Macintosh User Enters IBM World -- And Survives!
Author: Jack Turner
Date: February, 1987
Keywords: ibm vs. mac
Text: Okay, Okay! I ADMIT it, already. Despite the fact that I have always played our game of knocking the IBM machine and the stodgy, unimaginative world of big blue, deep down in my heart I've always wondered if I REALLY made the right decision when I bought my Mac. As many of you know, my decision to buy was based on a very rational criterion-the Mac was sexy. I saw the little feller sitting on the shelf and he crooked his little finger at me and, well-the rest, as they say, was history. I suffered through the early days when the only Macintosh word processor available was MacWrite. But Microsoft Word came out finally and I was reasonably content. But I kept hearing about ''all those programs'' written for the IBM. And whenever I'd try to talk about my Mac to my colleagues (solidly CP/M, so we know all about them, right?), their eyes would gloss over and I'd feel like some sort of cult evangelist or something. During the week of January 12-17, however, I got invited to California State University, Northridge for a conference where we considered using computers to teach English. I got a chance to use an IBM for five days. I also got a glimpse of ''all those programs.'' Here's a brief account of those experiences. First of all, there were only two Mac users there. We often got together for a secret caucus, because if we'd mention our preferences in discussion, we'd notice that old eye-glazing phenomenon. I guess it's because these people have invested a considerable amount of time and effort learning the formidable complexities of the IBM and are intimidated by the prospect of having to learn yet another system. Using the IBM for a week showed me just how unforgiving and hostile that environment is. The MS-DOS (that's their ''system'') commands have to be exactly right or you get a ''bad command or file name'' response from a computer which looks like it belongs in an airport terminal instead of on somebody's desk. And despite flashy and cutesy documentation, and pretensions toward helpfulness, it is damned hard to figure out some of the intricacies on your own. Moreover, it's quite hard to sit in front of an IBM for eight hours a day. This was compounded by a badly designed computer lab in the library at Northridge, certainly. But the IBM environment is not one in which I'd want to have a picnic. But what about ''all those programs''? This is really where the IBM comes out solidly on top. We looked at a number of word processors, spelling checkers, databases and teaching programs. There are not just a RESPECTABLE number-there is a bewildering variety! And a number of prewriting, nutshelling and outlining programs are made especially for teaching college composition. Oh, I know the Mac could compete with those word processors. Nothing I saw was better than Microsoft Word, as far as I'm concerned. But the IBM has student versions of the heavy word processors available at textbook prices or below. For example, their Word Perfect program, which is a really fine word processor, can be bought by students for $19.95! Some of the powerful features of the big program are missing (for example, mail merge and double columns), but the reduced version is entirely adequate for freshman composition classes. So I came back from Northridge with a grudging respect for the IBM. If Apple doesn't watch out, it's going to take over a very lucrative market. I wouldn't want that to happen, however, because the Mac is the computer of choice of a growing number of my students. Many of them who tried over and over to learn how to use MS-DOS machines have been going into HSU's Mac lab and learning to use the Mac ON THEIR OWN! It's this kind of accessibility which makes our machine so lovable and friendly.
Copyright © february, 1987 by Jack Turner