Life out here in the Wintel Wonderland has its peculiar aspects, and few are quite as odd as Microsoft's ongoing desire to be all things to all computer owners.

Of course, this isn't something new for Microsoft. Within about thirty seconds of nailing down the contract to produce PC-DOS for IBM back in the Pleistocene era, Microsoft made known its intentions to provide versions of DOS under its own label to anyone with suitable hardware, thereby giving birth — or at least inducing labor — to the PC clone industry.

We are now up to DOS 7 and Windows 95, and Microsoft, even while basking in its position as undisputed ruler of the desktop, must still be wondering how long a wait it's going to be before it's safe to refuse to support cranky pieces of antediluvian junk like my late-Eighties pre-HP Colorado QIC-40 tape drive, or any program that requires an entry in the SETVER table. (If anyone was wondering, the Jumbo 120 does work under Win95, with the current version of Colorado Backup, but don't even think about doing a full system backup with 40-megabyte tapes.) Being out on the cutting edge is wonderful, but having to deal with us throwbacks on the dull side must give Redmond's programmers fits.

Of course, there's always the possibility that the answer to all our computing needs doesn't begin with MS. I know at least one person who has been through DOS, through Windows 3.1, through Win95, and back to 3.1, and who in all that time has spurned Microsoft's file-management methods, such as they are, in favor of the simple but effective shell provided by an early (6.0) version of PC Tools. And while Microsoft can point out, quite correctly, that ancient stuff like that doesn't support filenames longer than 8.3, it is equally true that no one is forced to use long file names — except by Microsoft, which insists on having folders called "Program Files" and, if you paid the long dollar for Office, "My Documents".

Does all this sound like a good argument for a Macintosh — or a Unix box? In the hands of a suitable acolyte, it just might. Me, I'm just going to complain some more.

The Vent

1 October 1997

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 Copyright © 1997 by Charles G. Hill