In the mid 90’s I had a Mac, a Performa 600, and used System 7.5. I worked at a couple different pre-press printing jobs where the primary computers used were Mac’s. This is where I learned Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark, and a lot of little utility applications. But by 2000 I had moved on to Windows 95, 98, 98 SE, and finally Windows XP SP3.
Back in the day I did not expect much from my computers, they were pretty process specific and even though they did many different tasks, their main purpose was either printing or the creation of multimedia. But as time goes by I have begun to demand a lot from my computers and the software that runs on them. My computers get used for everything from hard-core gaming to editing 200-megabyte images, managing a music collection with tens of thousands of files to instant messaging, from building dynamic web sites to hosting multiple virtual machines. I have no less than 100 different third-party applications installed on any computer I use regardless of operating system or the computer’s main purpose.
There was a time where computer hardware was a limiting factor, but now it is the software that is holding us back. The biggest problem that the launch of Windows XP and then Windows Vista faced was that the OS was written to take advantage of hardware that didn’t exist; now that the hardware does exist they run great and in general stay out of the user’s way.
Apple has avoided that problem by building the hardware along with the software to ensure that the user experience is as smooth as possible. It has held Apple back to some degree because the hardware they use is always at least a generation behind the PC manufacturers, but the Apple user does have as many negative experiences as the average PC user.
In Early 2008 I returned to the Mac. I had instant buyer’s remorse due to the cost of the computer. I could have built a truly awesome Windows box with every bell and whistle along with a home theatre PC for LESS than the cost of the iMac.
But I now love the iMac, even though I am still not a big fan of the MacOS, the hardware is really fantastic. The 1980×1200 screen is just brilliant, the glossy finish makes blacks appear very black and the screen is bright enough that reflections are not an issue. With 4GB of RAM, the current limit for the iMac, the software is responsive and I rarely experience any real slowdowns.
The beauty of the current Apple hardware is that you can have one computer that runs Windows XP, Windows Vista, Linux, and the MacOS all simultaneously using VMware Fusion or Parallels. This is the Killer Feature of the Apple Macintosh.
In any given day I will use Lightroom (Mac), iTunes (Mac), UltraEdit (Win), Firefox (Mac & Win), Internet Explorer 6 & 7 (Win), Photoshop (Mac), Games using the Valve Steam Client (Win), Google Earth (Mac & Win), Last.fm (Mac & Win), Microsoft Office (Mac & Win), and a lot of other small utilities. At home I use VMware and at work I use Parallels and find that both are good solid products that let me get my work done.
Games are usually played using Bootcamp and booting into Windows XP. I recently finished Bioshock, which I was able to play at 1980×1200 with the frame rate rarely dropping, it was truly a beautiful thing. Next up is probably Crysis just to push the limits and see how good of a gaming machine it really is.
I am now over my buyer’s remorse, but I am still not sure that buying the Mac was the best “bang-for-the-buck” available.