simple as plugging in a mouse.
And even a Mac can have a "bad err". My formerly trusty Macintosh Powerbook 170
had to be exorcized last week, a ceremony including a last-ditch hard disk
reformat, which erased two years' worth of data, after it mysteriously went
haywire during an Internet session.
Luckily, the FWB Hammer-PE 270-megabyte optical storage drive I had been testing
as a backup system worked like a champ, so all I lost was time. Such freak
occurrences aside, the Mac is the computer I recommend most often to friends and
family, the one I see most often at gatherings of technical wizards. It is what a
Windows machine dreams of when it goes into the sleep mode.
The choice becomes, which Macintosh to buy? Apple has simplified its product line
somewhat, offering five basic groupings -- LC, Performa, Quadra, Powerbook, and
Power Mac -- but there is still confusion. A Quadra 605 is the same as a Performa
475 is the same as an LC 475, for example, with minor variations.
If I had to recommend just one model as the pick of Apple's crop, it would be the
Power Macintosh 7100/66. It is a low-profile, mid-range system that has the power
to handle the most demanding home office tasks, while showing off family
applications in style. Of all the Macs today, it offers the best balance of
value, power and expandability. The PowerPC chip at its core makes it unlikely to
become outdated in the next few years. By this time next year, all Macintoshes
will probably be built around the PowerPC chip.
For the same reason, I would hold off from buying a new Powerbook today. The
PowerPC-based portables are not expected until next year; though an upgrade is
possible, I will trust the older 170 until then.
By the way, the PowerPC Macintoshes do not demonstrate their full superiority
over Macs based on the more modest 68040 chip unless they are working with the
software specifically written for them. So, factor software purchases into your
To achieve happiness with other Mac models, consider these guidelines:
Memory is not very sexy, but it is more important than processor speed and power
for most users. More memory allows the user to take better advantage of the Mac's
software prowess. Eight megabytes of system memory (8 MB RAM) is the minimum
standard these days, even though some Macs are still sold with four. If your
budget allows, go directly to 16 megabytes and skip, or at least delay, the
Do not think 250 megabytes is an outlandish hard-disk capacity, even though 40MB
was standard just a couple of years ago. A 12-year-old of my acquaintance insists
he cannot live with less than 100MB just for games, er, educational software. If
you enjoy the computer as much as you expect, you will be looking to expand the
hard disk anyway.
Get a CD-ROM drive. No longer a novelty, CD-ROM is becoming a standard for
software delivery. It allows the Mac to show off its sound and graphics to great
advantage. More than 80 percent of computers sold for the home these days have
CD-ROM drives, analysts say. As programs add more multimedia features, diskettes
EXCERPT FROM THE ARTICLE "DISKS FOR MAC: VOYAGER STILL LEADS"
By Peter Lewis
13 December New York Times
...Many CD-ROMs are produced in dual versions that can be used on either a
Mac or a Windows machine. In such cases, the instructions for using the CD-ROM
disks, in this case a language instruction program, are enlightening:
"Windows Users: Start Microsoft Windows, and insert the compact disk into the
CD-ROM drive. To install the program the first time you use it, choose 'Run' from
the File menu in the Windows Program Manager. Type D:/SETUP (substitute the
letter of your CD-ROM drive for 'D'). Wait until setup is completed, then
double-click on the 'Berlitz Live! Spanish' program icon in the Sierra program
Ay, caramba! Compare that with this:
"Macintosh Users: Insert the compact disk into your CD-ROM drive. Then,
double-click on the 'Berlitz Live! Spanish' program icon."
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