Blast from the Past

Two days ago, the motherboard in my 2015 MacBook Pro decided to die, leaving me with my trusty 2016 iPad Pro and a 2012 Dell XPS. 

I’ll have you know that before moving across to Macs I spent a lot of time repairing, upgrading and building PC’s based on Windows 7. I loved it! Putting all the components together, creating a good airflow for them, and tuning the system so be quiet and fast. Yes, liquid cooling, very yes.

I never really liked MacOS/OSX until Apple implemented a range of changes derived from iOS with Mavericks: before then, I could barely look at a Mac, let alone use one. It was ghastly compared to Windows 7! On the other side, iPad won me over with 2 and the original Mini: such good design, inside and out!

Over the past few years, the Mac has become much more iOS than OSX, and for me the trackpad is delightful to use. Despite creating the mouse an mouse pointer, Apple mice are absolutely awful. Crazy, ya? But where those failed, Apple has leapt ahead with trackpads thanks largely to iOS.

And this neatly leads me back to today: Windows 7, my previous favourite, and iPad with trackpad, my current.

“Ho! Where is Windows 10?” I hear you demand. Both Android and Windows collapsed under the weight of commodity a few years ago, and both had all translucency removed from their interfaces. Both now look dull, flat and cheap. There is no way I will choose to use either simply due to this fundamental design choice. The non-security and non-privacy only reinforce my decision!

I love being able to see through design components on my computing devices. This to me is one of the greatest aspects of modern technology, and Windows 7 accomplished this beautifully! Astonishingly, 7 was also more private than 10. Great work, MS.

While 7 was superseded in 2012, and iPadOS was created anew in 2019, the design principles are basically the same: simple user interface, basic multitasking, and translucency to deepen the visual experience. The most glaring differences is not in the breadth of software or computational capacities, but with user input methods.

Windows 7 must have a mouse. No touchscreen, of course, leads one to use the trackpad. However, there is no pinch to zoom, no swipe and the tap works but not as well as using the left/right click buttons. Trying to use 7 without a mouse is horrible! 

iPadOS is touchscreen-based, but I’m not typing on glass with an iPad, that’s for sure! Even with a trackpad to drive with, there is not much sense in moving my arm all the way over to it when I may simply extend my finger to do same with much less effort and wasted time.

I believe this highlights the reason why there are three times more iPads sold than Mac these days, despite iPad being a more limited device: they are simple and easy to use. 

Windows 7 looks beautiful and is quite easy to navigate and highly customisable, but it simply is not satisfying to use with the vaguely unintegrated trackpad. I never use a mouse with my MBP simply because it is never necessary – Apple’s trackpad improvements with iOS’s pinches and swipes makes a mouse clumsy and limited for many use cases.

iPadOS is slowly becoming too complex – try closing a swipe over app so it doesn’t interfere with a game – but is still touch-centric and with necessary GUI adjustments made to accommodate FaceID, can be used without even the Home Button. It is also easy to navigate.

The difference between 7 and iPadOS comes down to this: 7 feels like a simple and limited system, whereas iPadOS feels like a refined and limited system. 

All those years I used 7 for all those computers, and now having it right beside iPadOS also reveals to me a certain core of usability: 7 is greatly limited by the mouse-driven interface, whereas iPadOS is becoming difficult to use due to non-obvious swipe functions. 

I really miss using my Mac though – those swipes and pinches really make that system lovely to use! I hope eBay sends me a working motherboard to install 😉