Nerdism at its best

August 25, 2014

Macs are PCs

PCFor many years I have been an anti-apple advocate in some ways I still am because I feel Apple PCs are just a status symbol. When someone tries to tell me that their Mac is superior than the pc I know and love that’s when I get upset. It is that elitest mind set that sometimes comes with that apple. Now I can not say that that same attitude doesn’t come from windows fans, it does. I use to be that way, but in the last year or so I have changed from that. Today’s Macs are no different than the windows laptop I carry with me each and everyday. Albeit a very expensive brand name that you are paying for. They are no different.

The time for dividing computers into “PCs” and “Macs” is over. With more and more people are using mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, Mac OS X is just another PC operating system alongside Windows and Linux.

The Historical Meaning of “PC”

“PC” has several different meanings. On one extreme, PC just means “personal computer,” and smartphones and tablets are just as much PCs as laptops and desktops. On the other extreme, “PC” originally meant “IBM PC-compatible.” These were computers that were compatible with IBM’s PC architecture. They had a BIOS and could run all the same operating systems, like IBM’s PC-DOS and Microsoft’s MS-DOS. This was a standard architecture computers could conform to so they’d be compatible with the software that ran on other IBM PCs or IBM PC-compatible PCs. IBM no longer makes PCs, so this description isn’t accurate.

IBM PCs became less common and eventually vanished, so the term”IBM PC-compatible” fell out of favor. “Wintel” PCs replaced them — Windows-compatible PCs with an Intel x86 chip inside.

People continued to use the term “PC” for those Windows-on-Intel-x86 machines. But there was nothing intrinsically Windows-only about a PC. PCs originally ran DOS, and today many PCs run Linux. There have been other PC operating systems like IBM OS/2 and BeOS, too. “PC” may be synonymous with Windows to many people, but it shouldn’t be — Linux is also a PC operating system.

Macs Moved From PowerPC to Intel

In the past, a Macintosh’s hardware was very different from a PC’s. Where those Wintel PCs had Intel x86-compatible chips inside, Macs had PowerPC chips. PowerPC was a completely different architecture, so Windows just couldn’t install on a Mac, and Mac OS just couldn’t install on a PC. The difference wasn’t just the operating system, it was the architecture. That’s why a computer that came with OS/2 or BeOS could be considered a PC, but a Mac wasn’t a PC — it wasn’t “PC-compatible.”

In 2006, Apple began transitioning Macs to run on Intel’s x86 chips instead of the PowerPC architecture. This wasn’t just swapping out a chip manufacturer — Mac OS transitioned from being a PowerPC operating system to being an x86 operating system. Macs now use the same Intel chips found in “PCs.” The last version of Mac OS X to even run on PowerPCs at all was Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard back in 2009.

Macs and PCs Have the Same Hardware

Some people seem to think that the hardware in a Mac is very different from the hardware in a PC, but this isn’t true.

The CPU in a Mac is the same Intel CPU you’ll find in Windows based machines. Companies like Samsung, Toshiba, and SanDisk provide the solid-state drives used in a Mac — these are the same SSDs you would buy off the shelves to put in a “PC”, too. LG and Samsung make the displays for the majority of the worlds computers.

Windows, Linux, and Mac Are All PC Operating Systems

In the past, you couldn’t run Windows on a Mac without an emulator. Now, Windows can be easily installed on a Mac. You can install the standard version of your Linux distribution of choice on a Mac, too.

Mac OS X can even be installed on PC hardware — this is what’s known as a “hackintosh.” It isn’t officially supported by Apple. However, it’s possible because you can get PCs with the same hardware as to what you’d find in a Mac. Those hardware drivers Apple writes specifically for its Mac hardware can work just as well on that PC with the same hardware.

Macs are PCs — nice and expensive ones, but PCs nonetheless.

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