Confessions of a Graphic Artist
Everyone knows about the long-running battle between the PC (Microsoft) and the Mac (Apple) – or as many people see it, Bill Gates versus Steve Jobs – in the race to make the best product available to the public. It seemed like the Windows PC was the leading operating system in the 1990s. While PCs received the most exposure, Apple was the first to introduce a computer with a graphical user interface (GUI) that used color. In 1984, Apple launched a massive marketing campaign to challenge the world of PC computing. Unfortunately, Macs developed a reputation for being expensive and for having a very limited range of software options. Meanwhile, the PC became a household fixture, though many computers were produced by third-party manufacturers and were labeled “clones.” These were inexpensive and offered a more extensive selection of software and features, including shareware, freeware and a large community of support.
You are probably asking yourself, Where is he going with this?
Well, I think the reason why Macs prevailed over PCs in the publishing industry has to do with cross-platform font compatibility issues. To this day, fonts are the biggest hang-up between the two brand platforms. Here is a quick history.
- In 1985, Apple licensed PostScript for use with its LaserWriter printers, which helped spark the desktop publishing revolution.
- Adobe Systems created the Type 1 font, which was proprietary to Adobe products only.
- Apple subsequently developed a competing standard, the TrueType font, which provided full scalability and precise control of the pixel pattern created by the font’s outlines. Apple licensed it to Microsoft, and the TrueType font format works well on both platforms.
- Adobe Systems followed with the release of Adobe Type Manager, allowing the on-screen WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) viewing of fonts such as the TrueType format. Other font management software has been developed over the years, and some programs are even available for PCs.
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Adobe Systems and Type 1 fonts, combined with the Apple computer and the PostScript language, have been the industry standard for the graphics and publishing market ever since, making Macs the dominant platform for productivity.
OK, so those were the early days. How does this relate to the title?
I have worked in the printing business for more than 15 years and have seen technology come and go. Like anything else, everything has gotten bigger, faster and is in greater demand. The PC began to gain a foothold in the industry with the introduction of digital printing and digital raster image processing (RIP) software. Large format printers started using PCs to process the workload. A PC had just as much processing power as a Mac and was much less expensive.
Although Macs remains my preference for running desktop graphics software, I was eventually compelled to purchase a PC due to the expense. The Mac has a beautiful look, is more secure and has a stable operating system, but I found that its high price tag and sheer volume of major system upgrades make it difficult to afford for an average user like myself.
I now use a PC as my personal computer at home. I have all of the same software options but still struggle with converting old Mac projects to the PC format without first having to find and/or replace … you guessed it … the fonts!
There was a time when I thought I would never use a PC for my daily art production tasks, but here I am doing it, and you know what? It’s really not that bad. I would say yes, the PC has made its presence known in the graphics world and is accepted by users and business owners alike.
That said, Apple maintains a huge lead when it comes to digital devices, but that is another story …