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back to article Rotten to the core: Apple’s 10 greatest FAILS

There has been no shortage of rose-tinted retrospective adulation marking the 30th birthday of the Macintosh over past weeks. Here at El Reg, we’d be the last to deny Apple’s significance and continuing influence on the history of personal computing. But to put everything in perspective, we thought it was worth looking back at …

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Big Brother

One for the list

PING........

I remember the posts here on release about WTF and Huh ? ? ?

Whoever came up with the concept of putting something into itunes and it would be used wass crazy, people want to get out of itunes as fast as they can not hang out in it.....

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Another For The List ....

Maps ....

Now that was funny.

:)

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Re: Another For The List ....

Indeed, where's Maps?

It's even got its own Tumblr page!

And how about all the nice stories of it sending people out into the middle of nowhere?

Son, I am disappoint.

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Pffffttt

I'm tired of articles trotting out Apple's 'failures' over the years. At least they tried. Newton was still incredible tech for 1993, and the lessons from that would have been included in the IPhone. Otherwise we should be celebrating the bad old days of Microsoft where they made heaps of money trotting out mediocre versions of Windows and Office and forcing customers to upgrade. They didn't innovate, but they didn't fail either, so hooray for them.

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Trollface

Re: Pffffttt

"They didn't innovate, but they didn't fail either, so hooray for them."

Microsoft did innovate. Remember Microsoft Bob? While that was a commercial failure, it did give Bill Gates a wife and family.

Microsoft has been a lot more open with what they're doing than Apple, so you can see their failures. Things like Singularity, WinFS, Longhorn, and Courier would never have made it to the public in a modern Apple. A few innovations actually do get out of the lab, too, such as the big table Surface, not to be confused with the failed tablet Surface.

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Re: Pffffttt

With the combination of arrogance, price gouging and a general "stuff you" attitude I'm surprised that Apple seem to have done so well for themselves, if not for the general computing public.

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Anonymous Coward

@nematoad

Wow. Did Steve Jobs steal your sweets? And you suppose that Google and Microsoft are any different? Tell you what, grow up a bit, then we'll talk.

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Boffin

Re: Pffffttt

I gotta agree on some of the things they tried, and the Newton particularly is one thing that I liked back then. Even the article states what many of us already know: the Newton wasn't killed for being a failure, it was killed because Jobs had to have his sweet revenge against the guy who succeeded him as CEO. He actually pissed off a lot of developers back then, as the Newton ecosystem was slowly but surely evolving.

Proof that Jobs wanted the Newton dead? Right before his return, Newton was going to be spun off as a separate company. This was halted upon Jobs' return. He really wanted the thing dead.

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Re: @nematoad Im grown argue with me if you like

I'm fully grown and there isn't a technology company that isn't stuffing things up these days. But apple sell their crap at a premium, which builds an expectation that they should do better. certainly the story of final cut was an unmitigated disaster and photoshop is dying on its feet as well.

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Re: @nematoad Im grown argue with me if you like

Photoshop? How is that relevant to this topic?

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Childcatcher

Apple //c was not bad

The Apple IIc wasn't that bad. It was essentially everything from the Apple IIe, in a compact case including the floppy drive but excluding expansion slots. For ordinary use, that was sufficient. My school had 2 Apple IIc and about 10 Apple IIe in the computer lab, and 1 Apple IIgs. I preferred the IIc's keyboard. I had an Apple IIc at home, too. But I don't know how expensive they were, nor exactly how well they sold.

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jai
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Re: Apple //c was not bad

Yep my dad had a //c and I got his old ][e in my bedroom to learn programming Logo on.

But I much preferred to mess around on the //c. As you say, keyboard was much nicer, and it was portable enough to move it from his office to the dinning table from time to time.

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Re: Apple //c was not bad

I remember my Dad bringing home a Apple //c from work. They had it in for evaluation. We had it at home for a few days so I spent time playing with the intro disks that came with it. Was fun and also my first time on a Apple PC. I think Dad brought a 128k Mac home that following Xmas (or maybe next) which was more fun.

I was about 12/13 at the time.

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Re: Apple //c was not bad

Maybe it wasn't bad as an update to a ][e, but for a computer introduced in 1984 with a list price over $1000, much as I used to love the processor, wouldn't it have been a little underpowered with a 1MHz 65C02 compared to the competition?

