Moving to the Mac, a one-way street

Written by David Tebbutt, MacUser Aug 1989 (guess) - scanned

Sorry! This column is not for you. It's for you to pass on to someone else. Well, you can read it if you like, but you'll get my drift soon enough. You see, I've been rummaging around a large number of companies recently and I am absolutely astonished at how closed some of their minds are to the possibility that the Macintosh might be of any use to them.

There they are, these corporate Management Information Systems (MIS from now on) folk, utterly convinced that they have to standardise on the IBM PC and its clones. I've been to major companies whose staff beat the system by buying Macintoshes with their own money for use at work.

Just in case you think this is another whinge from a Macintosh fanatic, I'd like to explain where I'm coming from. I suppose I'm an MIS type at heart, having spent 24 years putting in computer systems. I actually worked on minicomputers and mainframes long before the PC came along. My present computer set up is two PC clones (networked), a Macintosh SE, an Amstrad PCW 8512 and a Cambridge Computer Z88. My wife publishes software (which I wrote) for IBM compatible machines and for Amstrad PCW machines.

Until recently, I did all my serious work on the PCs, despite having the Macintosh as well. The Mac was something of a curiosity at first. I needed it in order to be able to contribute sensibly to this magazine yet, from May until October, I still wrote my MacUser columns on the PC.

So what happened? Well, first of all I started using the Macintosh for communications. I regularly access Telecom Gold and Compulink Information Exchange (CIX) in the evenings and weekends. The Macintosh was indoors doing very little so I decided to hook up the modem and do all my telecomms from there.

My PC comms package was a very good one, although it was sometimes hard to remember which function key did what, and it gave me sterling service for several years. Within a week of using Vicom, I had no desire to return to PC-based comms. You don't need to be told this, but I found that the graphical interface, the mouse and the constant status information converted comms from a chore into an absolute pleasure.

Soon I found myself knocking off the odd letter on the Macintosh, especially where style and layout were important. I detached the DeskJet from the Hewlett-Packard machine and stuck it on the Macintosh. Gradually, PC-Write's iron grip weakened. I next found myself preparing my invoices on the Macintosh. Soon, I found that I actually preferred to use the Macintosh, despite its absurdly small black and white screen. (My PCs are VGA and EGA colour machines.) I still use the office PC for major features, but this is because these can take several days and I'd drive everyone barmy if I tried to work in the house.

Both my wife and I were doing invoices on our respective wordprocessors. For me this wasn't a big deal because I work regularly for very few clients. She, on the other hand, has hundreds of clients. I decided to put her customers on to a database. At first, I stuck them on the PC by writing a program to convert from LocoScript to Cardbox, pumping the details across a serial link from the PCW to the PC. This wasn't the best answer. Because I didn't want to inflict PC-Write on her, she carried on invoicing with the LocoScript wordprocessor while I periodically updated the Cardbox database.

The next move came when I decided to stick all the Cardbox records into the Macintosh. I chose FileMaker II as the database and, much to my astonishment, had the first database up and running within two hours of opening the manual. In this time, I had read the key bits of the manual, installed FileMaker, defined all the fields, pumped them out of Cardbox into a text file transmitted them to the Macintosh using LapLink Mac, and read them into FileMaker. In fact the reading of the 900 records was the longest single activity - it took something like 50 minutes.

Sylvie was pretty unimpressed with my efforts. I showed her how to key in new records and she told me, in no uncertain terms, that it was easier on the PCW machine. I then designed an invoice layout, so that she could type directly into this. She still said it was easier on the PCW. I then created a data entry screen which offered multiple choice entries and calculated VAT automatically, even on special deals. Sylvie started to get interested. Within a couple of days, she was invoicing on the Macintosh and, more importantly, creating a database at the same time.

You may claim that these are trivial applications. But they're no more trivial than those used on most PCs and I could have done a whole lot more, especially with FileMaker which allows multi-file access. I haven't mentioned other 'one-off' jobs I've done on the Macintosh, almost without thinking. My wife needed an advertisement in a hurry to take advantage of a special offer. We cooked it up on the Macintosh in next to no time. As a personal productivity tool, the Macintosh knocks the PC into a cocked hat.

Although I will continue to use PCs occasionally, all the jobs which have migrated to the Macintosh will not go back to their original machines. For me - until recently a committed and dedicated PC user - the road to the Macintosh has been a one-way street. .

I believe that MIS departments should seriously consider giving their users the same choice.