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Hands On: Apple Macintosh Computers (part 3)

If you haven’t used a Mac before then you won’t believe how simple and sensible it is. It’s not as simple and sensible as computers that will probably be invented a decade or two into the next century, but comparing it to MSDOS or Windows is like comparing a CD player to a wind up gramophone...

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How it Works

If you haven’t used a Mac before then you won’t believe how simple and sensible it is. It’s not as simple and sensible as computers that will probably be invented a decade or two into the next century, but comparing it to MSDOS or Windows is like comparing a CD player to a wind up gramophone. Even people who can’t change a fuse can use it - and don’t let any computer nerd tell you this isn’t the way things should be. The Atari operating system is fairly easy to use and is similar to the Mac, but once you have used the Mac you’ll see how many features Atari had to leave out to get round Apple’s patents and copyrights.

Figure 1 shows an opening screen - the desktop - similar to what you will see on the SE or Classic you have connived your way into experimenting with. At the top left is the expected menu bar. At the top right is a clock which is a software addition to my system and appears in most programs but not Cubase (but who cares about time when you’re making music?). The Mac icon next to the clock shows that MultiFinder is active, which means that you can have more than one program active at the same time. (Knowledgeable readers will have noticed that this computer is running System 6 rather than System 7 - I have explained why in a sidebar). Beneath these are two icons for hard disks, one is the internal disk and the other is my removable optical disk, which the Mac regards as a huge floppy. If I had been using a floppy disk then that would appear on the desktop too. (The ‘DM’ in the icons is there because I used Disk Manager software to install the optical disk - I didn’t have them personally monogrammed!). Any disk can be named simply by clicking on the icon with the mouse and typing in the new name. You can edit the existing name by clicking on that. Disk management is a strong feature; the floppy disk drive is motorised so once you put the disk in, the system takes over for you. If the software wants you to change disks, you will be prompted for the new disk by its name, and the wrong one won’t do. If you eject a disk yourself (by pressing Apple-E), its grey outline will remain, and also any windows you had opened from that disk. You can have several of these outlines on the desktop at any time to assist your disk navigation. To eject a disk and remove the outline, drag the disk icon to the wastebasket - note that this doesn’t erase the disk, you would be forgiven for thinking that it might.

You’ll notice from Figures 1 and 2 that the icons are rather more meaningful than those that appear on the screen of the Atari. What’s more, you can move them round to anywhere on the screen. If you don’t like icons then you can have a list, as shown in Figure 3, which gives you all the data you need including the last modification date (you can access the date of creation using the Get Info command in the File menu). I’ll leave you to speculate why three of my files are dated 2nd January 1904! Interesting features about the Mac’s windows include the fact that the scroll bars scroll properly (not like on earlier Atari operating systems); that if you click the full size icon at the top right, then the window remembers the size and position it had and returns correctly when you click the icon again. Perhaps the most important feature is that, as you can see, file names can be up to 31 characters and can include capital letters and spaces. This one simple feature, in my opinion, elevates the Mac way above other computers because I can see from the file name what the file actually is. I currently have over a thousand files on my hard disk and I really do prefer the ‘Fast delicate classical’ of Figure 3 to ‘FSTDLCLS.SNG’, which it would be in Windows or on an Atari.

By David Mellor Tuesday August 29, 2006
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