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April 25, 2002

Yes, I still believe imacs are slow

You're not doing your job as a writer if you don't tick people off.  So I must be doing something right: Paul Beard took umbrage at my assertion that the iMac my wife sometimes uses is as slow as the P133 in my basement.  He compared my reasoning to "claiming a brand of car is slow because you can't find a good radio station."

I may have been a little careless in extrapolating from my small sample to connecting it to the story about iMac 2's being slow; after all, the iMac 2 uses the latest in Apple Technology.  The Mac in our house is at least two-three years off the pace. 

Still, I stand by the comparison.   I did actually go to three computers in house, stopwatch in hand, and try browsing the same pages from each browser.  I browsed each site once and then quit the browser to make sure all the cacheable pieces were downloaded, restarted the browser, and then timed the next page load for each of 5 sites. I tried IE and NS 6.2 on each platform.  And the numbers were still consistent: The iMac was no faster than my 1996 vintage P133 running Windows 98. 

Does that mean that the Mac is slower than the PC at everything?  Of course not.  The iMac can edit digital video from my DV camera; even new PCs still have trouble with that.  And there are certainly other areas where the Mac is superior. But the original story about the iMac 2 claimed it was slow at surfing the web, which is probably the primary application for most home machines, so that's what I looked at.

Paul also claimed I was a long time Mac basher/Windows worshiper.  That's possible, but I come by it honestly.  My first job was with Xerox working on the Star.  We scoffed at Windows 1.0 and 2.0. We also scoffed at the original 1984 Mac with no hard drive and a tiny screen, but by the time I left Xerox in 1989, the Mac was clearly ahead, and the Xerox Star was on the way out.  The first machine I bought with my money was a Mac SE. 

I didn't touch a PC until I went to CICNet in 1990, and when I did, I had a revelation: the PC that I had reviled was just a computer, no worse in some respects from many of the machines I used when I was younger.  (CP/M, PDP-8, DEC 10).  It was a tool with strengths and weaknesses, and had to be treated as such.  You use the machine and tools appropriate to the job at hand. Every place I worked from then on used Windows as a base, and so long as I had a UNIX box around, I could live with it. Early on I jumped on Windows NT as being a more reliable base than Win95/98/et. al.

When my wife brought her Mac home a few years ago, I was interested to see how it would work; I hadn't used a Mac regularly for many years.  I was dismayed to see that unlike the technology I was used to using (Windows NT), the Mac still froze up regularly, browsed the web slowly, and in general hadn't progressed as far as I'd hoped. 

I'd love to try living with an OS X box for a while.  Given a choice between the UNIX base of OS X and Windows, I'll take UNIX.  In fact, given a choice I like to have lots of machines. At CNN I had four machines in my office: an iMac, an older PC running Linux, a desktop Win2k box, and a Win2k laptop. For that matter, we have six machines at home right now: the iMac, a P133 Linux server, two P3 500s running Win2k, and an Athlon XP running XP home. I like 'em all.