The Fear of Macintosh

Macintosh would have you believe that their products are easier to use than the mainstream's. Their commercials present candid anecdotes from recently converted PC users to the Macintosh with only high praise for the alternate platform.

Now, since it's all marketing, I'll let a few lies and altered truths slide, for as we all know, marketing's primary aim is to make their products look shiny and to make the competition pale in comparison.

So, for the large part, these platform traitors are filling our ears with meaningless drivel. But according to this ad campaign, these experiences are happening to a large percentage of the computer-using population. What percentage, you ask? Apple would have you believe this percentage approaches the 50% mark, but I can prove otherwise.

Two labs here on campus are stocked with a modest number of Macintosh G4's replete with (most) of the amenities you'd expect from a government-funded institution. You've got the flatpanel LCD monitors curiously absent of a power switch, the creepy clear mouse with no apparent button(s), and a flimsy keyboard with a pair of USB ports that plugs into the monitor via USB ports. And a USB floppy drive that's not worth looking at.

I'll readily admit to Apple's design department, these machines look cool, but that's about it. When the labs are full of students, all the PC stations are occupied, a handful of the Macintoshes are in use, and there's a line forming for the next available PC.

And these are users who are, for the most part, rather computer illiterate. Their only aim is to either print off a Word document due in the next seven minutes, or aimlessly wander the internet while checking email. The machine of choice? PC. For an overwhelming percentage of average college students.

A surprising number of students can't even tell the difference between a PC and a Macintosh. When I ask some users who are experiencing printing difficulties which machine they were using, many reply, "I don't know, it's that one over there." Nine times out of ten, they're pointing to the shiny, clear-plastic monoliths sent from the future.

The rest of the time, the G4's are locking up because, even though the floppy drives physically have an eject button on them, the computer refuses to acknowledge their departure until the program that was using them is completely shut down and you have selected "Eject Disk" from the Window menu. I agree. Having to click on Eject Disk when you can apparently do it yourself is idiotic. But Macintosh insists that it is necessary. Necessary to the point that if this sequence of events does not take place, the machine will cease to function.

And the users who generally don't have any problems are sitting in front of PC's. Which of the two is the fussiest now?

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