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French Version

Computing started long before Windows!

Ten years ago, in 1993, I bought my first IBM PC compatible, after postponing that move for as long as possible. By that time, I had experienced computing for around eight years using no less than four different computer platforms starting with the most simple, the Sinclair Spectrum, through the Apple II series, followed by the Commodore Amiga, then the Macintosh operating system.

Every once in a while, during those years, I’d have the chance to use a PC and realize how primitive, and unfriendly it was!

DOS was a real pain to use, and looked very bad compared to the graphical user environments that the Amiga, Atari ST and Macintosh were running in the mid-to-late 80s. When Windows arrived from Microsoft, its first versions still looked inferior to systems on offer from other computer platforms, but it developed in the 90s and, literally, killed off everything else except the Macintosh by the late 90s.
This dominance was achieved due to the openness of the IBM PC architecture, which enabled every computer manufacturer to produce and market a PC compatible, which was not the case with the Macintosh and other systems. Ultimately, this meant that hundreds of companies were pushing the PC standard, based on an Intel processor and a Microsoft operating system.

First, the IBM PC compatibles cornered the business market. Later, several years later in fact, the IBM PC compatibles began to offer the kind of graphics, sound and general appeal that other computers had offered us for many years. I still remember the envy of my PC owning friends in the late 80s and early 90s, when they saw the amazing graphics and sound of games I had running on my Amiga. I also remember the shock felt by PC using colleagues in the fields of journalism and publishing when I’d demonstrate the wonders of the Macintosh in the early 90s. Regrettably, neither Apple nor Commodore or Atari ‘opened up’ their operating systems and architecture to enable them to penetrate more homes and business through compatible machines. Eventually, this was their downfall. Although the Macintosh lives on, it once commanded as much as a 20 percent market share of the worldwide computer market. Recently, studies show that its share is as low as 6 to 7 percent!

Users who entered the world of computing in the second half of the 90s don’t know anything other than Intel-based machines running Windows, but so much was going on in the years before which, eventually, led to the dominance of Windows. The home and business computers from Apple, Atari and Commodore laid the grounds for Microsoft’s ‘masterpiece’ that you are using today. Today all the creativity and excitement generated by those computers is serving the PC community, with many programmers and IT professionals from that era all leading the developments and software you see today on the PC platform. They even got several ‘nostalgia’ websites that discuss previous software hits on those computers from the 80s, and they even produced remakes of the games and applications they used 15 or 20 years ago for today’s PC users to appreciate how genuinely creative the world of computing was.

It wouldn’t harm to take a look at computer history, especially if you’re a new IT professional. The lessons to be learnt are many. It could also help you understand, and appreciate, the stories or nostalgic comments of older computer users, one of whom could now be your boss!

Zeid Nasser
The Star

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