Need ammunition for the Mac versus PC debate? Macworld columnist Cary Lu weighs in with a solid article on computing’s decade-old holy war. Also this week: software giant Adobe makes eyes at Frame, information on new versions of eWorld and ClarisWorks, and details on the AppleDesign Keyboard and the 6100 DOS Compatible. Finally, we have the conclusion of Luciano Floridi’s article, focussing on problems likely to result from the Internet’s explosive growth.
Adobe Hoping to Frame Unix Market — Another nibble in the computing industry’s recent tendency to purchase major parts of itself: Adobe System announced last Thursday it was making a $500 million bid for Frame Technology, makers of FrameMaker, a high-end publishing package primarily used for lengthy technical documents. With its recent acquisition of Aldus and PageMaker, why would Adobe be interested in another publishing package? The answer is Unix. Adobe products sell well into the Mac and Windows markets, but are virtually non-existent in the Unix arena. Conversely, an estimated 70 percent of Frame’s business is in the Unix market. However, Wall Street didn’t seem to agree with Adobe, whose stock fell significantly the day after the offer was announced. [GD]
Apple Design Keyboard Conflict — Thanks to Jim Mueller <[email protected]> for posting the details of the conflict between the Apple Design Keyboard and the DOS Compatible card for the Power Mac 6100 (Steven Lee mentioned this briefly in his article in TidBITS-282). Apparently, if your Apple Design Keyboard has a serial number starting with the letters PK, you may experience the problem, which is that if you hold down the right-hand Shift key and type while using DOS or Windows, the first character won’t appear. Call 800/SOS-APPL or contact your dealer for a replacement keyboard. [ACE]
ClarisWorks Turns Four — ClarisWorks 4.0 for the Macintosh is now shipping, and upgrades are available for $49 (list price is $129). The Windows version of ClarisWorks 4.0 is slated for release before the end of 1995 and will have the same interface as the Macintosh version. ClarisWorks 4.0 requires System 7, and runs on any 68020-based Macintosh or newer. New features include a new way of doing styles, called ExpressStyle; an HTML translation tool; general improvements and easier report generation in the database module; and WorldScript support. Overall, and especially given the price, the feature set looks impressive. My only quibble is that Claris hasn’t yet updated their Web site to provide information and a demo about for new version. [TJE]
Claris — 408/987-7000 — 800/544-8554
eWorld Turns One — To note the one-year anniversary of its eWorld online service, Apple announced version 1.1 of the eWorld client software, which should be available online via eWorld and will also be pre-installed on Macintoshes in all countries where eWorld is available. Users of this new version will have access to Usenet and Internet FTP within a few weeks, and Web access is scheduled to become available in July. The new client software is also supposed to incorporate new multimedia capabilities and a sophisticated email agent allowing filters and automatic responses. Apple also announced it is moving its employees to eWorld from AppleLink, with all AppleLink subscribers expected to be moved over by the end of the calendar year. [GD]
Microsoft Antitrust Victory — On 16-Jun-95, a federal appeals court ruled that an agreement between Microsoft and the Department of Justice regarding the company’s software-licensing practices be approved. (See TidBITS-264.) In an unusual move, U.S. District Judge Stanley Sporkin – who had rejected the agreement in February – was removed from the case and the matter was assigned to another district judge who was ordered to approve the settlement. Microsoft argued that Judge Sporkin was biased against the company; apparently the appeals court agreed, saying he had overstepped his authority. This effectively ends the antitrust action against Microsoft’s software licensing policies, and Microsoft officials were pleased with the decision. However, Microsoft may not be entirely out of the antitrust shadow. The Justice Department has been requesting information from both Microsoft and its competitors regarding the upcoming Microsoft Network, and the European Commission announced last week that it’s examining whether Microsoft Network would harm competition within the European Union. [GD]
[Published in the Seattle Times, June 18, 1995. Revised June 26 to include support numbers from Microsoft. Copyright 1995 by Cary Lu. This article may be freely copied and distributed in paper and electronic form without charge if this copyright paragraph is included.]