Released a couple of years earlier, it might have been more of a success.

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Copeland, Taligent, BEOS etc....

I think the history of these is pretty much inseparable from the history of processor development. They were designed to be modern, multi tasking OSs with the processors, and memory constraints, of the day in mind. There came a point where processors were powerful enough, and memory cheap enough, to run UNIX plus nice graphical front end. That killed pretty much everything else, other than Windows.

I think we're now seeing a similar dynamic with Windows 8.1 vs Windows 8.1 RT. Surface RT may look good but, as Asus is proving, what's the point of RT when full fat Windows 8.1 runs perfectly well on Intel's Bay Trail processors? I suspect RT isn't long for this world!

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Re: Copeland, Taligent, BEOS etc....

> I suspect RT isn't long for this world!

The other nail in the coffin is that when a user puts W8 on an atom its his problem that the cost is high and performance low. When MS put RT on ARM, its their problem that the cost is high and performance low. They also don't want to reduce the price of W8/RT because that might cut revenue from x86 sales.

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LDS
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Re: Copeland, Taligent, BEOS etc....

The real failure was that Apple wasn't able to deliver a moder OS until OSX, and that meant long after Windows became a far better OS since 2000 and XP - while Apple was still using an OS which lacked pre-emptive multitasking, process isolation, etc etc. And that says a lot about what user looks for while buying an Apple.

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Boffin

Re: Copeland, Taligent, BEOS etc....

System 7 was far better than its contemporary Windows brethren, and that includes Windows 95. While System 7 could bomb (yes, I remember both Sad Macs and 'Sorry, a system error has occurred') Windows 3.x and 95 had a bad habit of doing this at random, and it was far more common back in those days. OS X came out by 2001, but the first really consumer-oriented memory-protected MS OS was Windows XP (as MS had Windows 2000 more of an enterprise OS) so both companies were really on equal footing (NT was more of a business OS).

Nope, process isolation in MacOS vs. OSX isn't what made MS win the war. It was mostly on pricing as PCs went far cheaper than Macs and a couple of blunders by Apple during the post-Sculley years. If stability were the real differentiation between platforms, we'd probably be running Solaris everywhere these days.

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Boffin

PowerBook 5300 wasn't that bad, either

The PowerBook 5300 didn't sell very well, especially the high-end model, but it worked decently. Except for the part where they disabled Li-ion batteries, because of the fires that no customer actually experienced, and then didn't enable them again when Sony sorted out their problems. The PowerBook 3400 and first-generation PowerBook G3 batteries were physically compatible, but the PowerBook 5300 wouldn't take them.

The CD-ROM drive was a slight problem, but it could take external CD-ROM drives through the SCSI port. Even then, I didn't use CD-ROMs that often, and I even reused the external drive (originally bought for my 1991-era Quadra) on my PowerBook 3400 instead of buying an internal drive. Apparently, a CD-ROM drive was built for the 5300, but it could take only small discs, and was only seen in that horrid Independence Day movie.

I think the biggest problem with the 5300 was just the narrative that the press wanted to build, that Apple was failing and doomed, that Steve Jobs managed to reverse.

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Just seen the Hitler spoof

Just seen the mandatory Hitler spoof and have had to leave the office because I was laughing so much. Utter fucking genius.

I actually do use Final Cut Pro X and have never used the previous version so can't comment on the differences. I like Final Cut Pro, but it I have to say it does have a 'we'll do it for you, just trust me' type feel with it. Given I'm a complete noob on video editing, this may be very good for me, but I can see how it might drive seasoned professionals up the wall.

I suppose the difference is Emacs vs a fancy IDE. I do know Emacs, I write programs in Lisp under Emacs and use them for development, I know its foibles and I have learnt my C development workflow for the last 20-30 years using it, if I had to move to Eclipse or an IDE I suppose I'd struggle as well. Of course Emacs and C is the one true religion and all other editing systems (with the exception of sed, vi and cat) are apostasy. Now that has given me an idea for my own Hitler spoof :)

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IOS 7 issues

May be you could consider a more current issue with IOS 7 app refreshing on older ipad/iphone hardware, here's the 30+ page thread on the Apple Support Communities....

https://discussions.apple.com/message/23192445#23192445

Paul

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Re: IOS 7 issues +1

I thought it couldn't just be me. I always put it down to iOS7 being more power hungry and me running a 4S (smaller memory size). Either way it's pretty awful OS engineering as something like the fixed state of a webpage should be easily stored without having to refresh every time I return to the page. Doesn't iOS shift background apps to something akin to moving background apps to swapfile.

