Out Of The Apple Cart
My Mac Magazine #35, March ’98

So I counted. I found that rather than being devastated at the lack of new Mac/Win stuff this year, I could hardly keep from smiling as I noted the paltry selection for the old ‘gotta be Microsoft’ crowd. By the way: Mr.(or Ms.) 486 is an amalgamation of all those media mavens, coworkers, friends and relatives-mine’s named Uncle Mikey, how about yours-that attack us like Minnesota mosquitoes every time we mention our Macs. Hey, Mikey. Let’s go shopping.

“Got us a new Windows machine a couple years back,” says Mr. 486sx25, as we bump into each other at Best Buy just before Christmas. “It’s one of those Microsoft/Intel things you see on TV. You can be sure we won’t be obsolete anytime soon. Compatibility! That’s the name of the game. And, speaking of games,” he grins, “I’m after some new games and stuff for the wife and kids. Gotta keep ’em up with technology.”

He throws a sneer over his shoulder toward the admittedly anemic Macintosh aisle at Best Buy where I have been doing my regular stint at evangelizing. He’s been listening in. “Don’t you know the Mac is dead? That Apple stuff’s obsolete before you get it out of the box! Wanta be compatible? Stick with Microsoft!”

I bite my tongue. I’d rather bite him, but I’m cool. “So what did you have in mind,” I say as we head toward the software. I’ve been casing the games area of late and have a pretty good idea how things stand.

“Well, the older boy is into Star Wars,” says Dad. “He’s got just about everything there is already, but… Ah, here’s that new Star Wars game. Joe Jr. really wants this one,” he says, reaching for Lucas Arts’, ‘Shadows of the Empire’. “They don’t even make this for the Mac, ya know!”

They don’t make it for Mr. 486 either. “Better check the label before you buy,” I say. Always there to help a friend. Surprised, he turns the box over and starts to sputter.

“Win 95!” He says. “But we don’t have Win 95. I don’t think Win 95 will even run right on my machine.” Sad,but true. Though I hear that OS 8 manages to run on all sorts of Macs and every Mac I’ve known handles 7.+ like a pro, I don’t say a word. Remember, I’m cool.

He squinches up his eyes and reads the fine print. “Pentium 90!” He chokes. “Pentium 133 preferred! What do they think, anyway, that I’m going to shell out for a new computer every year or so just to keep my kid in Star Wars stuff?”

Actually, that’s just what they do think. Could be one reason that technology sales don’t necessarily live up to expectations. Software R&D (and maybe Wall Street) is apparently made up of game playing guys with lots of discretionary income.

Compatibility is not a name thing. It’s a game thing. A software thing. You can’t run it? You’re dead-Intel inside or not. In fact, though I don’t say so, Mr. 486 can thank Intel for his early demise. Once Cyrix and AMD chips started breathing down Intel’s profit margins, they abandoned him and his 486 brethren like a 5 1/4 inch floppy. Can you say ‘Backwards Compatibility’? How about ‘Planned Obsolescence’?

But all I actually say is, “Well, there is that new ‘Star Wars Monopoly’ game. It won’t run on my Mac, of course. It’s only for Windows.” Okay, so I’m evil. I head us off toward Hasbro.

“I don’t think this is quite what Joe Jr. had in mind,” says Dad, “But…” He picks up the box and starts sputtering all over again. “Windows 95 / Pentium 90!” He shoves the box back on the shelf and grabs a copy of ‘Battleship’. Win 95! ‘Risk’: Win 95! ‘Boggle’: Win 95! ‘Frogger’: Win 95 and a Pentium to boot! Anyone for plain vanilla ‘Monopoly’?

Oops. ‘Monopoly’, plain vanilla, only requires Win 3.1, but will Dad’s 486sx25 handle the 486/33 demands? We’ll never know. ‘Plain Vanilla Monopoly’ was not on the shopping list.

Disconcerted, but still game, Dad says. “Maybe we’ll skip Joe for now. But Suzy’s almost old enough to drive. I hear Sierra has a great Driver’s Ed program for Windows.” We search the shelves for Sierra’s ‘Driver’s Education’, a fold out beauty of a box which promises great things for Suzy.