The battle between proponents of Macintosh and IBM PC computers has for many years resembled a religious war, and as in all religious wars, much of the rhetoric has been driven more by ignorance than knowledge. Very few people are truly skilled with both Macs and PC. Since PCs outsell Macs by a wide margin – seven to one or more – most people with computer experience actually know only about DOS and Microsoft Windows on an IBM PC or clone.
Not surprisingly then, if you ask which computer should you buy, the most common answer – from computer sales people, data processing managers, and newspaper columnists – is a PC. But before you take that advice, ask if your adviser actually uses both Macs and PCs. If he or she knows only one system well, consider the advice suspect. Steer clear of PC bigots and Mac bigots who use jargon: "Only PCs support true pre-emptive multitasking and multiple processors." "Only Macs have dual-channel SCSI for fast disk arrays." These techie issues are irrelevant for most users; in any event both systems will offer all these features in the coming months.
Which computer do I recommend? I think you should get the same kind of computer that your most technically astute friend uses – a friend you can call at midnight on Sunday when you really get stuck. If you buy a Mac, you won’t need an expert, since you won’t get stuck nearly as often. And if you don’t have a technical friend, you will be much better off with a Mac – with some exceptions that I will discuss later.
Troubleshooting and Multimedia — Is the Mac really that much easier to use? Consider this: One quarter of all the questions that Patrick Marshall has answered in his Q&A column in the Seattle Times deals with PC problems that never occur on a Macintosh. Macintosh users never have to deal with memory management, interrupts, DMA channels, or a SYSTEM.INI file. Inside a Mac, there are no jumpers to set, either on the main board or on the vast majority of accessories.
PC users have to learn these details or else they can’t get software to run. The computer industry estimates that PC users have trouble running 25 to 35 percent of multimedia CD-ROMs. I’m accustomed to trouble. This morning, I installed a CD-ROM for my five-year-old on my Pentium computer and got a message: "Increase DMABuffer Size." I doubt if most PC users would know how to respond; what’s more, no message explained two additional problems beyond the DMABuffer size. Through long experience, I have learned most of the hundreds of technical tricks necessary to get CD-ROMs running on a PC, although a few discs still have me stumped. Surveys show that PC users rarely buy CD-ROMs. A CD-ROM on a PC is too often like a book with pages glued together or illustrations torn out.
CD-ROM installation problems are almost unheard of on a Mac, aside from a simple free update for recent system software (Apple’s Multimedia Tuner). Three other problems are easy to understand – CD-ROMs that need color won’t run on a black-and-white Mac, a few CD-ROMs need more memory than the simplest Macs have, and some Mac screens are too small to show a standard CD-ROM image. I’ve just answered the bulk of all Mac CD-ROM installation questions. In the past five years, I have not seen a single incompatible or even difficult-to-install CD-ROM on a Mac. Because no one has to learn any tricks, Mac users buy discs without trepidation. As a result, CD-ROM publishers find that Mac users buy CD-ROMs out of proportion to the Mac’s market share.
Support & the Software Question — David Billstorm, president of Media Mosaic and publisher of Mountain Biking and other outdoor recreation CD-ROMs, tells me that 40 percent of sales are for Macs. Yet PC buyers call for technical support far more often than Mac buyers. Although both Mac and PC versions have the same price, Media Mosaic makes more money from the Mac versions because the cost of answering a single call can wipe out any profit from the sale. For Microsoft’s CD-ROM titles, PC users call for help at least three times as often as Mac users; on some titles, PC users need help nearly ten times as often (1994 figures, corrected for the relative numbers of PC and Mac users). On Christmas day, none of my Mac friends called with problems; several PC friends called (and each one started by apologizing, "The support lines aren’t open today…")
The Mac is not completely free of software conflicts, especially for enthusiasts who tend to like complexity. But the conflicts are usually resolved by simply moving clearly labeled icons from one folder to another; if you make a mistake, you just move the icon back. On a PC, you must use far more difficult techniques – editing cryptic files (WIN.INI, AUTOEXEC.BAT, etc.), setting environment variables, adjusting memory locations, changing command-line switches in drivers. If you make a mistake, the computer may refuse to start.
