What Is the Best Computer? Why Do You Need a Computer, Anyhow?


This starts out as a rant, but it is a rant with a purpose.  This actually is an introduction to the upcoming series on Ubuntu for Windows Users, but you’ll need to read all the way through for it to make sense.  Even if you are not considering such a move, it is good at times to review the basics and ask why you do certain things.

Writers should definitely not use yellow pencils.  They need to use red ones.  Red pencils are far superior to yellow ones.  Yellow pencils are common and ordinary.  They show the grunge when handled with dirty hands.  Red pencils do not have this disadvantage.

Silly?  I would agree.  A reasonable person would realize that both have lead (graphite, actually), both sharpen the same way regardless of the color, and both can be equally made either well or poorly.  Both can be found with or without erasers on the end.  The only real difference is superficial, since they both produce the same end product just as well.

Yet, all too often I see the same sort of silly debate in Mac vs PC.  One of these days, perhaps, people will realize that operating systems are not religions.  At some point, all computers share certain characteristics.  At a base level, they all work pretty much the same way.  If they did not, then they would not be in the same classification called “computers”.  The differences arise in engineering decisions, market focus and user preferences for workflow.

At the base level, they are the same, but there are differences that might make one legitimately choose one over the other.  Frankly, in some cases “Because I like it better” really is a legitimate answer!  I’m not knocking that.  However, those preferences do not necessarily scale.  It is like taking a member of any population and saying that because that one case it true it must be true for all members of that population.  To be blunt, that is limited and bigoted thinking.

At a certain site I frequent, this debate about which computer is better for writers keeps coming up.  I mean, really?  Of all of the base cases for a personal computer, the second biggest use of all time (it used to be number one, but probably has slid over time) has to be word processing.  In a 1997 report by the Census Bureau  it was found that 59.8% of women and 53.9% of men used the computer for word processing.  Likewise, 51.3% of women and 43.1% of men used it for email.  I suspect that email long since has passed word processing in usage  as far more people email than write in general.  Social networking may well pass that at some point, though (currently, about 64% of adults on the net use social networking).  Email still is about 90% for all computer users.

Macs and PCs both can run Microsoft Word, the most popular word processing program out there.  Both do software updates on the Office programs, which are downloaded from the Internet.  Both have a keyboard and a mouse.  Both can be hooked up to larger monitors if larger lettering is required.

It really boils down to preferences, and those preferences really have nothing to do with word processing.

I am restraining myself to not post an article touting the Commodore 128 as the perfect computer for writers.  After all, they had that one desktop system (that I can never remember the name of) that included spreadsheets, word processing, graphics, etc.  It was actually quite impressive for its time.  IBM computers were scratching the surface in technology at the time.

Speaking of Commodore, does anyone remember the Amiga?  Now, there was a machine that was actually used for music production.  While it certainly had other capabilities, it excelled in that area.  This is an example of gravitating towards a certain machine due to the function.

Apple has a history of being entrenched in educational services and for artist types.  It did lose some market share even in those areas before Apple brought Steve Jobs back, but the fact remains that the hardware and software in those areas are worth looking at in those circles.

Frankly, it isn’t because a PC cannot compete in those areas, but it is more an artifact that the variety of software doesn’t quite exist and the compatibility bewtween machines isn’t as guaranteed.  I know for a fact that you can set up a PC with Cakewalk to mix sounds and music and have an all-around DJ machine.

Buying a Mac for spreadsheet calculations, frankly, is probably not a worthwhile investment.  PCs are built more for such things in mind, and the money that goes into the bells and whistles of a Mac would better be put into more memory and greater storage capacity.

However, for common tasks like email, web surfing and word processing?  Who cares?  Buy whatever you are comfortable with!

In those areas, comparing Apples to PCs is, frankly, like comparing apples and oranges.  The latter are both round, both are sweet, and both have Vitamin C.  Therefore, it comes down to taste and whether or not you are looking for other things.

Someone recently asked me which is better, Mac or PC.  My answer is what it always has been: Depends upon what you are trying to do.  It also depends secondarily upon your level of comfort with support and such, because Apple products come with a one year AppleCare warranty that often is more comprehensive than the warranties that come with PCs.

Which brings me full circle.  Just because I am posting about moving to Ubuntu doesn’t mean everyone in the world should necessarily do so.  My reasons for doing so are likely different than someone else’s in any event.  It just depends upon what you are trying to do.