Mac vs. Windows

The battle of the operating systems

by Larisa C. Hnizdo

Most students in my school, and in fact, most people, use computers that run the Microsoft Windows operating system. But there are some people, including my family, that use Macintosh computers. What’s the difference? To find out, I asked five people: Jim Jenkins, scenery and props designer, and Richard Brafford, Web designer, use PCs that run Windows. Bradley Dichter, a Macintosh consultant, and Peter Tarsoly, a music teacher at Clarke Middle School, use Macintosh computers. And Vera Zinnel, a first-grade teacher at Bowling Green, uses both a Mac and a PC.

First, a little history. Personal computers, or PCs, are manufactured by many different companies, including Dell, IBM, Gateway, and many, many others. Microsoft Computer started making an operating system called MS-DOS and sold it to the companies that make the computers. Apple introduced the Mac in 1984. While DOS was text-based, Macintosh introduced what’s called a GUI, or graphical user interface, with folders and icons you click on using a mouse. Microsoft realized DOS couldn’t compete and created the Windows operating system that closely mimicked the Macintosh.

Microsoft's operating systems, DOS and later Windows, were used in most business settings. The Macintosh was finding a following amongst creative people like artists and photographers.

Mr. Jenkins says, "Apple was the most innovative in exploiting graphics in their user interface early on. Windows was actually Microsoft's way of converting DOS to make IBM/Intel computers seem more Mac-like years ago. The designers of Windows were just trying to imitate the Mac so that they wouldn't lose customers to Apple. The Mac enjoys a lot of tradition and support among people who do a lot of graphics work, such as many of the photographers I work with."

  Mrs. Zinnel says, "I use my Mac for editing my home movies and organizing my digital photos. I use Windows for e-mail, Internet, and word processing that I need to do for school." The Mac is also considered easier to use and less prone to problems that need to be fixed.

"I think the Mac is much easier to operate," says Mr. Tarsoly, "and more user friendly. The system runs much smoother and has fewer problems. It barely crashes and has a program called Apple Works that allows me to easily make music lesson passes and other things for my middle and high school orchestra students."

"I prefer the Mac OS as it is more intuitive and stable so I can get more work done rather than repairing the problems," says Mr. Dichter. He says Windows can be affected by any one of 60,000 viruses or Trojan horses, and then the user is stuck wasting time trying to fix the problem.

So why would anyone want to use Windows?


PCs are less expensive than Macs. Apple has no competitors, meaning you have to pay whatever prices they offer. Even though you can buy anything from an $800 eMac to a G5 that’s over $2,000, you’ll usually find lower prices with PCs because the different PC manufacturers compete on price. You can even build your own PC yourself for even less money (and a lot more work).

And the Macintosh’s ease of use might be a mixed blessing. Mr. Jenkins thinks the fact that the Mac is so user friendly actually discourages people from learning about what exactly makes the computer work, and this stuff can be good to know in case you run into a problem.


About 90% of personal computers run Windows. Market share for the Macintosh is about 5% (the rest run other operating systems, such as Linux, see below). That means a lot of software is available for Windows but not for the Mac. "It is sometimes difficult and exasperating to find programs for the Mac without ordering them online," says Mrs. Zinnel. "And many programs I like are not made in the Mac format."

It can also be hard to go back and forth between the different platforms. The Mac is made to work well with PCs. For instance, you can open a PC disk on a Mac, and many documents can also be opened on either computer. Or so they say. Mrs. Zinnel says that she often has problems taking a Mac document and then opening it on a PC. Other people, like Mr. Jenkins, say that today compatibility isn't a problem, since there is little difference between the PC and Mac versions of programs like Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop.

Mr. Brafford says that which operating system and browser you use will affect the way you view Web sites on your computer. Since the vast majority of people use Internet Explorer for Windows, sites are primarily designed for this browser and may display differently on a Mac.


Mr. Brafford originally learned Web design on the Mac, "the original computer for publishing and graphic design because it used to give a higher definition picture than a PC. I think the PC today is as good if not better than any overpriced Mac. Why pay more for a Mac, which has 10 percent of the market and interacts differently with the Internet than a PC? Why not create my fabulous Web sites on a computer that most of the world will be viewing them on?"

Do we detect a little hostility between PC and Mac users? "The very last thing I would do is switch to Windows, and this sentiment is echoed by the vast majority of my clients," says Mr. Dichter. "Once you use a Mac, nothing else will do." He says Mac users are very loyal and are even referred to as "Mac fanatics."

Mr. Tarsoly refuses to use a PC at work. He even got a mini-fridge for his office that matches his iMac computer.

Many Mac users resent how Bill Gates copied the Mac OS when he created Windows and used questionable tactics to get so much market share. Even Mr. Brafford admits, "Unfortunately, capitalist pigs like Bill Gates control 90 percent of the world viewing the Internet because 90 percent of the world owns a PC which uses the operating system Windows, which Gates created and owns because he created and owns Microsoft, the corporation that owns and creates the browser Internet Explorer. Excuse me, Bill, for living!"

And what are we to make of Brafford’s comment: "Whenever I have problems with my computer, I soak it in gasoline and strike a match, then I send it back to Dell and tell them to fix the hideous, frustrating piece of garbage! P.S., always get an extended warranty."

Which operating system should you pick? "Find out your primary use for the computer first," says Mrs. Zinnel. "If you are going to do anything with graphics, photos, or movies, the Mac is the one you want to own. If you want to be like everyone else, buy one with a Windows operating system!"

Mr. Jenkins says to go with the OS your closest friends use. That way, you have someone to turn to for advice as well as software or peripherals you can swap or receive as hand-me-downs.

No matter which computer you choose, one thing is for sure; in about six or so years your computer, OS and software will be outdated.

Looking at Linux

There's another operating system that's making waves in the computer world. It's called Linux. "Linux is open-source, meaning that no one company owns the intellectual property rights to the OS," explains Mr. Jenkins. You can download Linux and applications that run on it for free. He says Linux is "very powerful, elegant and robust and very hard to crash. That's why many large corporations run Linux."

But ease of use isn't exactly a strongpoint for this OS. Jenkins says, "I like the idea behind Linux a little more than I like the actual experience of working with it. Since no one company owns and controls Linux, the different distributors and other parties are constantly changing it and tweaking it in their own particular way, so that the amount of time it takes to figure out installations and set up various applications can be a little daunting. Sometimes it feels like you need to know everything that's under the hood to get things working the way you want them to."

Could middle-schoolers work with Linux? "I would only recommend Linux to kids who have really, really high IQs and a lot of patience," he concludes.

Wouldn't someone like Mr. Brafford appreciate the open-source aspect of Linux over Windows? "I thought of switching to the Linux OS, but I didn't because I was afraid it would have been a total nightmare, plus that I'm sure the Linux developers will turn out to be another Microsoft bunch of scumbags within a matter of time," he says.


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