Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Macintosh versus Windows

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Macintosh versus Windows

Article excerpt

Q My nine-year-old son has learning disabilities and mild cerebral palsy. I want to buy a home computer. Should I get a Macintosh or a Windows-based computer?

A Until recently, we would have answered by saying that we had a strong preference for the Macintosh. However, as distinctions between platforms (types of computer) decrease--we have had to reevaluate do position.

The choice of computer platforms may be guided by a series of questions:

1. Which platform supports the specific software and adaptive hardware my child requires? If your child needs specific software or adaptive equipment that works on only one platform, the question is resolved. However, if altenative solutions exist, the decision is not as easy.

In terms of general purpose and educational software, Windows has a huge advantage. However, the most interesting developments in adaptive software and peripherals were initially designed for the Macintosh, because multimedia features, such as synthesized speech, integration of graphics and animation, and ability to change text size, were built into the Macintosh operating system. Now, however, many Macintosh-based software and hardware developers are moving their products to Windows, as well. Verdict: Slight edge to Macintosh.

2. Which is easier to learn? The Macintosh is still the clear winner when it comes to removing the computer from the box, setting it up and getting it running. Both children and adults find it easier to learn. Verdict: Edge to Macintosh.

3. Which platform is easier to use? When things are running smoothly, both platforms are very easy to use; however, each has features that are preferable for specific needs. For example, Windows has always allowed the user to access menus and other functions through the keyboard, a benefit to individuals who cannot use a mouse. Windows 95 adds an excellent system for customizing the look and operation of the onscreen desktop, including cursor size and adaptive keyboard features. The Macintosh was first to offer some of these features, but Windows now implements them at least as well.

Macintosh has always offered a more consistent method of interacting with the computer, that is, commands learned for one program transfer readily to other programs. However, again, Windows is catching up.

It's still easier to install multimedia software on the Macintosh. Verdict: A draw.

4. What kind of user support is available? User support is extremely important for any computer system. …

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