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At home and work, over the years, I've had to get used to a lot of computer operating systems - the WYSE 50 "dumb terminals", Commodore 64, AmigaDOS 1.2, 1.3 and 3.0, DOS and Windows 3.0, 95 and 98. I was hoping this would do me for a while - until I learnt in early December that I'd won a new iMac from Apple Computers. It was an easy choice as to what to do with it - install it at my parents' house, for the benefit of them and (in particular) my brother Johan. The difficult part was realising that I would have to teach the computer and its operating system to them, when I hadn't even seen it myself.

I'd briefly considered buying an iMac myself, before deciding on my current Gateway 2000. However a number of factors weighed against the iMac purchase - price versus performance, a lack of cheap software (especially from magazine cover disks) and lack of expandibility or compatibility with cheap add-on components. The iMac has neither a floppy drive, parallel or serial ports. The ultimate reason for not getting one was an unwillingness to subscribe to a computer system that was possibly in a long-term decline (I'd already suffered years of that with the Amiga).

Of course, actually getting one for free changed the situation somewhat. And the iMac is supposed to be the ideal beginners computer - not to mention the darling of the artist, musician and trendy set. And, as a fashion statement, one could ask for little more. Beyond this, of course, the critics are divided. With the machine installed and running, I finally came to terms with what it can - and cannot - offer. This page of the site is set up for the benefit of both the prospective user and the buyer (and first-time Mac user) anxious to get the most out of his or her purchase.


Getting the Mac up and running - especially on the internet - is not the 10 minute job that some people would claim that it is. Setting up the actual machine is relatively simple - but, then again, my Gateway was much the same. It's just a question of connecting the right plugs to the right sockets then turning the thing on. The Internet Assistant kept wanting to connect me with the one Australian ISP it had listed in its specifications - and certainly not the one (out of many) that I wanted to use.accessories?

The Mac windows system takes some getting used to - since, basically, you do everything the opposite to the way you would in Microsoft Windows. Buttons are closed on the left side, and the system is basically driven by menus and windows - as opposed to the Windows' Start Menu and Explorer driven operations. I prefer the latter by a large margin, having gotten used to operating this way using programs such as Tools Daemon and DirWork on the Amiga for many years. The Mac system seems primitive, by comparison . The other thing that surprises me is the Mac's insistence on tying programs to the menu system. Menu attributes change according to whichever is the nominated 'active' program - even to the extent of requiring a menu selection to quit out of the program, rather than simply closing its window.

The CD-drive is also something I'm not fond of. Why Apple decided on borrowing the flimsy drive from the portable Macs - which lacks a proper tray and simple 'drop' disk insertion - is beyond me. In fact the CD tray broke in mid-2000 - after the machine had run out of warranty. That and the fact that you need a key combination to open the drive when there is a disk inserted - and even a combination to turn the machine off, makes the iMac just seem that more fiddly. Keys have also become stuck/jammed on the (flimsy) keyboard on four occasions. And I can't say that I find the machine fast - the booting time certainly seems long - while the 32 Meg of RAM isn't really suitable for running any number of simultaneous programs.

I could go on (the inability to link file-types with related programs, applications unable to take up a whole screen, the unhelpful screen prompts, the pathetic sound system, etc.), but I don't want Apple to think that I'm ungrateful. It's just that I'm a fairly demanding computer user, and need a state of the art machine that can do anything that I want it to. I'm also overly fond of comparing the iMac to my Gateway - which has double the memory, 1.5 times the hard drive space, a two inch larger monitor, and HD floppy, DVD and CD-R drives - not to mention a 12 MB 3D graphics card and over 100 programs that I've installed on it. The iMac is quite a different machine altogether - rather like the computing equivalent to the new Volkswagen Beetle, and more a matter of style than substance. There are also, no doubt, plenty of dedicated iMac users who would not consider using any other type of machine - and I haven't begun to log the complaints that I have about the Windows 98 operating system!

The 1999 iMac range has since solved a lot of the problems I have with my machine - if only their features had been introduced in the first place!


So how do users get the most out of their iMacs? It basically comes down to three things, which can't always be taken for granted.

Although the iMac's reliance on USB peripherals has been somewhat of a handicap, this will change as more such equipment comes onto the market. Even the lack of a floppy disk drive isn't so much of a hindrance, when you consider that other computers with CD-R capabilities can readily provide data that way (thereby overcoming many of the incompatibility problems that other storage devices have).


I suppose the best thing about being an iMac owner is/would be the dedicated band of similar people around the world - eager to talk about and promote their machines and help others in difficulty. Certainly no-one I know of ever talks about how great the Windows operating system is - for a variety of reasons. But get a couple of iMac (or even Amiga) owners together and there is only enthusiasm and reassuring tales of how preferable things are this way, compared to the horrible Windows. Each to their own, I suppose - after all, I've used enough operating systems over the years to appreciate the differences between them.

There's also a hive of iMac activity in Japan - where the machine, no doubt, appeals to local tastes for smallness and 'cuteness'. It certainly wouldn't hurt to establish cross-cultural ties by checking out the various iMac enthusiasts elsewhere around the world, either.


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URL: http://homepages.tig.com.au/~avanstar
Alex Van Starrex