This is definitely worth some digging by El Reg. iOS7 has had so many problems.

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Re: IOS 7 issues +1

This one drives me completely potty.

I had a longer reply but Safari refreshed and lost it.

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Re: IOS 7 issues

Ohh - and Skype's take on "push messaging" on IOS - to me this push stuff was something that died with the dot.bomb who invented it, but .... ooh No!

Bye, bye Skype!

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You forgot "Existing"

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their biggest feature was 'ignorance'..

doing it all their way, and saying its the best... if you want to send a file to a friends phone (AND you don't know or want to 'hack' it!!) you just send it to the internet, and tell your friend to download it...

- when your non-iphone friends just bluetooth the file, and get it in *seconds* without waiting for problems due to bad signal, slow internet, no credit on phone... :(

BTW apple laptops CAN do bluetooth file transfer... :/ ??

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I remember Steve Jobs first saying that signal loss from holding mobile phones were a common issue and that it affected all handsets. The next day, one of BlackBerry's CEO's (think it was Lazaridis) said that BlackBerry phones didn't suffer from this - and he was right. A friend at the time had a new iPhone and I had a new BlackBerry Curve, and we tried holding them differently etc and my BlackBerry never really lost signal. My friends iPhone however, lost all of his signal.

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Antennagate affects everyone, not just apple

http://dontholditwrong.tumblr.com/

All phones suffer if their antenna is blocked by a microwave-absorbing material, like human flesh.

Apple had one particular problem with signal-dropping if and only if the user's hand was slightly moist and they held the phone in such a way that it would bridge two of the antennas (thus detuning them significantly). Granted Apple was a bit arrogant at first (the "Don't hold it wrong" email surely didn't pass the PR dept's reviewers), but they were also rather unfairly treated by the press when competitors' phones had demonstrably similar characteristics.

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Re: Antennagate affects everyone, not just apple

Yeah but while other phones may lose 2 or 3 bars of service (if that), the iPhone lost everything.

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Re: Antennagate affects everyone, not just apple

The biggest problem was that magic knock out point was right about where the thick fleshy bit at the base of the thumb normally contacts the phone when held in the left hand and about where the ring finger tip falls when held in the right hand. Sure, if you used your hands as a clam shell around other phones they would lose a few bars or drop out but not with an open three finger hold. Sure, if you have dry skin, it may not have been a problem but then you'd likely be complaining about the lack of sensitivity on the touch screen.

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Good to remember whenever you hear that "Apple can do no wrong" blah blah

Wrong.

Excellent piece of work.

I'd like one on MS as well.

Balanced and fair reporting.

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Re: Good to remember whenever you hear that "Apple can do no wrong" blah blah

What's the obsession with getting it right all the time?

Far better to try and fail and sometimes succeed and make a few billion.

Just as long as you have a sense of humour about your failures, you'll be fine.

Far more worrying is Apple's apparent retreat into closed/proprietary devices. Failures like Apple ///, Lisa are easily excusable as they were cool and better systems, even if they were too expensive. The iMac was arguably better than PCs of its time - the lack of diskette was replaced by something better.

Sadly, these days we are losing features and not having them replaced with anything better. $70 for a CDROM drive? You've got to be joking!

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Re: Good to remember whenever you hear that "Apple can do no wrong" blah blah

John Smith,

In the spirit of contrariness, shouldn't El Reg do an article on Microsft's brilliant successes. After all, the standard journalistic thing for ages has been to right 'Apple brilliant, Apple visionary, Apple cool' stories. And equally, 'MS rubbish, MS evil' ones.

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Trollface

Re: Good to remember whenever you hear that "Apple can do no wrong" blah blah

"Balanced and fair reporting."

This isn't the BBC that you're looking for.

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Re: Good to remember whenever you hear that "Apple can do no wrong" blah blah

And when it's the anniversary of Windows 3.1 or similar then I'm sure we'll get a retrospective. This is to tie in with the massive success of the Mac and all of the lyrical waxing that has been in the tech press over the last few weeks.

