Favorite Computer Equipment

[Made on Amiga]

With ninety percent of desktop computers falling into the Intel / Microsoft Windows camp, can there really be a serious debate about kinds of computer (as opposed to brands)? If you believe the majority is always right, you are reading the wrong webpage. Go to www.microsoft.com.

Still here? Good! Then let us admit at the outset that life is a lot easier if you have a computer that is compatible with ninety percent of desktop machines on the planet. Perhaps you are stuck with a WinTel box because this compatability is an overriding concern. I understand; you have my sympathy.

If neither conformity nor compatability is an overriding issue for you, you are free to explore other options. For many people, the Apple Macintosh is a viable option. At the high end, these are technically at least as fast as the most powerful WinTels. It seems to me they are far easier to configure and are far more stable (fewer "crashes"). The downside is that you either cannot or cannot easily use most non-Apple peripheral devices. Similarly, the consistent user interface style that helps make them easy to use for non-computer-enthusiasts can prove limiting if you want to dig a little deeper. Still, especially for people who don't care about minute details of the way their computers work, Macintosh may be a good choice.

I use both of these kinds of computer when I have to, but neither is my computer of choice. I am bothered by recent lack of innovation in these markets, and particularly by the growing Microsoft monopoly. (See The Boycott Microsoft website to learn what Ralph Nader, Alan Arkin and others think of this issue.) And as a technical person and a programmer, I like to be able to make my computer do exactly what I want it to do. I care rather deeply about what kind of peripherals I will get. I get no pleasure from a computer that is not reliable, or that pauses every once in a while, or locks the entire computer because of an error or exclusive activity of a single task. I also have an aesthetic taste that is offended by unnecessarily large programs or operating systems. Smaller programs that do well-defined tasks easily and well, and that cooperate with other well-written programs that do related functions give me a more refined choice. For instance, my desktop publishing program gives me far greater ease of use and creative control over my documents than Microsoft Word, but is delivered on a few floppy disks instead of requiring a CD ROM (see my class pages. referenced above for examples)

So I prefer an Amiga. For desktop publishing, keeping grades, maintaining web pages, internet activity of all kinds, programming, electronic circuit design, music, keeping mailing lists, creating CD-roms, editing graphics... I use my machines constantly, and some of them are left running 24 hours a day--for weeks or months at a time without a problem. The multitasking is deliciously smooth and transparent--tasks are never stalled and seldom even slowed by another task. While I enjoy upgrading my systems, the Amiga proves that the "treadmill" of planned obsolescence is not a necessary accompaniment to technological progress. My fifteen-year old Amiga at home is still a viable machine. The Amigas I use daily are seven and ten years old, respectively, having been upgraded with relatively inexpensive processor chips, graphics, software and memory.