Most of my life, I’ve been a PC guy. As a kid, I learned how to read floppy disks to find my favourite games from the command prompt.
After the days of DOS were over, I moved to Windows 3.1 and all the good things that came with it – like Solitaire and Minesweeper. Once I knew the ins and outs of the operating system, I started to learn about the system itself.
One of the arguments often lobbed at PCs by Mac users is that they’re too complicated. A Mac, they say, “just works” inside an attractively designed case. I would argue that one can learn an awful lot about how computers (Mac or PC) work by opening up the case and poking around a bit. Hard drives, CPUs, chips and switches are essential no matter what software you’re running on top of them.
I can proudly say that on several occasions, I’ve been able to cobble together a collection of spare parts and actually build a Frankenstein PC out of them.
Here are the basic ingredients you need to construct a working computer:
- Hard Drive
- RAM (Memory)
- Operating System (Usually a bootable Windows CD)
- Display (a screen of some kind)
These zombie boxes almost never started on the first try; I’d have to open it back up again and troubleshoot it to figure out what went wrong. But the satisfaction I got when I actually saw something on the screen was incredible; and little did I know I was gaining valuable experience in Desktop Support, a field I would end up working in for several years.
The Times, They Are A-Changin
The late, great Steve Jobs may end up having more of an impact on computing than his friend and competitor, Bill Gates. Gates made billions getting Windows into homes, schools, and workplaces. Apple Computer, for a time, looked like it was going to be left behind. Then Jobs came along and redesigned the company to be hip and portable.
The first MP3 player I ever had was called an iRiver. A 32 megabyte hard drive was considered decent at the time, 64 being ideal but significantly more expensive. Then iPods came along and blew the iRiver, along with Creative’s Zen and Microsoft’s Zune right out of the water. Sleek design and a simple interface your grandma could learn made people completely reconsider their expectations of computers and peripherals.
My Phone? iPhone.
Those early models of iPod eventually became iPod Touches, which quickly evolved into iPhones and iPads. I’ve owned a variety of different cell phones; a Nokia, two Motorolas, and a Sony-Ericsson. All of these phones eventually suffered from stuck buttons or unreliable software.
Just last week I finally caved and got an iPhone 4 – A few buttons on the outside, and everything else is touchscreen. Simple, elegant, but also efficient and versatile. The blank canvas provided by the high-resolution touch screen means that application developers can place buttons wherever they want.
In closing, I learned a heck of a lot about computers from building them from the ground up. It was cheaper and more fun than just buying something off the shelf. However, after several years working in Desktop Support and recently switching to an iPhone, I have to admit – I’m a fan any device that “just works.”