The Digital Journalist
A Letter from Central America: Spoiled
March 2005

by James Colburn

Okay. Let me say up front that I've been using computers for a long time. Longer, in fact, than some of you have been alive. How long? Since 1970, that's how long. Thirty-five freakin' years.

I started out learning on an IBM mainframe the size of some small houses and we programmed it using punch cards. Our idea of "cool graphics" was printing out a picture of a dancing Snoopy using X's and O's on the wide-carriage impact printer. I've used CP/M machines with eight-inch, single-density floppy drives. I've used MS-DOS versions dating back to 3.1 (remember EDLIN?) I've sent telexes at 110 baud and remember when modems came out that were so super-fast as to defy reason: 1200 bps! I've known Windows since it was Windows/286 and I've modified and built a number of my own machines (386 and 486). I bought my first Mac back in the '80s to scan and transmit photos; it was 180C with the maximum available Ram (14Mb) and the biggest hard drive possible (160Mb). I've been using Photoshop since version 2.5.1.

After all this let's just say that, having done my research, I find that when it comes to dealing with photographs and graphic images I feel that a Mac is better than a Windows machine. My feeling seem to be born out by seeing what my fellow photographers use. Any photographer that I know that has bought his or her own machine has bought a Mac. Go to an event worthy of coverage, be it sports, politics, whatever, and you'll see that nine out of 10 of the photographers there are using Macintosh laptops. The folks over in the corner using Windows machines (the ones that grumble a lot) have, in the main, been forced to use them by their employers.

Now maybe my seven years at Time magazine spoiled me. We ran an all-Mac network that, to my memory, didn't go down once in the seven years except for routine maintenance. When corporate sent out an "OH, MY GOD THERE'S A NASTY VIRUS OUT THERE. PLEASE DON'T OPEN ANY ATTACHMENTS!" e-mail, it was followed by one from Time's IT department (Don. Lamarr. Everyone in NYC. You guys rock.) saying, in effect, "Don't worry. It's a Windows virus and it doesn't affect Macs."

So if logic were to dictate a choice of operating system for, say, a publishing operation, it would seem to make sense to run some sort of Unix system on the servers (Mac OSX? Linux?) with a Mac OSX front end. The software is there and readily available. The hardware is there and neither more or less expensive than the alternative. What you probably wouldn't want to do is run a Windows system with its extreme vulnerabilities to viruses, hackers and other miscreants. Okay, okay. Let's say the company HAD to run a Windows system for whatever reason. It still wouldn't make much sense to force the photographers and graphic artists to use Windows machines, would it? Since Mac's OSX runs so beautifully with Windows there'd be no logic to it at all.

Now suppose that you wanted to connect a few Macs to a Windows network. Plug and play, right? Thirty minutes or less with a machine and you're hooked up, connected to the printers, dragging and dropping from one server to another. Suppose that your IT person told you, with a straight face, that the reason Macs weren't allowed on his Windows network was because Macs are "a security risk."

What might you do?


I'm happy to announce that I'm a freelance photographer again! So if anyone out there knows anyone that needs something shot in Omaha, southeastern Nebraska, the Great Plains or anywhere in North America heck, anywhere in the world tell them to drop me a line at

© James Colburn
Contributing Writer