Macs used for graphics: Why?

This is something that I’ve been wondering for some time now.
Why are Macs used for most graphics applications? All the main programmes that are used are all available for the Windows PC. PCs always seem to be a few steps ahead of Macs in price and specs. So why are Macs used more often than not?

Early in the history of the Mac operating system, graphic applications and technologies (PostScript printer language, PhotoShop, etc.) were first developed for the Mac platform. Basically, it was much harder, sometimes impossible, to do desktop publishing on a Windows machine. Macs became established as desktop publishing/graphics machines right away, and a combination of inertia and loyalty has kept most artist types using Macs.

Actually, even after the applications were available for Windows, they usually still worked better and had more features in the Mac versions. That has only changed relatively recently.

The first computer the guy who wrote PhotoShop had was a Mac. The first Mac version shipped in 1990 while the first Windows version didn’t ship until 1993. Three years is a long time in computing.

Mac had a GUI before Windows was available for PC (really, Windows 3.x was the first semi-decent Windows).

Fonts simply work better on a Mac… I used to work in graphic design and we had well over 2500 fonts installed… handling Postscript is much better on a Mac and the main application (Quark) still works loads better on a Mac… most prepress houses handle mac data better and are really not prepared to deal with Windows.

Also Macs, in my experience, handle large files better, and are less likely to freeze or crash when I’m editing a 300mg graphic file.

Plus, we’re artists, so we’re cooler, and Macs are cooler.

Eh…my G4 crashes regularly at work, and my co-workers who have “upgraded” to OS X crash even more frequently. I do freelance work at home on my PC and rarely crash at all, and I’m generally working on fairly large files in Painter and Photoshop.

Still, I don’t have a deep, abiding hatred for Macs like some PC people do.

The font compatability issue is the biggest problem here where I work. (I’m a Flash programmer as well as DBA and Network admin and programmer, etc etc)

Otherwise I don’t see the Macs in the art department as being any different from a PC, except the G4’s are slower and the one button mouse. I try to be nice about it, but that little bugaboo seems to symbolize the Mac users’ stubborness against change or inability to handle complexity.


One difference nobody has pointed out is that Macs support Colorsync, which ensures professional-level accuracy in the colors you see on the screen, photograph in the studio, and output in the linotype. Even after all these years, there is nothing comparable to it in Windows, and no graphic designer worth his bill rate would want to blow a $30,000 print run because the shade of green used in the brochures didn’t match what the client wanted.

And to Cuckoorex, if someone has a MacOS X installation that “crashes frequently,” there’s something seriously wrong with the setup (defective memory being the first suspect). Apple’s software may be more secure and more stable than Microsoft’s stuff, but poor maintenance can take down any computer system…

I should also delineate the difference between print work and 3D graphics. Although Maya from Alias is available on the Mac, most of the other big boys aren’t, like 3dsmax and XSI.
P.S. You’ll never convince me that LW is a big boy

Now I know this is true of a CRT monotor but the new flat montiors are not true color. It seem like the MAcs all come with the flat panel displays, so even with the true color feature it now seems worthless.

What I remember was the mac’s advantage was a ‘toolbox’ of accelerated processor instructions. This toolbox would make graphics far less processor intensive then a windows machine. The Risc vs Cisc debate.

Now I know this is true of a CRT monotor but the new flat montiors are not true color. It seem like the MAcs all come with the flat panel displays, so even with the true color feature it now seems worthless.

What I remember was the mac’s advantage was a ‘toolbox’ of accelerated processor instructions. This toolbox would make graphics far less processor intensive then a windows machine. The Risc vs Cisc debate.

Absolutely not. Different types and models of monitors, printers, scanners, and the like all have different color characteristics. A quite common situation is the typically darker image on printed materials when compared to a CRT or LCD. ColorSync accounts for these differences.

You know, it’s not that big of a deal for somebody to purchase whichever mouse they prefer. I’m sitting with a multibutton mouse on a mac right now. I agree that the one button mouse that Apple ships is a bit silly and they should think about changing it, but what makes you think that the majority of people even use those ? Most people I know don’t. So, I think your generalisations may be wrong.