In the past year, the hottest new category of Windows software has been "uninstall" utilities, programs that can remove Windows software. Windows and Windows software can put dozens or even hundreds of files on a hard disk; a person can’t keep track of the files without help from another computer program. The Mac neither has nor needs an equivalent utility; removing a program is usually simple and besides, every file is identified by its type and the program that created it.
Quite aside from utilities, more software is available for the PC than for the Mac. You may have a specialized need that can be met only by a PC, particularly for business applications. In a few areas, particularly graphics, the Mac leads. For the vast majority of users, and certainly for anyone buying a family computer, there is no significant difference in the applications – word processors and so on – available for either system.
Microsoft’s applications and many other major programs come in both PC and Mac versions. The PC version may come out first, presumably because the publisher wants to reach the larger group of customers first. The real reasons may not be obvious. Aldus (now Adobe) PageMaker, a program that was originally developed for the Mac, came out in a version 5.0 first for Windows. The project manager explained to me that the programmers disliked Windows intensely. Aldus management insisted on the Windows version first, because if the programmers were allowed to finish the Mac version first, they might never finish the Windows version.
For Novices or Experts? Although the Mac has obvious appeal to the computer novice, the people who really understand computers also tend to prefer Macs. At the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, most of the new, unfinished multimedia computer software – even software destined for PCs – was demonstrated on Macs rather than PCs. Famed supercomputer designer Seymour Cray uses a Mac. Two division heads for major PC clone companies called me independently last year; they were leaving their companies and wanted to know which Macs to buy for their new startups. I know of three companies in the Portland area started in the past year by former Intel managers. Two of the three companies chose Macs as their principal computers. (Intel makes most of the CPU chips, such as the Pentium, that drive Windows computers.)
Corporate data processing (DP) managers generally prefer PCs; most have little experience with Macs. PCs do ensure full employment for the DP staff. At Intel, where many employees are true computer experts, the DP department figures on one support person for every 30 Windows computers. The DP department was astonished to learn that one Intel division had 120 Macs and got along fine with a single support person. Mac users rarely have problems, and when they do, the answers usually come from other users rather than from the DP department.
The hidden cost of support – and perhaps frustration – at least partially offsets the Mac’s higher prices. The price gap has narrowed, but it will never close completely. Macs come with more standard features – all Macs, including laptops, have sound and networking built in. Apple has usually – but not always – used higher quality components than the average PC clone. PC accessories are generally cheaper, but then I’ve seen a lot of bad keyboards and fuzzy monitors on PC clones. A good monitor costs the same for either system. Ultimately, Apple spends more money; it makes major investments in research and development. For the typical PC clone company, R&D consists of reading spec sheets from Taiwan.
Macs have a longer useful lifetime. I use a five-year-old Mac to play today’s multimedia CD-ROMs without difficulty. In the past five years on my PC, I’ve had to change the CPU twice, the video card twice, the motherboard twice, and the sound board once, just to play ordinary discs. (I also switched to double-speed CD-ROM drives on both systems.)
Apple has made many strategic errors. The first Macintosh clones are only now beginning to appear. Ten years ago, I called for Apple to license the Mac operating system at a MacWorld Expo keynote panel. Many in the audience hissed at my remarks. Yet by refusing to license the Mac system early, Apple made the enormous success of Microsoft Windows possible.
Within the computer industry, the description "more like a Macintosh" is always high praise. The description "more like Windows" is rarely used as praise, except perhaps in contrast to "more like DOS."
Microsoft tells everyone that its forthcoming Windows 95 is more like a Macintosh. The key features of Windows 95 – long file names, plug-and-play hardware installation, direct file display – have been on the Mac for eleven years. Yet despite much clever engineering by Microsoft, Windows 95 cannot overcome the chaos inherent to the PC world, both for hardware and for the need now to run three wildly different operating systems and application software (for DOS, Windows 3.1, and Windows 95). Mac users have never had to cope with such jarring changes.
Microsoft’s genius lies in getting things to work – more or less – despite the PC chaos. Apple’s genius lies in getting so many things right in its fundamental Macintosh design and avoiding chaos.
