My Apple Wedge
Interview With a New User
I’ve wanted to include an interview in my column for a while now, but not the typical Mac celebrity interview with a famed programmer or software chieftain. Rather, I wanted to interview a user— a beginner at that. I thought it important to make sure Mac users, Mac professionals, and executives realize that not everyone has an innate understanding of how computers in general (and Macs in particular) work. There are a number of people who would greatly benefit from a tool that sports as good a user interface as the Apple Macintosh. This is the group of users Apple needs to tap into in order to turn one of its latest marketing concepts into reality: 5 down, 95 to go, referring to the current percentage of marketshare for personal computers.
By asking beginners about their interactive experience we can all learn a great deal about how people interact with their computers. (Incidentally, that used to be one of Apple’s strengths.) In recent years, that pursuit of excellence in improving the user interface and experience has fallen somewhat by the wayside. The addition of the NeXT computing paradigm into the Apple fold after Apple’s acquisition of NeXT, the computer company headed by Steve Jobs after being ousted from Apple, has not helped to improve this situation as it brought about the greatest change in operating system architecture in Apple’s history, and with it a new user experience. Let’s hope that Apple keeps improving on what appears to be evolving as the stable underpinnings that is the Unix kernel, together with the most advanced operating system ever designed, OS X.
Now, off from my little soap box and on to the interview with a new user.
How Do You Like Them Apples? “Oh, It’s an Apple?”
D.S. Welcome to My Apple Wedge! Today we’re taking a look at the beginner user experience. With us is A.H. who recently purchased a Macintosh computer. How did you come to buy a Mac? What kind of Mac is it?
A.H. Well, you could almost call it an accident! A neighbor offered his old machine to me when he upgraded to a new one. He works for a software company that produces software titles for Macintosh. The machine is a Performa 5200 [with a PowerPC 603 CPU running at 75 Mhz].
Unpacking and Setup
D.S. Many people saw how easy it is to set up a new iMac when they watched Jeff Goldblum in the Apple commercials they used to play on US TV—how easy was it for you to set up an older Power Mac?
A.H. If my neighbor hadn’t helped me, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. He was instrumental in setting up everything.
Getting to Know You: The Moment of Truth—Turning It On
D.S. After you had everything in place you turned it on—what was your first impression? Did it boot up as expected?
A.H. My first impression was very positive. It was more clear to me how each building block depends on one another and what level I’m at. It booted as expected the first time around, but using the Internet is a little slow [the 5200 has a memory limit of 64 MB which limits multi-tasking, and her connection is via a 56K modem].
To Boldly Go Where You Have Not Gone Before: The Mac OS
D.S. How do you like working with the system? Have you installed or uninstalled applications, and what did you experience?
A.H. I like it! I’m running Mac OS 8.6, and it’s very clear and organized, and the menus are easier to use than on PCs. Whenever I need to do something, but I’m unclear how to do it, I look for assistance in the menus and I usually find what I’m looking for. I have not found the Help system very useful. It’s too complicated for me as my computer knowledge is only rudimentary. Previously, I’ve only done word processing and nothing else. And I don’t play computer games either—only my kids do that. I wish there were some kind of introduction for the computer literacy-challenged so I could install programs myself without having to consult my neighbor. I have installed a couple of games for my kids using the installation CDs, that was easy enough, but nothing else. The icons used in the process were quite helpful.
Mastering the Mac OS GUI
D.S. As a user who had only used PCs in the past, how do you like the graphical user interface?
A.H. I like that, too! Again, I find working with CDs very easy. I find it very useful how CDs or diskettes are ejected from my machine upon restart. Sometimes I forget to take it out before shutdown, but the machine remembers it for me so I can take care of it. Also, I like how interactivity with the trash can is handled: you can trash something by just dragging it to the trash can, but it is still retrievable very easily. On PCs, I have always had trouble because the way PC programs require you to delete something is very cumbersome. Also, I can proudly report I found out how to listen to an audio CD all by myself, whereas I had to be shown how to do it on a PC I used some other time.
D.S. What applications do you use from day to day? Did you find that there are some applications you need or used to use that are not available for the Mac?
A.H. So far, I’ve only been using Netscape for surfing the Internet and doing my e-mail. For writing letters I use Microsoft Word 98, and my kids have a bunch of games loaded on the computer.
