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Prodigal Mac: The One Where He Admits His Mac Envy

Or, tales from a Windows traitor By Kevin Schmitt
One night recently, as I sat motionless and glassy-eyed on my couch, I came across one of the older episodes of Friends. It was the one where Ross was trying to decide which girl would be better suited for him: his current girlfriend, Julie, or his dream woman, Rachel. So he made a list of what was wrong with each woman in an effort to help him choose. Long story short, he picked Rachel, she found the list, read it, got mad at what he thought was wrong with her, hijinks ensued, roll credits. As I watched this episode for what seemed like the ten gazillionth time, it dawned on me that I, too, was approaching a crisis not unlike that of my television friend Ross.

I have to decide if Julie or Rachel is really right for me. Of course, by Julie, I mean Windows, and by Rachel, I mean the Mac OS.

For the first four years of my professional life I was a die-hard, incorrigible Mac fanatic. In the early to mid 90's, during the midst of what the hype of the day termed the new media revolution, the Mac was the only choice for multimedia production. I would have rather (insert the most miserable experience you can think of here) than give up my Mac. But that was when life was good. Before the Dark Times. Before the Empire.

And, oh, how quickly things went sour. Faster than you could say "Copland," Apple seemed to become a shadow of its former self. The hardware became uninspired and ridiculously expensive. The beloved Mac OS was looking its age. Apple was constantly touting the "next big thing," and then nixing it in what seemed like mere weeks (Remember CyberDog, OpenDoc and CHRP?). And every important software title began showing up on Windows, often times well before a Mac version. It was during these dark days that I realized I wasn't getting enough multimedia and 3D juice from the platform that blazed the trail in those areas. I needed real time OpenGL previews from my 3D program. Hell, I needed a more powerful 3D program, period (and I didn't have $7500 to blow on Electric Image, which didn't even have a modeler in those days). I needed some real professional graphics card choices. I needed an OS that would play nice with Windows, since it seemed that all of my multimedia projects had to run the majority of time over there anyway. And what OS would play nicer with Windows than Windows itself? Most importantly, I needed an OS that not only didn't take my entire system down once a month, but could just get through a single day without a data-busting, time-wasting, hold-your-head-in-your-hands-and-just-sob crash.

It took me a couple of months to admit it to myself, but the writing was on the wall. Suddenly, a low-cost PC with a decent video card running Windows NT was a more viable, if not attractive, option. So, in the early months of 1998, I ditched my Mac and went Windows. While the Mac was weathering the storm when it came to print design, Windows NT was evolving into a serious digital creation platform, as it seemed that I wasn't the only one to break ranks and huddle under the Redmond tent.

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