Cary Lu is a contributing editor to Macworld magazine and writes about PCs for several other magazines. He is a Windows 95 beta tester. He wrote The Apple Macintosh Book (Microsoft Press).
[Note: we thank Professor Floridi for kind permission to reprint this material, which is a shortened version of a paper he gave at a UNESCO Conference in Paris, March 14-17, 1995.]
Part Three: The Problems
In the previous two parts of this article, I argued for an understanding of the Internet as a new stage in the growth of the Human Encyclopedia, and showed how it allows us to do new kinds of research by asking third-level (ideometric) questions about our data. Here, we turn to new problems that the growth of a network of information and communication has already caused or soon will give rise to.
There are at least ten principal issues worthy of attention. I shall deal with them in what I take to be their approximate order of importance.
(1) The Devaluation of The Book — We have already entered the stage where digital information is preferred over non-digital, not because of its quality, but simply because it is available online. However, the more resources that undergo the conversion, the less serious this problem will become.
(2) The Devaluation of Information Processes — The Internet helps to satisfy an ever-growing demand for information. In this process, the use value of information has increased steadily, in parallel with the complexity of the system, but its exchange value has been subject to a radical modification. Because of the great and rapid availability of data, Internet has caused a devaluation of some intellectual enterprises – such as compilations, collections of images, bibliographical volumes and so forth – whose original high value depended mainly on the correspondingly high degree of inaccessibility that afflicted information in the book era.
Today, much of the raw data that in the past had to be collected at great expense of time and energy are freely available on the Internet. The result is that the era of the great collections on paper is practically over.
(3) Failure to Acknowledge New Scholarly Enterprise — So far, Academe has been slow in recognizing that new forms of scholarly activity have appeared, like moderating a discussion list, keeping an online bibliography constantly updated, or publishing a paper in an electronic journal. The sooner such activities are properly recognized and evaluated, the easier it will become for individuals to dedicate more time and effort to the digital encyclopedia, and the more the encyclopedia will improve.
(4) Too Much Knowledge to Access — A fundamental imbalance – between the extraordinary breadth of the system and the limited amount of knowledge that can be accessed by an individual mind at any one time – arises because the quantity of information potentially available on Internet has increased beyond control, whereas the technology whereby the network actually allows us to retrieve our data has improved much more slowly. The result is that we are once again far from being capable of taking full advantage of the full extent of our digital encyclopedia.
The challenge of the next few years will consist in narrowing the gap between quantity of information and speed of access, even as the former increases. Projects like the American Information Superhighway, or SuperJANET in Great Britain, are of the highest importance in this regard. However, we should keep in mind that closing the gap completely is impossible because of the very nature of the Encyclopedia.
(5) Too Much Accessible Knowledge to Manage — This is the problem of "infoglut," as BYTE has called it. Throughout past history there was always a shortage of data, which led to a voracious attitude towards information. Today, we face the opposite risk of being overwhelmed by an unrestrained, and sometimes superfluous, profusion of data. No longer is "the more the better." If knowledge is food for then mind, then for the individual mind to survive in an intellectual environment where exposure to the Human Encyclopedia is greater than ever before, for the first time in the history of thought we desperately need to learn how to balance our diet.
Without a new culture of selection – and tools that can help us filter, select, and refine what we are looking for – the Internet will become a labyrinth which researchers will either refrain from entering or in which they will lose themselves. One can only hope that the care exercised today during the conversion of organized knowledge into a digital macrocosm will soon be paralleled by equally close attention to the development of efficient and economical ways to select and retrieve the information we need. In data-retrieval, brute force does not work any longer: we need intelligence. The Internet needs to be improved by the inclusion of expert systems.
(6) The Threat to Paper — Some libraries are destroying their card catalogues after having replaced them with OPACs (online public access catalogs). This is as unacceptable as would have been the practice of destroying medieval manuscripts after an editio princeps was printed during the Renaissance. We need to preserve the sources of information after the digitalization in order to keep our memory alive. The development of a digital encyclopedia should not represent a parricide.
(7) Some Knowledge Exists Only Digitally — Because for large sectors of the new encyclopedia there will be no paper epiphany, access to the network will have to be universally granted in order to avoid the rise of a new technological elite.
