Five reasons why GS/OS beats Vista and OS X

Everyone is tossing their favorite operating system into the ring: Mac OS X, Linux, Windows Vista, Windows XP. But our recent OS smackdown overlooked my operating system of choice: GS/OS.

So, in the style of Preston Gralla, I offer five reasons why my OS — that of the 22-year-old Apple IIGS — gives you the power to crush the other kids:

Reason #1: Stability

It wasn't that long ago that a crashed application brought down your entire work environment. An important document open in your word processor was at risk if your Web browser went down, leaving you always walking on eggshells. Not so with the IIGS! Multitasking hadn't been invented when this 16-bit machine was en vogue. If your frontmost application crashes, you don't have to worry about any background processes also taking a dive; there aren't any. If that program blows up in your face, you can rest assured that that's all you've lost.

Reason #2: Security

Though the IIGS has its own Web browser, its feature set does not make it susceptible to spyware. Forget installing a NoScript plug-in; the Apple II safely defaults to meeting JavaScript with a blank stare. And viruses? There are only four, tops. If your IIGS crashes, you'll have the confidence it was your own damn fault, not some hacker's.

Reason #3: Software

A modern machine might require an entire DVD to distribute a single product. But the IIGS's primary storage medium was the 3.5" floppy disk, 5000 of which can fit on a single DVD. Software compilations provide hundreds of commercial programs in a single volume, while downloadable archives preserve the best games and utilities of yesteryear. And you'll never have to worry about updating, since many (but not all) of the original developers have since moved on, retired, or died.

Reason #4: Compatibility

Leopard can't run programs from the nine iterations of the Macintosh operating system that preceded OS X, orphaning a vast library. Even software that isn't native to the new Intel chip set requires the magic of Rosetta. The Apple IIGS, on the other hand, is fully backward-compatible with the 8-bit software created for the Apple IIc and IIe. Switching between GS/OS and ProDOS is smooth and seamless. Want to play Oregon Trail? Don't worry about installing a classic environment for a dedicated purpose; just pop in your floppy and, five minutes of noisy loading later, you'll find yourself susceptible to dysentery.

Reason #5: Portability

Can you run Mac OS X on a PC? Not easily, and not legally. Conversely, Vista can run on PC and Mac, but what about on anything else? Again, GS/OS trumps both competitors for flexibility. GS/OS runs on the original IIGS hardware, of course, but with the proper emulator, it can also run in any Macintosh, Windows, or Linux environment. Hardware is equally a non-issue: any desktop, laptop, UMPC, PDA, PSP, or cell phone will do.

So, now that I've thoroughly convinced you, what are you waiting for? You can download System 6.0.1 for free (note that the IIGS "System" was independent of the Mac OS and did not parallel its development), then check out my other blog post, "Getting started with the Apple II", to find out what you can do with it.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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