A little less coyness on Mac-vs-Vista

As mentioned recently, ongoing struggles with Windows Vista, here in our Vista/XP/XP/Mac iBook two-person, four-laptop household, have led to me consider all alternatives. Now, the rest of the story:

Soberingly enough, I have used personal computers longer than several of my fellow Atlantic "Voices" have been alive. I got -- really, built -- my first computer in 1978. (Taste of days gone by: "The SOL-20 was probably the first PC to incorprate a keyboard and video with the machine.") It used an Intel 8080 chip, and as the Intel-PC-Windows paradigm has emerged, I've stuck to that course.

Through those years, I've considered switching tracks to the Mac world three times.

Once was in 1984, when the first cute, new Macintosh appeared, complete with snazzy ad. I tried it and thought: underpowered for what I want to do. Next was in 1989, when I moved back from Japan and reconsidered my computing life. Then I thought: still a little underpowered, still a little expensive, still not worth the shift of all these years of habits and documents. At the time I only had a little more than a decade's worth of data to shift. If only I'd known!

The latest time was two years ago, when the Atlantic chose a Mac-only version of a production system available in Mac and PC versions. Go figure. At that time I thought: I'm too busy to switch, and anyway do I want to knuckle under and accept the system The Man is forcing on me?

All the while I had Macs in the household, and I kept noticing (and writing about) the emergence of "interesting" Mac software of the kind I liked on the PC. For instance: Tinderbox, DevonThink, Scrivener, Aquaminds NoteTaker and NoteShare, OmniOutliner, and several more.

I think a fourth time is coming, and it's thanks to Vista. It's been nearly a year and a half since I tried a beta version of Vista, and coming on a year since I got the release version. It's still slow, it's still unreliable, it's already persuaded me to shift much of my work back to an XP machine. And so -- why not? Since the new Intel Macs can run the Windows programs I think I can't do without, why not at least give the Mac world another serious try?

So on the next trip to the US I'll probably get an Intel-powered MacBook Pro. (I don't like buying electronic hardware in China. If it's legit, it probably costs more than in the US. If it's not legit, you're asking for trouble.) My current iBook can't run Windows programs; a new one could.

I don't believe in the "New Jesus" theory of either hardware or software. There is something wrong with every program or machine I've ever tried. There will be something wrong with the newest Mac. Probably I won't end up making the full switch. Each time before I've come to the brink and concluded: nah, not worth the trouble. But the time is right to make one more try. Life is too short to spend five minutes waiting for a Vista machine to come out of hibernation. Also, it's too much fun trying new programs and, well, toys.

(Update: click here for a Dell-Microsoft podcast on the exciting advantages of switching to Vista!)

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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