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The LaST Word

by Scott Tirrell

A recent ad from Compaq asks the question, "Is there power in standardization?" The advertisement says there is. It allows a technology to have lower costs and risks to using it. Do you agree with Compaq? Undeniably, the price of PCs has gone done. And nobody did get fired for buying an IBM, right?

I'm still for personal computing. When one size didn't fit all. Each computer had its advantages and weaknesses and I've never claimed that the Atari ST was the best computer for all possible jobs. I think that there is a big difference between productivity and creativity.

On a more pragmatic level, though, once a standard is set, it slows down innovation and, often, better ways are pushed aside. It entrenches a product that may be inferior in some ways at the expense of entreprenuers. How many people are there who would dare to market a product directly against something from Microsoft? Is now a good time to be selling a proprietary system? A "safe" choice in itself, in my opinion, is sometimes a restriction on oneself.

I've also been experiencing an interesting dilemna lately. The bigger the company I've been dealing with, the worse customer service I seem to get. U-Bid and AST will not answer my continued e-mails or return my calls. Atari was reknowned for poor customer support but I've had responses. I also miss discussing software with the authors of programs. And remember when updates were $10 with your original disk? Those days seem to be long gone.

Back to emotions, many people are more creative on computers they enjoy using. It isn't an issue of nuts and bolts. Think about it. Would a dancer be as powerful moving to music chosen by committee or to a piece handpicked by themselves? There is power in individuality. It allows people to tap into their own strength.

I recently read an article by a reporter who went to a recent MacWorld show. She was a PC user. But she looked around and she saw people who liked their computers; it was totally alien to her. When I was first computing (remember the days before it was cool?), I did it because I liked it. I've heard the argument that computers are just tools and as long as they get the job done, they have served their purpose. I disagree. Computers are to be painted, named and to become a member of the family.

Is this article a diatribe against Windows? No, and I hope people don't read it that way. I use Windows 95 daily and like it. The point is that no matter what direction the computing world goes in, you don't have to follow. And the more I talk to fellow Atarians, the more I realize what good company I'm in.