A Mac User’s Guide to Windows

2001 – Some things every Mac user should know about Microsoft Windows™.


The Doomed Operating System, doomed never to die, but to be increasingly buried within deeper and deeper layers of Windows, increasingly irritating and alienating fans of the original version.

An analogy might be that DOS is the piles upon which a house is built in the swamp; unfortunately, the piles have settled, and now the house sits right on the muck directly.

DOS filenames required an 8+3 structure, and so all later versions of Windows continue to be saddled with legacy filenames that contain arcane and undecipherable codes such as BITEME.NOW and URAPUTZ.DUF.

Windows 3

The first version of Windows that offered a significant challenge to the Mac OS. Named because this is the number of windows users needed to have open in order to move a dysfunctional alias of one file to another directory while altering the directory structure.

In this version of Windows, users could not be allowed to know they were not actually manipulating real files, but icons were ephemeral aliases which were actually pointers to the old DOS directory structure.

This is roughly equivalent to the functionality in Mac System 4.0.

Windows 3.11

This version of Windows, called Windows for Workgroups, introduced a new, more sophisticated networking structure which nearly made it up to par with a Mac SE with an ethernet card installed running Mac System 6.0.x. It also required individual drivers separately installed for every peripheral including printers, network cards, video cards, sound cards, and the letter Q on the keyboard.

Windows 95

This version of Windows attempted to solve the third-party driver problem by including every known driver in the universe in a series of service packs. The problem of conflicting data channels introduced the terms “IRQ” (Irate User Quotient) and DMA (“DAMN” spelled wrong) to everyday users. This policy was officially known as Plug-and-Pray, but sympathetic users began referring to it as Plug-and-Play out of pity for the lost hours spent configuring missing peripherals in computers available at the time, such as hard drives, RAM, monitors, and electricity.

A computer running Windows 95 had the approximate functionality of a Mac System 7.5.5 computer, but it was less stable.

Windows 98

This mostly cosmetic revision to Windows 95, Windows 98 (Win98)  improved the Plug-and-Pray standard by including a database of all known possible conflicts in the known universe and providing detailed step-by-step instructions on how to get to each conflict on every type of PC ever built – except the one you happened to be working on.

A Mac OS 8.1 computer is functionally equivalent to a Win98 computer. Win98 represents the last OS that Microsoft manufactured before Redmond went totally schitzo.

Windows NT

The operating system . . . NOT. This OS is one that you as an individual user never seemed to actually get to use, but you knew someone who had to use it. These individuals claimed it was the greatest thing ever written, except it wouldn’t actually run any of your favorite programs or use any of your favorite peripherals. It doesn’t crash very often, though.

In the Mac universe, users are often exposed to NT on mixed-platform networks, where Mac users are expected to behave like Windows users so they don’t have to be seen in public.

If you had a Mac Server, running OS X Server software, it would be like having Windows NT, because it could only do server things, and you couldn’t actually, you know, do work on it.

Windows 2000

This OS is the direct descendant of Windows NT, intended for professional users. A subroutine in the installation program determines if you are a professional user or a script kiddie – and electrocutes you if you don’t qualify. (Just kidding. Really, a professional user is simply allowed to reinstall the OS about a dozen times so they can call themselves a “professional.”)

Microsoft is promising full Windows 2000 compatibility for all programs around the year 2012.

There is no direct equivalent to Windows 2000 in the Mac Universe, and that’s a Good Thing™.

Windows Me

This is the descendant of the Windows 3/95/98 family; it establishes a third naming system for the same software series over four revisions – a world record. If Microsoft named countries, it would be equivalent to calling the USA first The United States of America, then the Western Country of Many Guns, The Western Country with Lots of Ignorant People Who Buy OS Upgrades Like Candy, and then simply Fred, followed by THX 1138 for Windows XP. Windows Me is short for Windows Millennium. Sold in small boxes with lots of colors and located at the ends of aisles in such fine establishments as Staples, the precise functionality gained by purchasing Windows Me is only revealed when the user upgrades to Windows XP, a new Microsoft Strategy™.

Windows Me is equivalent to Mac OS 9.1, if you don’t count all the nice parts of the Mac OS.

Windows XP

All the things XP could stand for is a list long enough to be an article by itself, but just to get you started, consider these:

  • Windows XPensive
  • Windows XPert required
  • Windows Xtra P-O’ed
  • Windows X-Patriot
  • WinDOS X-Practitioner
  • Windows Ex-Payments

and so on. Microsoft claims it to be the successor to both 2000 and Me, allowing users to come together in a great big lovefest and have home users finally meet the people who use Windows at the office.

The main feature of Windows XP is that it introduces subscription software and tight licensing controls, not allowing an installation more than three times without paying a service fee (to prevent widespread copying of the OS). Users will be able to participate in the Great Redmond Money Sucking Sound, where you have to pay for each use of a program rather than buying copies of programs for yourself. This goes by the name of HotBurn, FireButt, FlashFlood, or something like that – it isn’t quite settled yet.

Windows XP is more or less equivalent to Mac OS X, except OS X doesn’t have all that evil stuff in it.

I hope this guide has cleared up some confusion for you. I know it did for me, now that I’ve become an official Windows XPert™.

Keywords: #microsoftwindows

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