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Re: Good to remember whenever you hear that "Apple can do no wrong" blah blah

quote: "Far better to try and fail and sometimes succeed and make a few billion."

The problem with MS is that people can easily disagree on which things are failures. Vista, Win 8 and the Office ribbon are commonly derided, but were they a financial failure or not?

Not to mention that some of us (albeit without a functioning sense of taste, apparently) actually got/get on ok with all of the above, I had no issues with Vista at the time, and am currently using Win8.1 on my gaming rig at home ^^;

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Re: Good to remember whenever you hear that "Apple can do no wrong" blah blah

What's the obsession with getting it right all the time?

Who's obsessed with getting it right all the time?

There's value in reviewing the errors of the past, and none in ignoring them.

Those who forget history, &c.

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How is iTunes not on this list?

Sure it makes them a lot of money but the software is terrible.

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WTF?

Re: How is iTunes not on this list?

iTunes isn't really a failure if it makes a ton of money is it?

Good or bad it still succeeded.

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Meh

Re: How is iTunes not on this list?

iTunes the distribution network makes Apple approximately all of the money in the world, so I can't really call it a failure.

The piece of software called iTunes however is a blight on this world. Especially the windows version.

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Concentrating on things

I would concentrate less on concrete things and instead include a few policy decisions:

1. Upper-Right — the decision by upper management to fleece customers for as much as possible started early on. Rather than trying to build marketshare, Apple management went for short-term profit. Andy Hertzfeld outlines this from the very beginning in his Folklore.org website. The original Macintosh was to be billed at $1500 and that became $2500 after Sculley became involved.

The likes of Jean-Louis Gassée then promoted the idea that because Macs were desirable that they should be milked for all they were worth. The apogée of this was the Mac IIfx which went for $10K in 1990. Despite the high prices, Macs had a 12% marketshare in 1992. Just think what it could have been if Macs had been more reasonably priced.

The pricing in Europe was also much, much higher than in the US and this hurt marketshare as well.

2. Lack of Direction in Models

Steve Jobs highlighted this in 1998. There were 40 or so different models marketed between 1994 and 1997, many of which were the same. The crassest example of which was the LC475 | Performa 475 | Quadra 605. Each was aimed at a different market and each was priced differently despite being the same machine. Then there was the awful Performa name.

3. Games

Games, especially 3-D shooters, became the killer app in the mid-1990s for PCs. Apple were already on the road to nowhere, did little to make the mac more gamer-friendly and game-developer friendly. I myself migrated from the mac in 1998 for this very reason. Half Life never came out on the Mac and I was not happy to wait for 6 months while other games on the PC were already available.

It is a mindset within Apple, I think, that goes way back to the early 1980s. A developer had written a lovely little game (Through the Looking Glass) for the nascent Mac and Apple were reluctant to market it because they din't want the Mac to be seen as a games machine.

4. Symmetric Multi-Processing

I often wonder why Apple didn't go down the road of SMP with the early Mac IIs. Steve Jobs had purchased 1 million 68000 processors from Motorola and it took Apple 6 years to use these up. The last mac to use one was the Classic in 1990. I would have required rewriting the System and Finder as well obliging companies like Microsoft and Adobe to rewrite their software to take advantage of it, but it would have made already powerful (for the day) computers more so. It would have given Apple a great technological advantage and more firmly established the Mac as a powerful computer. The nearest mac users got to this was the Radius Rocket form ex-Mac Developers Andy Hertzfeld and Burrell Smith

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Re: Concentrating on things

I've always wondered why Apple didn't build their GUI on Solaris.

It may be in decline now, but it was the engineering workstation and app server of choice and with a decent GUI and Apple marketing, it could have wiped the floor and been both SPARC and x86 ready.

Alternatively, just do the GUI for BSD. I like using my wife's imac but I really dislike having the low-level stuff just be that much different from what I can put on non-Apple kit for free.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Concentrating on things

You know the PC market is dying? That's because of dip shits like you who want something for nothing. Apple charges what the market will bear, other engage in race to the bottom price where everybody, including consumers, suffer. But that's fine, so long as you get what you want for next to free.

