or not?

Written by Ingemar Ragnemalm.

Are we having fun yet?

Some people say that the PC has caught up with the Mac. I say that the biggest problem is that the Mac has caught up with the PC, in a negative way.

You may accuse me of longing for the good old days. In some sense I do, but not blindly. If you, like me, have been in the business for some time, think about it. What progress did you really, really want, and what did you get?

What I wanted and got:


Yes, I want faster processors. I want numeric co-processors. I want a gigahertz Mac. I don't want to stay with 8 MHz or even 16 or 60.

Better screens

Yes, I like my 1024x768 TFT screen much, much better than the 9" B/W screen. Absolutely. Bigger size, more pixels, more colors, less radiation, and light-weight. Lovely! I'll consider the 18" TFT's when I can afford them.

Low noise

This is the reason why I finally bought an iMac. It is silent. The older PowerMac I write this on is noisy, just like my old SE.

Bigger disks

Yes please. 45 gigabytes would be nice. And a DVD writer.

Modern peripherals

I sure like my new Epson 1270 better than the old Color StyleWriter. I'm planning to get a better scanner and a better laser printer. My CDR-writer is important, and my Zip drives are getting outdated.

What I got but don't care about:

Fancy 3D buttons

Who cares? You look at them once, say "ooh" and then get used to them. System 7 look, System 8 look, Aqua... what do I care? What I care about is that a button is a button, and when I click on it, something happens.

Semi-transparent colorful plastic

Fun, but I don't buy a computer for its color, especially not a stationary one. The iMac is cute, but I look at what is on the screen, not on the box. It is a tool. I don't mind the colors, but I don't need them.

What I got but definitely didn't want:


What's the advantage, to me as a user, to have a system built from hundreds of components, with dependencies that nobody can keep track of? Just look at the standard list of control panels and extensions! The Control panels menu fills the whole screen height! Compare that with the oldest systems. Is that progress? By this, I accuse Apple of having gradually lowered the user friendliness!

A truly user friendly system should be made so simple that anyone can manage it. Not just run programs, but manage it! The old Mac was that simple. Anyone could make him/herself enough expert in little time. Since then, features have been added, features that could often have been optional. The complexity makes computer use less fun, you feel increasingly helpless, and the system is increasingly likely to break!

DLL Hell

One of the biggest problems with complexity is DLL Hell. The big problem here is what I call Death by Installation. I feel scared when I install new software. I fear that it may make other programs stop working. This happens, frequently. The biggest sinners are Game Sprockets. The technology that was ment to make the Mac a better gaming platform is stopping me from buying more games! I know that new games are likely to make my old favourites fail. So, instead I play less games, and consider a PlayStation, which I expect to have no such problems.

When it doesn't work, it isn't good! Is that hard to understand?


The problem with DLL Hell is that non-stable software is appointed system software, re-used before it is ready for re-using. Then it is updated over and over again, and too many installers will happily install an older version over the new one.

This is bad. But why are they doing it? They, the developers, are re-using code. There is a belief in re-using code that is way over the limit to religious activities. It is the way you are supposed to work, so they do, and the result is problems. The first problems came with QuickTime, and it has grown worse every year.

So what should they do? Easy! All new programming libraries that aren't device drivers should be linked, statically, with applications, until the technology is so 100% stable that it can be rolled into the next system version with no risk for incompatible updates. Updates are made in big chunks, as new, add-on libraries rather than new versions.

Won't that make applications bigger? Nope! The total change in disk space and system resources is likely to be similar or less! Any single application is likely to use only a fraction of what a library like QuickTime offers, and static linking will only include what is actually used. And who cares if the application is a bit big, if it means that it works?

Apple likes to market technologies, like QuickTime, that add capabilities to your computer. This is an awful idea. QuickTime was only confusing, an extremely boring memory-consumer, until major QT-using applications came along. If focus had been on those applications, statically linked with QuickTime, we had been less confused, more impressed, had not scrapped QuickTime for the RAM it consumed when not being used, and been more satisfied.

New technologies the wrong way

Yes, I think QuickTime, OpenGL, QuickTime VR etc are good things. Many new technologies have been developed, and I want them. But, again, not as extensions and shared libraries!


In the 80's, applications were often atomic. They were one single file. You could move that file anywhere you like. MacWrite is MacWrite whereever you place it.

Applications have gotten more and more prone to litter your disk. They often come with mandatory files that must be in a specific place near the application. They put "preference files" in the system folder, which is kind of OK, but could have been handled better. But the worst ones even put files in your top folder, or in your Apple menu.

Face it, atomic applications is a good thing! Any application that can be done that way should be done that way. If it can't be done in a single file, it can at least be done in as few files as possible. So what if a file becomes a megabyte or two in size?

What I still havn't got

Memory protection

This has been my #1 wish for new MacOS versions since the late 80's. We are finally getting it, in MacOS X, but to what price?

MacOS X is not simpler. It is more complex. The Unix people will like it, since it has the complex hierarchy of cryptic file and folder names that they are used to.

And it may get worse before it gets better

I heard Apple plans to phase out the "resource" concept. That means it will get harder and harder to make those nice "atomic" applications. All applications will have hundreds of files, and if you move a single one, you will have to re-install... What we will get is something like a Sun, but with a prettier look.

Is this what we wanted?

Copyright ©2001 Ingemar Ragnemalm.

Written: January-2001