Actually, a few people I know don’t want to change the mice for their Macs because then it won’t match. And it’s a lot more work to buy a new mouse than it is to use the one that comes with the system. And my bet is, a lot of people who buy Macs, are probably are looking for convenience more than anything. Going out and buying a new, not entirely necessary accessory is not convenient.

Yes, I don’t doubt that there are a few people who keep their mouse for this silly reason. :smack:

Since the thread was about graphics, I’m talking about professional Mac users here, not novice, clueless computer users who buy a Mac just because it’s pretty or it looks nice.

A significant percentage of Apple’s market is the pro market. Macs are not exactly uncommon in the graphics field and Apple virtually owns the professional audio market. These people could buy whatever they want to, and they buy Mac not out of convenience, but because they like Macs better, and they perform their jobs better with them.

I think it’s primarily a tradition more than anything, Macs are not significantly more powerful than PCs, and really the only area they do better than PCs is in the bus speed. Where iMovie used to be the video editing program, there are good PC programs coming out as well. I don’t think Macs have any significant advantage over PCs in video or audio editing anymore.

What you might be remembering is that the Mac originally came with most of its GUI and OS functions built into ROM — as opposed to being inside library files, loaded into RAM after the boot phase, as is the practice on a Windows PC. This ROM contained the Mac’s “Toolbox” as Apple called it in their developer’s literature.

The original impetus for this feature was to save much needed space on the 400-KB 3.5-inch diskettes, which at first were the Mac’s only storage medium. Large resident hard disks that could hold a large GUI-based operating system weren’t very common yet in the mid-80s, either on Macs or PCs. Putting the GUI code in ROM also had the advantage that it could execute faster than code in RAM. (How much faster, I don’t remember anymore.)

However, this had nothing to do with the RISC vs. CISC debate, since the Toolbox was ROM-resident long before the Mac switched from the CISCy M68K processor to the RISCy PowerPC. Also, the same CPU, the computer’s main CPU, was responsible for executing everything: Toolbox code and application code. In other words there was no separate GPU to render graphics, at least not in a standard hardware configuration.

Later, some years after the switch to the PowerPC, Macs eventually reverted to the more common OS model: keep a minimal firmware in ROM, and load the OS from disk, including all the GUI support. And that’s how it still works today.

(Otherwise I agree with rjung and h.sapiens for the answers to the OP’s question, if that matters.)

When? For who? Home movie editors? Not professionals, that’s for sure. Ever heard of Adobe Premiere (PC and Mac)? Or Final Cut Pro?

Well, ok, I was wrong, I was just talking more than anything, but your response helps to show that quality and powerful video editing programs are not only on the Mac anymore.

I’ll clarify some of the ToolBox ROM stuff with some technical stuff. If the ROM were the complete ToolBox, System (OS) upgrades wouldn’t have been possible. Upgraded System versions, though, did contain ToolBox routines in RAM, read off of the disk. The early, non-multitasking Mac used a clever technique called processor error traps to execute toolbox code. For example, a processor understands commands (opcodes), like add register A to register B, or jump to address that’s in register C. There are commands though that the processor doesn’t understand. This would cause the processor to run special fault code, which was a lookup table that directed the processor to execute certain ToolBox routines depending on what the unimplemented opcode was, and what values were preset in certain registers. Every system upgrade would include a newer lookup table, telling the trap routine to look in a different spot for the “newer” ToolBox routines. So some routines would run out of ROM and some out of RAM.

I think RAM has just about always been faster than ROM. I remember utilities on my Commodores (1- and 2-MHz machines) that would do ‘shadowing’ of the ROM, i.e., copy the ROM into RAM so that ROM-resident routines would execute faster.

Okay, neat explanation, and not really related to the OP, other than the Mac really, really is clever and it gave it a good head start in desktop publishing (as it used to be called).