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Re: Concentrating on things

1. Upper-Right

A mistake really??? Apple concentrating on short term profit (ie the high end) has made them almost immune from the general slump in PC and Laptop sales. Most people would call that genius. Arguably they learnt from trying to compete with the mass market severval times and decided never to do it again - which at the moment is paying them dividends - lunatic analysts who want ever increasing expansion excepted.

Depending on whose figures you believe Mac PC's current have ~11% of the US market. Not bad considering that is nearly all laptops in a category containing desktops as well.

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Re: Concentrating on things

What is true now is not necessarily what was true 20-30 years ago and most of this article deals with products and events that were around then. One of my main points was that Apple should have striven for marketshare at the beginning (and with it medium-term to long-term profits) rather than short-term profit. Sales of the Apple II were healthy and the success of the Macintosh was not a make or break situation for the company at the time.

It was the route that Bill Gates steered Microsoft towards — get your software on the most machines possible. Apple has followed this strategy with the iPhone and iPad with much success..

Apple does charge what the market will bear and my point was that lower prices would have meant a bigger market. And this would have been a benefit to them.

And as for dip-shits like me, I bought (and still buy) my macs second- and thirdhand because they certainly were well built and are in rude health after 20 years. And I couldn't give a toss about the PC market. Only old macintoshes.

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Re: Concentrating on things

Not at all. In the mid-1990s Apple had a smaller marketshare than they could have had. When Microsoft released Windows 95, this marketshare was slashed and did terrible things to their bottom line. The success of the iMac in 1998 that saved them from financial ruin and that was, by no means, a high-end computer for the well-heeled.

Apple have now reasonably priced macs in the form of the mac mini as well as powerful workstations in the form of the dustbin.

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Happy

Re: Concentrating on things

P. Lee - OSX basically did the "GUI for BSD", as NeXTStep and OSX are based off BSD. It's easy to use for those comfortable with BSD, but it is pretty mind boggling for those who are only used to Linux.

Oh, and the person who ended up bringing Jobs back to Apple originally wanted to build their GUI around Solaris. That would've been interesting, had Apple done both the turnaround and done "Apple on Solaris" Sun Microsystems would probably still exist to this day.

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Re: Concentrating on things @Gordon 10

1. Upper-Right

A mistake really??? Apple concentrating on short term profit (ie the high end) has made them almost immune from the general slump in PC and Laptop sales.

You're thinking current markets. Back in the 80's, they had the PC market with the Apple II. There's a good chance that guys my age had their first hands-on experience with an Apple II if they lived in the US, there were a lot of 'em in many elementary schools. It even had the first real killer app for personal computers: VisiCalc (the very first spreadsheet program!). The Macintosh was even better as it had a GUI at a time where most computers were mostly text only. See the Texas Instruments one, the C-64 or the Apple II. And only a couple of years later, the Macintosh had killer apps for office productivity, like Aldus PageMaker and yes, even Word and Excel (this is where Office was born!). But Apple had to sell it at an expensive price, and thus the adoption rate was slower.

Hell, they managed to keep the Macintosh platform pretty good all the way to System 7.1, even when Windows came out System 7 was still nice compared with the fugly Win3.1 GUI (Program Manager, anyone?). It was probably 'till Windows 95 that MS reached near-parity with System 7 … and even then they were still behind the line. But PCs were now at least somewhat user friendly and combined price differential and the post-Sculley slump meant that the PC kicked them out of the personal computer market. It was a sad thing to see...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Concentrating on things @Gordon 10

"It was probably 'till Windows 95 that MS reached near-parity with System 7 … and even then they were still behind the line."

Nah, Win95 was definitely better than System 7. That was really the beginning of Apple's obvious technical inferiority at the time. Both Apple and Microsoft had been trying for years to come out with a consumer-friendly OS that had preemptive multitasking and protected memory (Microsoft with OS/2 which sort of morphed into NT and Apple with Pink/Copland/Taligent). Win95 finally delivered and Apple was stuck hobbling along with their cooperative multitasking, non-protected memory MacOS right up until OS X a full 5 years later. Speaking as a Mac fan, anybody who chose to use a Mac over Windows during this time period (95 to 2000) must have been a little nuts. Any program you ran on a Mac had the ability to hang your entire system or corrupt all its memory, requiring a reboot. Happened ALL the time. Infuriating.

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