D.S. How do you like customizing your Mac?
A.H. Well, I haven’t done any yet, I just haven’t had a good chunk of time to really explore the operating system. I’m planning on doing that eventually, though. I’m going to have to do that as soon as my job transfer comes through in a few months, though. The only thing I have done so far is a little bit of customizing the Apple Launcher. Rather, my kids did that.
D.S. Have you been using the Internet? How easy was it to set up?
A.H. Yes, like I said, I’m using Netscape for the Internet, i.e. e-mail and surfing. For example, I have used it to look up train connections and more. My neighbor set it up for me, so that part was easy. :-> Still, I wish I had a better connection than via my Acer 56K modem. Friends of mine have ISDN and I know that’s faster. But since I’m not spending that much time on the computer yet, it’s not worthwhile for me to get ISDN or something like that at this point. That’s the reason I do most of my Internet browsing at my parents’ house when I visit them. They have ISDN, as well, and surfing is much faster, of course :-> Nevertheless, the problem remains that I don’t have much experience surfing the Web, so a lot of time is spent on searching for stuff which I have not found a shortcut for just yet.
Maintenance: Virus Protection, Backup, etc.
D.S. What have you done for regular maintenance? How do you back up? How do you protect your computer from viruses?
A.H. Well, nothing actually. I wouldn’t know how to. I’ll ask my neighbor when I talk to him next. I haven’t done any backups, either, but I don’t have anything crucial on my computer, so it wouldn’t be tragic, if I couldn’t use it for some reason. My neighbor did install an anti-virus program, and I’m grateful he did, although I have not had any virus problems that I know of.
D.S. What parts of the Mac are easy or hard to learn? How did you find answers to your questions?
A.H. If you have many different programs open you don’t lose track of what is open like you do on a PC, so that’s easier to work with. As I mentioned before, I find how the trash works very convenient. It’s a real time saver. I had very little difficulty switching from PCs to Macs since I understood pretty well how their building blocks depend on one another and on which level I am. It helps me to think of my computer as a tree to understand its structure [it shows that her husband is a tree doctor]. I had some difficulty learning some of the Finder terminology, in particular aliases for which I couldn’t find an equivalent real-world concept. I only gathered that it simplified the number of clicks I had to go through before being able to start a particular application, sort of like a shortcut.
D.S. Exactly (only better)!
D.S. Have you had the chance to check out a Macintosh user group near you? What is your overall impression of the Mac community?
A.H. I have not checked out a user group. My neighbor is my support for now, and I make frequent use of that offer, but yes, he mentioned that there are user groups in the area. Maybe I’ll join one at some later point. As far as the community is concerned I know that it’s smaller than the PC community. Maybe I’ll learn more as I surf the Internet more which my colleagues at work say I will once I sit down and really start, but for now I have little time and it takes a long time to load pages with my modem connection.
The Next Few Weeks
D.S. What applications, either those you are using now or some you would like to use, do you see yourself acquiring in the next few weeks and months?
A.H. On my machine I have several applications loaded: Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Casady & Greene’s SoundJam, and Netscape Communicator. In our neighborhood we have the Mediathek; that’s where my kids rent their games. Maybe I will buy a few more after my job transfer when I may need other applications to exchange work-related documents. We’ll see.
D.S. Can you describe your overall impression of being a Mac user?
A.H. Well, the average user is even dumber than Apple thought! :-> I have found the learning programs that I used on the PCs I worked with very useful, so I wish that was available to me somehow.
D.S. Thanks for this interview. It has been a pleasure talking with you! We hope you thoroughly enjoy your Mac and come back to read ATPM for this and other columns in the future. Maybe we’ll even do a follow-up interview to see how you’re doing in a few months after you’ve had some time to get used to your Mac.
A.H. Thanks for having me, and greetings to your readers!
Also in This Series
- Interview With a New User · December 2001
- Visitors at the Apple Retail Store · November 2001
- Housekeeping · October 2001
- Organized Mobility—Mobile Connectivity—Connected Organizer · September 2001
- …Hoelle des Nordens von Roubaix, Tour de France, Tour de France… · August 2001
- With the Stroke of a Pen · July 2001
- FileMaker Pro Templates Overview and Tutorial · June 2001
- Complete Archive