Sunday, February 5, 2012

The War Is Over... least as far as I am concerned.

And the winner is:


No doubt.  Winner!   Clear and simple.   It is the best.  Game over!

I grew up with the development of least personal computers. 

When I started college, oh those so many years ago, we used slide rules to do calculations.  I still have my Post bamboo slide rule.  It got me through my undergraduate studies.  We did not have access to the mainframe computer and personal computers were not invented yet.  Hell, we did not even have calculators.  My calculator was the slide rule and a piece of paper.

In graduate school we had access to a main frame.  We programmed in FORTRAN and used punch cards to enter the program.  Most of you out there probably don't even know what punch cards are, let alone have had the fun of punching your own cards and verifying them on the card punch machine.

When I started working in industry, the computing was still done primarily on the mainframe.  At least now, we had someone else to do the card punching.  We were lucky to get one computer run completed per day.  Usually, you submitted a run during the day, and got the results the next day.  We also had access to a timeshare terminal with a paper punch tape for entering and storing computer programs.  However, it was expensive to use, required you to do your own programming, and was only used when very specialized  programs were needed.

Handheld calculators started to come into being during my transition from college to industry.  They were very expensive and could not do much more than add, divide, subtract and multiply.  Actually, they could do logs and exponents also which was a great advantage at the time.  The company bought you a calculator.  You were not expected to buy it for your self.  They were too expensive.  (Now I suspect the company would say you have to buy it.  It is too expensive for the company to buy.  How times have changed!)

There was a long, slow transition from mainframe computing to desktop computing.  First you had mainframe terminals, usually at a central location that you went to, rather than having it on your desk.  The computer department fought tooth and nail to prevent giving up control of the computing services.  I  had a personal computer on my desk at home before I had one on my desk at work.

Eventually, though, we all had one on our desk.  By the time I quit working "for the man", and started working for myself, the mainframe was dead, and all computing was being done at the desktop.  Fifteen years prior, the company I worked for build an entire three story building to house a mainframe computer that had less computing power than what I have on my desk.

Through all of this, I was a Windows man.  It was what we used at work.  It was what I used at home.  It was what I used in my business.  Two of my sons, however, are in the entertainment business.  They use Macs.  And they always touted how great Macs are.  Finally, about a year ago, they convinced Mrs. Critter to buy Apple.  We bought a iMac and an iPad.  I've had a year to compare them.

I have three Windows computers in my office, one desktop and two laptops.  Where do I spend my time?  On the iMac and the iPad.  No doubt about it.  They both are much easier and more intuitive to use than my Windows machines.  Right now, while I am writing this (on the iMac), I am listening to music being streamed from the iMac to the sound system on my TV through AppleTV.  Was it hard to set up?  No.  I had a couple of thousand tunes on an external hard disk on one of the Windows computers.  I brought the disk to over to the iMac, plugged it in, open iTunes, and with one or two clicks loaded them all into the iMac.  I went to the TV, open AppleTV, clicked on Music, clicked on play, and bingo, the house is filled with music.  I can do the same thing with video and movies. 

Sorry Bill.  I admire your philanthropic work but Steve has beat your butt when it comes to computers and integrating the things we like to do with them. And I haven't even mentions the applications that come with it, like iMovies, iDVD, GarageBand, iTuneU.  Hell, they even have a free app to develop books with video and audio components.

I tell you.  These computers are amazing.  Congratulations Steve Jobs.  You may have been a son of bitch to work for, but you developed one hell of group of products. 

A job well done, Jobs.  The world will miss you.


  1. I use PCs. Most everyone I know uses PCs. Except for my brother who has Macs, but he does desktop publishing.

    I have an iPhone i use as an iPad. I decided I would put some Mp3's on to it. I was surprised to find that copying files to my iPhone from my computer was a difficult and time consuming process with many unnecessary steps. I gave up and never did it.

    I have other mp3 players. Copying music files to them is so easy and intuitive that you hardly remember doing it.

    Score on this: Apple 0 (complete fail), everyone else 1.

    Generally, Apple doesn't innovate at all. They just copy others and put real slick marketing and cool boxes on it. It goes a long way to make up for the products often costing twice as much and having a lot less capability.

    "In graduate school we had access to a main frame...."

    I remember when the very first Macintoshes appeared on computer a labs. As is typical, these computers cost more than twice as much as comparable PCs. So you'd expect to get a lot. But the keyboards were crude and rudimentary compared to PC keyboards. Most PCs at the time were color, but Apple took a step backwards and only made black and white machines. And they forgot a disk eject button, which required users to bend a paperclip and jam it in a tiny hole to eject media.

    It's says a lot about Apple that in some ways the lowly Commodore Vic-20 which had come out a while before had some better features than the Mac.

    You'd think with all the cost cutting and missing features, the Mac would cost a lot less than a PC. But it cost a lot more.

    The "pay a lot more get a lot less" continued with the first iMac. It actually was missing recordable removable media, and it only had USB ports and lacked standard ports (forcing Apple users to buy dongles to use anything). And predictably it cost a lot more than a comparable PC. If comparable even applies: comparable PCs had more memory, were faster, had more storage, and had the features missing on the Mac (standard interface ports and removable recordable media).

    I find nothing that Apple offers that other companies don't do a lot better and cheaper, with machines that cost a lot less and have features missing from the Apple devices.

