While most people bicker about which OS is best, the truth is much vaguer: what computer is sitting on your desk has more to do with your comfort level than intellectual choice.Everyone has a story. Mine goes something like this: in 1988, my sole computer experience revolved around DOS-based or other terminal-like environments, such as the popular WordPerfect for DOS. There, I was forced to learn key shortcuts that made the text different colours: red for italics, blue for bold, yellow for underline. Ctrl-F12. Ctrl-Alt-F13. Thank goodness for those paper templates that sat over the keyboard.
As a budding high-school writer, a computer was basically a glorified word processor to me, and there was no distincition between say, a TRS-80 (which I owned and tinkered with for a while), and a no-name dedicated word processing machine with a 5-inch amber monochrome display and built-in impact printer (which I also owned and used extensively). Except that the latter made a much better writing platform.
And then I met my first Mac: a Mac SE, the original-style beige box with the 9-inch, greyscale monitor. This was no text-only display. When I wrote, what I saw was what came out of a slick ImageWriter dot-matrix printer. This was a revelation, and let’s face it, I never looked back. Through Windows 95 and all its ilk, I was firmly in the Mac camp, and by God, there was no worse fate for me than having to use Windows. And let’s face it, in this world, I’m having to use Windows an awful lot.
You’ve got your own story for why you are using the computer you have today. If you’ve earned your geek credentials, chances are that story has a lot of meaning for you. And it was lately, while I was thinking of my story, that it occured to me: how much does my initial lasting impression mean for my computer choice?
Experiences such as my own have a way of hardening you against other platfoms. From my perspective, it was easy to heap scorn on DOS/Windows, and the very act of doing so deepens your resolve against the platform. When Windows 95 came along, it was interpreted as an attack on everything the Mac stood for. How could Microsoft’s supporters call the Mac a toy, and then rush to an OS that steals all its best ideas? Windows became the system I loved to hate.
These days, it seems even easier to mount an argument against Windows: although usability issues have been largely resolved, there is a financial and practical argument to be made: due to its smaller profile, the Mac is simply less expensive and less troublesome to operate.
Or is it? Like from the very beginning, am I just slamming the “other guy” because it’s not what I chose? Is my platform choice rational, or emotional?
Travel the forums on this and other sites, and you’ll think that computers are chosen for rational reasons alone. The Mac is the easiest to use, and the hardware is of the highest quality. Linux has fabulous geek appeal, and allows you to achieve spectacular productivity on the command line. Windows has every application you could possibly need.
But what if all the controversy, all the heated opinion, is all about comfort level? What if you don’t choose a computer based on having the best tool for the job? What if you choose it because there’s nothing more soothing than the pulsing flash of the cursor in a Bash shell; the counter-physiological mouse motion in the Windows Start menu (up-and-to-the-right); the everything-where-you-left-it layout of your Mac folders?
It becomes even more clear when you think about what you do with your computer. Set aside specific applications, and there is not a single thing you can do on one platform that can’t be done on any other. I say that from a high-level point of view: file management, word processing, Internet client tools… they’re all there.
Really, it’s all a matter of comfort, isn’t it? You chose Windows because By Gum, Windows Explorer just handles files more sensibly. What you really mean is, it handles files more easy for you.
So next time someone says “well my OS smells better than yours!”, remember, there are some cultures that find the smell of halitosis desireable.