By Harry McCracken | Friday, December 17, 2010 at 9:40 am
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Whenever I write about the pros and cons of Windows PCs and Macs–as I did recently for TIME.com–I make at least brief mention of the fact that I’m a happy user of both. But I’m not sure if I’ve ever outlined just why I buy and use both flavors of computer rather than settling on one or the other. Here are some quick thoughts on that subject.
First, a review of my life as a user of operating systems might be in order. For most of it, I was a single-OS user–sometimes ardently so…
1978-1982: I was a Radio Shack TRS-80 snob (thinking back, that sounds like an oxymoron, but trust me–I was one).
1982-1984 or thereabouts: I had and liked an Atari 400, but I don’t recall being passionate about it. I also backslid and did a fair percentage of my college work on…typewriters.
1984-1986: I went through an odd period during which I temporarily lost interest in computers, except for word processing.
1987-1991: I dabbled on a borrowed Mac, but I also bought a Commodore Amiga and became a–I try to avoid this word, but it’s the only one that fits–fanboy.
1991-2004: I got a job at a computer magazine that covered only Windows (and, at first, DOS) PCs. I used almost nothing else for the next thirteen years, but don’t become a Windows partisan–even after I become the editor of a magazine called PC World.
2004-present: Shopping for a new laptop at CompUSA–and wanting a smallish model–I take a wrong turn and end up in the tiny, isolated Mac section. I have an epiphany: Why not buy a 12″ PowerBook? What was stopping me? I ended up buying one, and have purchased Windows PCs and Macs in roughly equal measure ever since.
(At first, all my Windows systems were desktops and all my Macs were laptops–which meant that I was a Windows person when I was at my desk, and a Mac one when I was anywhere else. But I’ve stopped buying desktop computers, so that distinction has vanished.)
Ongoing exposure to both operating systems has left me an operating-system agnostic. I see good (and bad) in both Windows and Macs and recommend them both to different people in different situations.
(I’ve also gone through periods when I’ve used Linux as well, incidentally–though not as much recently, due more to a lack of time than disinterest.)
So why do I use both Windows PCs and Macs?
Back when I bought that 12″ PowerBook and started using both it and Windows machines, I was keenly aware that I was making a decision to become a two-platform person. (And if I ever forgot it, someone came along to point it out–when you edit a magazine called PC World and are seen in public with a Mac, it’s a conversation-starter.) Today, I don’t give it much thought. I sit down at a computer, and my brain helpfully adjusts itself to the OS I’m using, helping my fingers to find the right keys and features without any conscious effort. I’m not saying everyone should use both OSes–we agnostics aren’t missionaries–but I know it’s made me a happier computer user.