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operating system

The average user, insofar as such a beast exists, is more concerned with the applications he uses than with the o/s they run on. This explains the inexorable rise of Windows - the bandwagon reached cruising speed and developers not unreasonably leapt aboard.
O/005

Of course there's more to life than Windows! Many people, not all of whom wear beards and braces (or even suspenders, but Americans are funny that way) are determined and evangelical supporters of Unix in all its flavours; many people, not all of whom wear tie-died tee-shirts or stick paintbrushes absent-mindedly behind their ears, are similarly fervent in their support for the Mac.

Who am I to disagree with either? The very first time I had anything to do with a computer, I had to submit my 'hello, world' on a stack of punchcards and come back the next day for the answer. The first time I encountered a PC, it was running cp/m. ("It is considered gauche to try and pronounce the /.") I could go on and list all the operating systems I've cursed over the years, but feel that would be interesting reading only for a rather small minority. Have some subjective and partial judgements instead – they are the stuff this site is made of. Alphabetical order rules, of course.

Amiga
The last time I upgraded Baldric, my faithful A2000, the O/S came on a ROM and four DD diskettes: and still handled interrupt-driven multi-tasking and a GUI. Small, so long as it works, is beautiful. I shall be interested to see what comes of the rumours that assert the compact Amiga o/s is due to show in a million set-top boxes.
Mac
User-friendly, certainly, but at a price: Mac users need three hands, one of which has only one finger and is used to drive the mouse. They also need extra memory (or little labels on the keyboard) to help them distinguish Command from Option. Personally, I miss the command line: try renaming a dozen files from .asc to.txt, for example.
They deserve some sort of Golden Prune award for the bold and innovative design that put the power on/off button on the Power Macs just where the PC users they were hoping to capture automatically went to eject a diskette. Yes, I did, and then the machine had the gall to tell me I hadn't shut it down properly ...
OS/2
The Edsel of operating systems? No, more the 2CV! remarkably robust innards are concealed behind a remarkably lumpen and unattractive exterior, and there are some – but not many – people coming up with bolt-on goodies and go-faster stripes. Abandoning metaphor, OS/2 is desperately short of applications. Buying Lotus did not help, as that just delivers a set of also-rans: if it delivers at all. WordPro for OS/2? I wouldn't advise it.
It's a shame, really it is. Real competition would be good for Microsoft and good for users.
Pick
My first commercial job as a technical author introduced me to Pick; I started by writing myself a guide to its integrated word-processing software, a document which won approval from the man who had written the application and the accolade of samizdat photocopies from users. I haven't seen anything of it for years, but remember it as both powerful and compact: we had one client running a full set of office accounting apps with five simultaneous users and a printer, on an Apricot '386 Being character-based probably helped, of course.
Having once got my head round Pick's data and data dictionary way of doing things, I have never managed to make any headway with SQL. Happy revenge while I was working at the EEC, though, and stopped to say hello to someone struggling to print out envelope labels. She was just a tad peeved when I helpfully offered the two lines of Access (Pick's query language) needed to do the trick.
Windows
Shall we say, resource-hungry? Shall we say, a little prone to stumbling? Shall we say, not really an o/s at all – so far as I understand, even W95 is still a shell on top of DOS. But I'll forgive it a lot, because it does let me run UltraEdit and PaintShop Pro.


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