(8) The New Illiteracy — Information Technology is the new language of organized knowledge. Therefore elements of that language must become part of the minimal literacy of any human being, if free access to information is to remain a universal right.
(9) The Internet as Rubbish Heap — Because the Internet is a free space where anybody can post anything, organized knowledge could easily get corrupted, lost in a sea of junk data. In the book age, the relation between writer and reader was and is still clear and mediated by cultural and economic filters – e.g., you won’t get published if what you say isn’t somehow "true." For all their faults, such filters do provide some positive selection. On the Internet, the relation between producer and consumer of information is direct, so nothing protects the latter from corrupt information.
Now, there is much to be said in favor of the free exchange of information on the network, and I believe that any producer of data should be free to make it available online. But I think every user should also be protected from corrupt knowledge by an intermediary service, if she wishes. Unless academic and cultural institutions provide some form of quality control, we may no longer be able to distinguish between the intellectual space of knowledge and a polluted environment of junk.
(10) Decentralization Means Fragmentation — By converting the encyclopedia into an electronic space, we risk transforming the new body of knowledge into a disjointed monster, rather than an efficient and flexible system. The Internet has developed in a chaotic (if dynamic) way, and today suffers from a regrettable lack of global organization, uniformity, and strategic planning. While we entrust ever more vast regions of the Human Encyclopedia to the global network, we are also leaving the Internet itself in a thoroughly anarchic state. Efforts at coordination are left to occasional initiatives by commendable individuals, or to important volunteer organizations, but this is insufficient to guarantee that in a few decades organized knowledge will not be lost in a labyrinth of millions of virtual repositories, while energies and funds have been wasted in overlapping projects.
The Internet has been described as a library where at the moment there is no catalogue, books on the shelves keep moving, and an extra truckload of books is dumped in the entrance hall every hour. Unless it is properly structured and constantly monitored, the positive feature of radical decentralization of knowledge will degenerate into a medieval fragmentation of the body of knowledge, which in turn means a virtual loss of information. Already it is no longer possible to rely on the speed of our networked tools to browse the whole space of knowledge and collect our information in a reasonably short time. If global plans are disregarded or postponed and financial commitments delayed, the risk is that information may well become no easier to find on the network than the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Some people have compared the invention of the computer to the invention of printing. To some extent the comparison is misleading: the appearance of the printed book belongs to the process of consolidation and enlargement of our intellectual space, whereas the revolutionary character of Information Technology has rested on making possible a new way of navigating through such a space. But in one important sense they are similar: in the same way as the invention of printing led to the constitution of national copyright libraries to coordinate and organize the production of knowledge in each country, so Internet needs a coordinated info-structure.
The Info-Structure — The info-structure would consist of centers making coordinated efforts to fulfill the following five tasks:
- guarantee the reliability and integrity of the digital encyclopedia;
- provide constant access to it without discrimination, thus granting a universal right to information;
- deliver a continually updated map to the digital universe of thought;
- expand the numbers of primary, secondary, and derivative resources available online, especially those that won’t attract commercial operators;
- support and improve the methods and tools whereby the Encyclopedia is converted into a digital domain, and whereby networked information is stored, accessed, retrieved, and manipulated.
I’m not advocating the creation of some international bureau for the management of the Internet, a sort of digital Big Brother. Nor have I any wish to see national organisms take control of our new electronic frontier. Such projects, besides being impossible to realize, would be contrary to fundamental rights of freedom of communication, of thought, and of information. Far from it, I believe in the complete liberty and refreshing anarchy of the network.
What I’m suggesting is that Internet is like a new country, with a growing population of millions of well-educated citizens, and that as such it does not need a highway patrol. However, it will have to provide itself with a kind of Virtual National Library system (which could be as dynamic as the world of information) if it wants to keep track of its own cultural achievements in real time, and hence be able to advance into the third millennium in full control of its own potential. It is to be hoped that non-national institutions (such as UNESCO) may soon be willing to promote and coordinate such a global service, which is essential in order to make possible an efficient management of human knowledge on a global scale.