Tom, a budding producer, who had originally made music on an Amiga, is lovingly speaking of a collection of plug-ins collected over the years that will only work in Mac OS 9. He shakes his head in dismay when I suggest that OS X is a more stable and user-friendly operating system on which to make music.
Tom cares little that Apple are about to launch a new operating system in the guise of OS X 10.4 Tiger. In Tom’s eyes, OS 9 is pretty much “old school” – and old school is pretty cool even if Apple CEO Steve Jobs buried OS 9 back in 2002. Jobs began Apple's 2002 annual worldwide developer conference by burying a copy of OS 9 in a small coffin, arriving on stage to the sound of funeral music. "We are here today to mourn the passing of Mac OS 9," Jobs joked. "He is no doubt looking down on us today with that same smile he showed us every time he booted up." Tom is not laughing, he is still waiting for the “bugs” to be fixed in OS X.
At a recent meeting of entrepreneurs hoping for Government-backed help and assistance Tom and I attended, 11 of the 12 hopeful small businessmen and women wanted a career in the music business. Reassuringly, all bar one were Mac users. However, the majority of those Mac users were running OS 9. Several confirmed the old adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," and “better the devil you know,” citing the time and effort involved learning software programs – particularly music-related ones.
It’s difficult to estimate from official figures how many people are still using OS 9. A rough, unscientific head count of friends and colleagues reveals a 50/50 split between OS 9 and OS X users. The 50 per cent of OS 9 users includes musicians, artists, writers and an internationally respected London based illustration agency. Old software can, of course, be had for the fraction of new – although OS 9 and earlier operating systems are still to be had on eBay for good money. OS 9.2 will set you back £59, sitting atop of a Software Top 10 at an east London online store.
David Arnott of Panos Pictures (www.panos.co.uk), a London-based independent photo agency, works with several Macs running OS 9 and Photoshop 6, as well as OS X and Photoshop 7. In the real world, David and his colleagues are only to aware of the cost of both hardware and software. David pinpoints one problem in upgrading: “You can’t run Photoshop CS on OS 9, and running CS on older Macs is a pain. CS is so memory hungry that your workflow can be substantially extended,” says David. “We work on a tight budget and are keen to get the most out of our Macs; unlike some other companies, we don’t have a high hardware turnover. We’re unlikely to upgrade older machines to OS X when they are operating well in OS 9,” he adds.
Another photographer, Phill Clarkson (www.clarksonart.co.uk), switched to OS X only after squeezing the life out of an elderly iMac: “I bought a “new” Mac off eBay recently – new enough to run OS X without problems. A friend’s 450MHZ G3 had become sluggishly slow running OS X and I dare not risk it with my old Mac. However, I had to budget for a copy of OS X before switching from OS 9; it can be a hidden cost when buying second hand,” he says. “Plus, once you upgrade, there’s the temptation of investing in new OS X native software just because it’s there – and support is directed at the latest versions, not OS 9 stuff. Once you start upgrading there's no end to it,” he adds.
A recent late convert to OS X from OS 9 has been the illustrator Paul Bateman (www.paulbateman.co.uk), whose works has adorned the pages of the Radio Times, Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Times among others. In a 15-plus year career with over a 1,000 commissioned works, Paul has produced increasingly elaborate kaleidoscopic photomontages primarily on a Mac using Photoshop.
When where you first aware of Apple computers?
Towards the end of 1987 I came across a Mac for the first time, when I was invited in to the offices of a leading publisher by the Art Director to do a magazine illustration. He thought my stuff would be adaptable to be produced on the Mac and encouraged me to ‘have a go’ on the Macs they had. I’m not sure what model it was, but I think it was a Mac Plus – the ones with the tiny blue screen. I’m sure he just invited illustrators in to have a laugh as they struggled with how to use the mouse without running out of desk space to get it to move across the tiny screen. I was pretty amazed at the capabilities to stretch and distort imagery I’d scanned in. I must have been easily pleased at the time. I’m sure I crashed it several times as well. I used some of the imagery I then printed off to create flat artwork for a few illustrations I did for them. The software, I think, was MacDraw. I could clearly see the potential for the computer as a tool for illustration, and was eager to find out the cost – which put a dampener on my enthusiasm.
What factors made you finally switch from OS 9 to OS X?
It was obvious a lot of the software was being written specifically for OS X, like Photoshop CS and in many ways I felt forced to make the switch – however, I'm glad I did. I was also having some niggling problems with OS 9, which I could never seem to resolve, which disappeared with the upgrade thankfully. I’ve recently started using OS X, and my impressions have been only positive – after the initial shock. If I look at Classic now it looks archaic in comparison; OS X is a beauty to behold, a great leap forward but more than that it’s very user-friendly. The Dock is just a great idea. It harks back to At Ease on my old Performa 630, but this looks like it’s aimed at every user – not just the complete novice. I love the way the icons leap up and down like excitable puppies! Obviously one of the major pluses has been its stability. I’d always found Macs stable but the occasional crash would be a disaster when you’re working on a tight deadline only to lose that precious Photoshop image.
Any pressure from your fellow professionals, prospective clients and agents?
No pressure, but a lot of other illustrators and designers were saying how good it was and how very stable it was and those views I respect and take seriously. They said once I'd tried OS X I'd never want to go back, which is very true. I don't think clients are too worried about which versions you are using but obviously compatibility with them is essential and unless you upgrade, eventually you'll get left behind.
What noticeable improvements in your workflow, illustration output and so on since the switch to OS X?
Mac OS X loads much quicker and I haven’t had a crash or freeze which is a major plus, my scanner would frequently cause OS 9 to crash which was a real pain (including crawling amongst the wires under the desk to turn it off at the plug!), but it's been fine with OS X.
Some of the integrated software I've found of great benefit. The dock is a great addition; it has certainly helped me be more organized with address book and iCal. All my favourite applications are also in there, just a click away and it lets me know if I've got any emails while I'm busy working. I also like being able to drag files into the dock for access later, stops the usual clutter on the desktop.
I find iPhoto really useful – I just plug in my digital camera and all my pics are stored really quickly, even wipe the camera memory if I want. I had some cack software that came with the camera, and was slow and so confusing to use in comparison. I like software that is easy to use and has a sensible interface; I don't want to have to plough through a manual trying to fathom how to do something. Preview is also good for having a quick look at PDFs and image files sent by clients, without having to launch both Acrobat and Photoshop.
I suppose a combination of the integration of a lot of the software and the ease of use has certainly improved my productivity, and that has allowed me more time to experiment with the creative programs I use to produce my illustrations.
On the web: www.paulbateman.co.uk