Thu, Jul 12, 2007 (Using Windows on a PC is a form of masochism)

Yesterday's post ("Microsoft-free") reflects a huge change from when I started using Microsoft products in 1987. Just out of college, I worked for a company named Atlantic Research Corporation in Virginia, and once I learned FORTRAN my personal mission was to port our in-house applications off the DEC VAX machines and onto 286 and 386 PCs.

Back then I didn't dislike Microsoft at all, but I did dislike our IS department. They charged an incredible rate for using "their" VAX system, whereas I could do anything I wanted on the PCs, 24 hours a day. The last straw was when I ran a simulation of a RAMJET/SCRAMJET vehicle that went into an infinite loop after I went home (flying at altitude, then diving down into the Earth, coming out the other side, and then repeating this process all night until I killed it the next morning). After we got that bill my VAX career came to an abrupt halt.

Back then we had a "common" working area for the four PCs in our department, which meant that I mostly had them all to myself. They were lined up on a wall and I would roll on my chair between them to get things done. So back then Microsoft was the "good guys", freeing me from the imperialism of the IS department.

Discovering Unix

But then in January of 1991 I discovered Unix, including machines from DEC, SGI, IBM, Sun, and X-stations from Tektronix, and I realized there was this whole other world of more powerful machines, and a more powerful operating system to boot. Unix rocked compared to DOS, and X-Windows was great fun. Unix was available from multiple vendors, so companies could compete by adding to the base operating system, and hoping their changes were the ones you liked best. Between these differences, and Microsoft routinely crushing competitors (through the advantage of owning the operating system, bundling their applications, etc.), Microsoft became the "bad guys".

Discovering Mac OS X

Cutting to the chase, years later I'm an Apple freak, and I hope not to look back. Macs are beautifully-made machines (a huge contrast to ugly Dell workstations and the ugly Windows environment), and OS X is a ton of fun to work on, and great to look at. Since 1999 I've always stated that OS X was the one operating system my mom and I could both use: a beautiful, easy to use interface, with real Unix power underneath the hood. Contrast that with Windows which feels like, well, it feels like work, something I have had to do (and crummy old DOS at the command line).

My point

Getting to my point, when you have a choice between two of anything -- in this case computer systems -- isn't it the definition of sadism and masochism to voluntarily spend your time with something that has an inferior design and is simultaneously less fun to use?