Gingerly Dad checks the requirements. I can tell he is starting to sweat. And with good reason. The label cries out for Windows 95 / 32 Ram / 50 MB free space/Sound Card with DAC/PCI accelerated Video Card/Pentium 133 preferred.

Looks like Suzy will have to learn to drive the old-fashioned way, with Dad cowering in the passenger seat. But what about little Bobby? Little Bobby loves his ‘Hot Wheels’ and over there, on the very next shelf, Mattel has just the thing.

Dad turns his back on Sierra and snaps up a copy of ‘Hot Wheels’. At last. Kid Stuff. If Suzy can’t drive his Packard Bell, make way for little Bobby. He almost doesn’t check the fine print. Major error. Little Bobby would not have had a very Merry Christmas. Against his will, Dad is drawn to the box. And there, right on the front, the label proudly proclaims Windows 95. Woebegone, Dad moves away.

But wait! Next to ‘Hot Wheels’, Hasbro has a 3.1 ‘Tonka’ game! Bobby loves his Tonkas too. Check it out, Dad. Uh Oh! It says Macs need a 68040/33 to run. But Win machines require a 486/66 just to get those Tonkas moving! Sorry Dad. Appears that old Packard Bell won’t be going for a spin this Christmas after all.

So much for Suzy, Joe and Little Bobby. But what about College Kate. Just last year she got a Toshiba laptop with a built-in power supply and that cute little nubbin instead of a trackball. And it’s a Pentium with 16 RAM and Win 95 already installed! There’s bound to be some good stuff for Kate, right?

Dad agrees that she could probably use some games to pass the time between classes. Nothing too gross. Do they have some good board or card games for Windows? “Sure!” I say. And lead him over to Family Favorites.

Ah, yes. Lining the shelves is a paradise of gentle time wasters. Hoyle offers their Windows users ‘Solitaire’, ‘Poker’ and ‘Blackjack’ as well as Classic ‘Card’ and ‘Board’ Games. Microsoft adds their own ‘Entertainment Packs’ with all sorts of puzzles and brain games. Even Bicycle has a bunch. Dad checks the lot and then frowns. “She’s okay for Win 95 and she’s got plenty of RAM,” he groans, “but these all say CD required. She hasn’t got a CD.” I knew that 😉

“Well”, I console him, “Hoyle still has at least one nice package with everything from Bridge to Backgammon and Poker to Solitaire. ‘Hoyle Classic Games’. It comes on a CD, but with floppies for installing on notebooks like Kate’s. She’ll love it. I know. I’ve got the Mac version for my PowerBook.” Dad began happily rummaging through the boxes. But Best Buy was fresh out. I knew that too. I’d just bought the last copy for my daughter. Told ya I was evil!

“Say, what about your wife? I hear Betty is setting up a home office.” I couldn’t help myself. I had to give the knife just one more twist. “Microsoft has a whole set of their new 98 Home Office software a couple of aisles over.”

At the magic word ‘Microsoft’, Dad sprinted down the aisle. He shouldn’t have bothered. “I have Bookshelf 98 on my Mac,” I say, trying hard to keep up. “I couldn’t live without it.”

But the Windows version wanted Win 95, NT or WorkStation 4.0. Pentium preferred. Ditto for ‘Encarta 98’ and ‘Money 98’. Even ‘Microsoft Office 97’ insisted on Win 95. Somewhere, perhaps in the obsolescence bin, there was a perfect Win 3.1, just waiting for a good home. If so, it’s still waiting.

I left my friend surreptitiously inspecting a close-out Packard Bell / Pentium 133. But, if he bites, it had best be on a Pentium II or he’ll likely go through this same scenario next year. Those Intel machines have a really short half-life.

So, bite your tongue and count to ten. Ten or more great games, that is, that have abandoned the Wins along with the rest of us. Just don’t say the ‘O’ word around my Mac or you might well beat those Apples to the Pearly Gates.

Susan Howerter (susan@mymac.com)

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