    The trend continues with the recent iPhones. Competing phones often have hardware keyboards AND a hard to use onscreen keyboard that wipes out screen real estate. The much more expensive iPhones only have the bad onscreen keyboard. Pay more, get less.

    But I am thankful for Jobs for leading the efforts to have devices have better looking cases.

  2. started using an Apple about a year ago.... love it.
    Will NEVER go back to PC

  3. I've gone back and forth, but will never go back to Apple again because there is hardly any software for it compared to a PC.

  4. There is a lot more software available for the PC, but more is not necessarily better. It depends on what you are doing.

  5. off topic, or maybe not.... your title sent me back...a few years... have a little Phil in the morning.

  6. Thanks, okjimm. That's a great song!

  7. I'm still a Desktop Luddite. When our 8-year-old HP computer (w/ Windows XP) finally goes to its reward, I'll replace it with a laptop.

    My wife and I are the only people we know who don't have a laptop. Whenever we get together with friends at a coffee house or restaurant, everyone except us is sitting there pecking away at their keyboards.

  8. Laptops are certainly convenient. At home you can connect them to an external screen and keyboard so you have the benefits of a desktop, but you still have the portability. I am finding that I use the iPad a lot for surfing, although typing on it is not as easy or quick as a "real" keyboard. But I can sit in a rocking chair with it comfortably sitting in my lap. :)

  9. I rather miss sliderules. Much
    required for physical chemistry,
    radiation equations and all physical sciences back in my day.
    I was still 'slideruling' as late as 1984 (the log-log Pickett was faster than the then current sci calculators, especially for gas expansion thermodynamics. Alas,
    they were not helpful in solving the 5 simultaneous equations in
    Taylor reduction coefficients common in chemical equilibrium
    free energy minimization problems.
    (a single mistake negated 50 pages of equations).
    One day, in a business call with
    a DC defense engineering firm, I
    learned that NASA had shared their
    software and it could be done with
    punch cards. Our IT at the time
    had a hard enough time with payroll. A little more research
    and contacting led from NASA, to
    U of Georgia and U of Minn. Some
    grad students had written (transferred?) the thing for the PC! Of course I had to find out what the heck a PC was. So, I had the company buy me one. All Edlin and Dos stuff. The software (back then most software was free) was
    humorous: Insert Card for Next
    exhuast Input...which meant 'type in the defined field' by that time. As delightful and fun as
    those problems were, I was disappointed to see soon everyone had a PC (and everyone was flooding data to an eager executive suite). The advertising
    dept. had Apples. Now well into retirement, I just use a simple
    PC set up in the basement-no Iphone, no IPad, no kindle, no
    smartphone, no apps.
    The trauma at the dawn of digital was just too much. Where was I,
    oh, yeah, I rather miss slide rules....

  10. There was a definite benefit to using a slide rule that is lost now when using a computer. With a slide rule you got a "feel" for the numbers. You got a sense of what the number meant and if it was a reasonable value. You understood where the answer came from and the impact of the various components that made up the answer.

    Now, you fill out input boxes on a computer screen, the computer chugs away, and then spits out an answer. You assume the answer is right. But, like most things, garbage in equals garbage out, and it is not always easy to tell the garbage from the truth.

    An old long time, very experience engineer once asked a young inexperienced engineer why a certain answer was what it was. (It did not "look" right to the old guy.)

    The young engineer answered, "Because that is what the computer said".

    That was the last time the young engineer ever did any work for the old guy.

  11. My first personal computing experience was with a Commodore Vic 20, so I've been at it a long time.

    I've had occasion to use Apple computers a number of times over the years. I never found them better for my purposes or more comfortable to use, although I acknowledge they typically have plenty of power. For a while Apples had a strong advantage in graphics, but I don't think that's true any more, unless maybe it's in very high-end models made specifically for product designers and such.

    What Apples do have is a thoroughly proprietary approach that keeps prices high and limits outside innovation in software and add ons.

    My main desktop PC is a three-year-old HP, dual core, 4 GB RAM, running Vista (yes, Vista). It has been comfortably fast and suitably powered for the things I do. It's incredibly stable and dependable. I don't think it's crashed more than twice, and one of those was my fault. In both crashes, it recovered gracefully, without loss of data and without fragmenting data on the hard disk. I was impressed.

    If Apple is your pleasure, enjoy. I'm happy with my Windows-based PC's and laptops. To each his/her own.

  12. Great Post. My 26 year old son always said to keep away from APPLE products; and he has a Bachelor in Computer Sciencee. I have no idea why? I'm going to ask him. I love the way the Apples look; such clear resolution.

    Whenever I have a problem he fixes my PC Tobisha Window so it is working great even 4.5 years later. If I had an APPLE when he is home from college he might not help me.. so Yikes.. keeping to Windows due to him for the free help help all the time (even if I have to replace this one someday).

  13. Yes, I still have a slide rule. And I remember how to use it, which doesn't seem to impress the young punks all that much...

  14. As far as sales figures go I'm pretty sure the PC is winning.

  15. Your post is really interesting, you have your own ideas, i love reading it. Thanks for such a cool blog. Damiana

  16. This was fun to read Critter! I really enjoyed it. I still have my slide rule but would be rusty if I had to use it. As well, I am using PCs and Windows but my daughters tell me I need to be open to change :-)