Macs at Work: Not Just for Designers

Do you use a Mac at work? Have you ever?

I have, but it’s a fair assumption that the majority of the sneaky daytime peeks at Low End Mac are done from the, ahem, “comfortable” surroundings of a Microsoft OS. [Editor’s note: 45.5% of all pages served in June 2002 were read on Windows computers; 44.6% on Macs.]

Original Power Mac G4So what did I do on this Mac in the workplace, and, more importantly, how can you get my old job? Readers of my frequent ramblings on this site may know that I previously worked as a video editor, and the editing was done in Adobe Premiere 5.1 on a Power Macintosh G4/400.

Nice and typical, eh? Creative work. Web design, illustration, desktop publishing, even journalism (which is, sadly, more often creative than truthful) are all areas of industry which are atypical in their choice of computer – but they’re far from the only industries which feature Macs.

At one stage of my life, I found myself working in a diagnostic radiology department of a large hospital, and lo and behold, what did I find? Macs. The main clerical duties were performed on dumb Unix terminals running Digital’s DG/UX, the secretarial work was done in Windows, and the CT Scans were processed in Sun Solaris. But across the hallway, the Nuclear Medicine and Ultrasound departments ran the Mac OS – even to the extent of using Photoshop, presumably for retouching the less professionally taken images.

What I want to talk about is the difference in the two cultures when it came to the Mac.

Designers and other such dilettantes are fueled with obsession for their favourite computers – sure, they pretend they’re above the Mac zealotry, but get a drink in them, and they’ll start enthusing about how “Photoshop just runs better on a Mac.” Like many of us who use Apple machines at home, they become walking, talking advertisements for the cabal at Infinite Loop, Cupertino.

Back at X-Ray, things were different. Now, I’m not going to make disparaging remarks about radiographers, but those that owned computers owned PCs. The clinicians were even worse.

Bondi blue 1998 iMacDue to the obscene hours that I worked at said establishment, when I decided to buy an iMac Rev. B that I’d seen for £600, I had to nip out on my lunch hour (which, incidentally, was only 50 minutes – what is this, medical time?). Upon returning to the hospital with my iMac in tow, I was confronted by a registrar, “God, you haven’t bought one of those bloody iMac things, have you?”

Doctors, pah!

I smiled, said yes, and tried to think of something suitably inane for the medical mind to take in. The last thing I needed to do was look like a complete lunatic by explaining that I’d always used Macs since I could afford them, and that I’d stop when my iMac was prized from my cold, dead hands.

Mac owners always enthuse about how, once you’ve used a Mac you won’t want to go back to Windows. On top of this, we’ve all heard that to be successful in the home market, a computer must first be successful in the workplace. In fact, this is how Wintel PCs finally killed of the Atari ST and shrank the Amiga user base to almost nothing.

For years we were tortured with tales of our own impending doom – that we’d go the way of those machines.

It didn’t happen.

What exactly is Apple’s foothold in industry? Is it still largely confined to areas around imaging? If so, is this a bad thing? Macs have a habit of turning up in the oddest of places – small businesses where the owner has a personal passion for them, even large government departments such as the Northern Ireland Housing Executive use them, and if I recall correctly, the US military is fond of them because there are so few Mac based crackers.

Mind you, I’m sure there are no BBC Microcomputers used by crackers either, so there must be more to it than this.

If any of you use Macs in the workplace, I’d love to hear from you (excepting Dan Knight, whom I already know uses Macs). What do you do for a living? What do you do on the Mac? Has the Mac in the workplace persuaded any of your colleagues to buy an Apple?

If you don’t work in a Mac based environment, do your colleagues eyes glaze over when you mention your Mac? Do you feel it’s your personal duty to promote the machine to friends and family, or do you just get on with doing what you do on it?

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