x86 and PC Computers
The term "x86" refers to any computer that can run programs native to the Intel 80x86 range of Central Processing Unit (CPU). These computers are often currently dubbed "PC compatible," or simply "PCs" (the term is commonly understood to indicate x86 machines even though Macintosh computers are also "personal computers"). PCs are made by many different manufacturers, meaning that there is a wide variety of types to choose from. Because there are so many manufacturers and because demand for PCs is so high, PC hardware and software is generally cheaper than Macintosh equivalents. The most popular OS for the PC is the Microsoft Windows OS.
Apple® Macintosh Computers
When computers were first introduced the only way to work with one was through a Command Line Interface (CLI). One of the most popular CLIs was the Disk Operating System (DOS) developed by Microsoft. Then Apple introduced the Graphic User Interface (GUI), which uses graphics and icons for the user to easily use and maneuver through the OS.
Apple computers run the Macintosh Mac OS (i.e., OS 9, or OS X). Our labs have just updated from OS 9 to OS X, an entirely new operating system based on UNIX, so try them out!
Shared Macintosh and PC Features
Although Macintoshes and PCs are different as mentioned above, they have several features in common:
- Both use hard drives for storage
- Both can use removable media
- Both have communication ports
- Both have video output
- Both can access the World Wide Web
- Both have multimedia options
- Both have GUI options
- Both have upgradeable options
- Both will run comparable software
- Both can be used as servers
With this in mind, you might wonder why there is such controversy over which computing platform is superior. Most of the differences are in the user interface, desktop environment, and some profound aspects of the computer architecture; because these features very stongly influence user perception of the computer and what sort of programs can be run on it, people tend to form strong opinions about one or the other platform.
On a PC running a Windows OS, the desktop is the area on the screen that you see when no program windows are open. Generally, you will see these common things: My Computer, the Recycle Bin, and My Documents. Double-clicking on My Computer will open a window showing you all of the hard drives (the C: drive, for example) and removable drives (CD-ROM drives, floppy drives, etc.) that are available.
On computers running a Mac OS, the desktop is similar in concept to the desktop in Windows (and in fact, the Windows desktop was originally patterned after the Mac OS one!). Instead of a My Computer icon as in Windows, the Mac OS displays hard drives and removable drives directly on the desktop.
On both systems, you can also place other files on your desktop by saving or copying them to that location. The desktop can get cluttered with too many icons, however, so many people use folders to organize files on the desktop or move the files to other locations entirely.
The Mac OS also has something identical to the Windows Recycle Bin. The Trash is located on the desktop for older Mac OS computers and on the Dock for newer computers running OS X.
Taskbar vs Finder Menu vs The Dock
The Taskbar (Windows) is generally located on the bottom of the screen. Its function is to allow users to see and navigate between open windows, as well as display extra information such as the current time. Some programs can be launched from special Taskbar icons, and some system functions such as speaker volume are also controllable from Taskbar icons.
The Finder Menu (MacOS 9) is located at the right of the bar along the top of the screen. Its main function is to show users what application is currently open. By clicking on the Finder Menu, you can navigate to other open applications.
The Dock (Mac OS X) is located at the bottom of the screen and functions much like the Task Bar in Windows. It shows open applications, can launch programs, and holds the Trash Can.
Exiting Applications in the Mac OS
On a Macintosh, closing a window does not usually quit the program. To completely quit, you must either go to File > Quit or press
One Button Or Two
One of the most common complaints about Macintoshes concerns the mouse. Macintosh computers come standard with a one-button mouse, but they do support multi-button mice. To access the same functions that are accessed with a mouse right-click on a PC, hold down the
PCs and Windows
PCs, on the other hand, usually use at least a two-button mouse that often has a scroll wheel. In Windows, clicking with the right mouse button usually opens a menu that gives options such as formatting and navigation. Mice with scroll wheels can use the wheel to quickly scroll a page instead of using the on-screen scrollbar. The left mouse button is used for selecting, double-clicking, opening applications, and navigating menu bars.
Things To Keep In Mind
In Windows, file extensions are the part of a file name that identifies the particular type of file (.jpg, .doc, etc.). File extensions are necessary in Windows; should they be missing, the OS cannot identify the file, and won't be able to open it with the correct program.
In the Mac OS, file extensions are optional. The system functions of a Windows file extension are handled in a different way in the Mac OS, so adding something like ".jpg" to the file's name is considered no different than renaming the file in any other fashion. If you think that your file will need to be opened on a machine running Windows, however, you need to make sure that your file has a file extension and may need to manually add one if it is missing (some Mac OS programs do add file extensions by default).
- Microsoft Word: .doc
- Microsoft Excel: .xls
- Microsoft PowerPoint: .ppt
- Adobe Photoshop Document: .psd
- Portable Document Format: .pdf