Mac or PC? I like both. True.

Written by David Tebbutt, MacUser 06/91 item 03 - scanned

Its about two years since I first started using a Mac in earnest. Before that, I worked on all sorts of machines and I still find myself using and enjoying the occasional PC clone or Amstrad PCW. Recently, I started to wonder what the big deal is with the Mac. Although I find it extremely satisfying to use, there are times when I'd rather be using a PC clone.

As much as I like the WIMP (windows, icons, menus and pointers) environment of the Mac, there are times when I yearn for the crudeness of the DOS command line. It's a funny thing, but I somehow feel more in control when I type 'ED MACCOL.185', rather than click on the 'Mac column 18 May' icon.

And I'm not the only one who feels like this. I recently read a review of System 7.0 in a PC magazine and the writer warned readers that "there's no MS-DOS command line and no CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files to provide a sense of familiarity". I could happily live without the CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files.

Mind you, it's handy to be able to create your own batch files to run through job sequences, often without operator intervention. My wife makes up disks for our small software publishing operation without having the foggiest idea what's going on. The batch (.BAT) file formats the disk, copies the files, serialises the program and checks the end result for accuracy. All she has to do is stick the disk in and hit Enter. I'm not sure how I'd get the Mac operating system to perform similar tricks.

Programming, too, is a much more attractive prospect on these other machines. I use either BASIC or assembly language and have little trouble getting the results I want. Once more, I feel I'm in control. Assembly language programs are really fast, even if they do take forever to write. And BASIC programs can be written at the drop of a hat. I have to confess that the thought of programming for the Mac fills me with dread.

I wouldn't like you to think that I don't like the Mac. I do. I love its ease of use. I think MacWrite II beats the socks off any of the word processors I've used on the PC. It is usually the first port of call when I sit down at the Mac. I rate it as a program because it is simple enough to be easy to learn and use, yet powerful enough to leave me satisfied.

Its pride of place on my Mac is shared with Vicom, which I use for accessing CIX, an electronic conferencing system. Frankly, CIX is better than AppleLink for its speed and usefulness. Unfortunately, AppleLink is where you find the Apple people you need to talk to.

I use FileMaker Pro occasionally. I would go crazy if I had to use it all the time. Like Vicom III, it's measurably slower than its predecessor. The new versions of each program add a lot of useful new features; the trouble is that these come with a slight speed penalty. Although I'm persevering with FileMaker Pro, my communications needs are so simple that I've reverted to the earlier Vicom.

LapLink Mac is probably the only other program I use on a regular basis. Because I often tap stuff into my laptop Toshiba, I need a way of getting it into the Mac. LapLink does the job perfectly.

When I first got the Mac, I thought I'd use all sorts of new applications. I was convinced it would make me a multimedia producer, a desktop publisher, a spread sheeter, a painter and a designer. I has done none of these things, simply because I had few talents in those directions. If I'd paid for the programs, I suppose I'd be quite annoyed. Fortunately, I am sent review copies, so I have discovered my lack of talent at someone else's expense.

Our desktop PC is generally only used for making disks and for application development. I have tried hard to love Windows 3.0, but have failed miserably. In fact, I'm sorely tempted to chuck it, rather than upgrade my hard disk to make room for multi-megabyte programs. I've already spent £600 trying to make the machine powerful enough for Windows, and I'm not sure I can persuade Mrs Tebbutt that a hard disk is the best use of £500 just now.

My laptop acts as a data capture device and reference book. I chuck everything into it, either into BrainStorm (the program we publish),or into the word processor. I use an ancient copy of Cardbox for storing names and addresses of all my contacts - it's utterly brilliant for instant retrieval and I see no reason to change.

After a couple of years, I've realised that someone like me needs both the Mac and the PC. I need the portability of the laptop and the occasional burst of satisfaction that comes from direct control on the PCs. But I like the way the Mac cossets me when my thoughts are elsewhere. A PC, like a car with a gear lever and a clutch pedal, is there to be driven. A Mac is more like an automatic.