Discussion Thread

Mac vs PC in Engineering

  • 1.  Mac vs PC in Engineering

    Posted 12-21-2021 06:26 PM
    Another computer question for you all - Mac vs PC in Engineering

    I had a friend in college who was in my engineering classes, and I recall that he was the only student to use a mac instead of a PC.

    I recently asked him to remind me as to why he preferred a MacBook at the time. He explained that just under 10 years ago when we were in undergrad, he preferred his MacBook because it could simultaneously run multiple operating systems at a time, and he thought the interface was cleaner as well. However, he also noted that as of recent years, he has found that both operating systems and hardware producers are a lot more similar in performance than they used to be.

    I know one commPoston answer to why most engineers use PCs is simply because most engineering software is written strictly for Windows.

    Does anyone else have preferences one way or the other? Or features that they like about one type of computer (or operating system) that they wish were available on the other?

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 2.  RE: Mac vs PC in Engineering

    Posted 12-22-2021 10:00 AM
    PC personally.  Partially it's inertia and not having the interest in learning a whole new 'ecosystem' and way of doing things.  And I do think most engineering software is designed for PCs.  My impression has always been that Macs are targeted more toward 'creative fields' like publishing and graphics and PCs more toward general functional work.  Personally, I've never had a need to run multiple operating systems at the same time.  Apple was admittedly more cutting edge with innovations in the early days.  In the early 90's we were using PCs with the DOS operating system (the dark ages by today's standards) while Apple was pioneering the now common use of GUI with icons.  Microsoft realized that was the wave of the future and pretty much copied it with Windows.

    Apple always seemed a bit uppity and 'exclusive'.  They make finely sculpted and crafted phones and computers, but honestly, a $450 Dell PC will run spreadsheets and 2D Cad just fine.  If you need to do large 3d BIM models, high end animations, or huge analysis models, you'll probably need to upgrade to a higher end model, but again, I think you'll find a comparable PC much less costly than an Apple product.  With Apple, I feel like you're paying a premium for the exclusive aura they've worked so hard to cultivate.

    My daughter attends Ohio Sate and her freshman year they rolled out a program where all incoming freshmen got iPads and (in theory) the professors were all supposed to use iPads for their classes.  She quickly found that many of the programs professors wanted them to use weren't available for iPads or were dumbed down versions that didn't have all the features the PC versions had (or didn't run as well).  And she's not even in engineering.  She and most of her classmates had to break down and get PC's to be able to function and do their work in many classes.  That was just the reality.  Admittedly, she likes her iPad and still does most of her work on it, but in any field you have to run with the hardware that runs the majority of the software you need to use.

    Going back a few years, I had an early version of the Windows Phone.  It was a great phone.....but there were very few apps for it.  Most apps were written for either Android or Apple phones.  For the next phone I switched to Android even though I liked the Windows phone.  Similar to PC's, you can get good Android phones much cheaper than iPhones and they do everything most people want and need them to do.  the lack of apps basically killed the Windows Phone.

    Apple products (so I've been told...) have great build quality and great functionality.  Not everyone can afford to (or wants, or needs) to pay their exclusivity premium though.

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    Greg Thein, PE
    Cleveland, OH
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  • 3.  RE: Mac vs PC in Engineering

    Posted 12-22-2021 10:28 AM
    Ah yes, the WindowsPhone was wonderful!  The Live Tiles were ingenious!  Lack of apps indeed hung it out to dry.  I am looking forward to what Windows 11 has to offer.

    Growing up with PCs, I never felt comfortable using a Mac.  Macs are too restrictive in their software requirements and interface.  Windows is more customizable to suite your needs.  This makes it less user friendly, but capable for an advanced user.  Troubleshooting, building computers, and playing online games with my brother was part of my childhood and not something that could be done on a Mac. My PC is almost 13 years old because I have continuously upgraded it.

    It will be interesting to see how the next generation utilizes computers.  Kids use tablets and apps at an early age, with touchscreens only.  They learn on Amazon Fire and Android, and less and less on Mac/Windows.

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    Chad Morrison P.E., F.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Greenville RI
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  • 4.  RE: Mac vs PC in Engineering

    Posted 12-23-2021 09:44 AM
    I never had a windows phone, but i still have 2 first gen Zunes that kind of work.

    I'm impressed you have been able to keep a PC running for 13 years! Are any of the parts original at this point? I built a gaming PC in 2017, which has since become my "work from home" pc and I tend to rely on it much more than my company-issued laptop.  Would love to know if you have any advice for how to keep it running for as long as you have!

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 5.  RE: Mac vs PC in Engineering

    Posted 12-28-2021 09:48 AM
    I used to have Lumia 920 Windows Phone. It took amazing photos that were better than most smart phones at that time.

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    Tung Nguyen, PhD, Water Resources Modeler
    Jacobs
    Sacramento, CA
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  • 6.  RE: Mac vs PC in Engineering

    Posted 12-23-2021 09:43 AM
    Thanks for your thoughts! I can definitely understand not wanting to learn a new OS for no particular reason. I consider myself a minor PC enthusiast and have definitely also noticed the comparative performance vs cost of PC products compared to apple products (especially if you build yourself).

    Interesting story you shared about your daughter as well. I recall a lot of places making decisions to giving everyone a tablet, only to find out later that they feel very restrictive to a lot of people. I am impressed that she is still able (and prefers) to do most of her work on it.

    Since my first smart phone 10 years ago however, I have found that I preferred the taptic feel of the iPhone over any android product that I have played with. Open to changing one day though.

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 7.  RE: Mac vs PC in Engineering

    Posted 12-22-2021 11:01 AM

    I have always worked on the Windows, since 1995 (The year of our PC - Personal Computer). When my father purchased our first computer it came with Windows 3.1x installed.  As a teenager (child times) - I did a lot of exploratory actions. One of my dad's colleagues, brings me some additional games with the Floppy Disk 1.44MB (diskette drive format style).

    Windows were so compatible in multiple scenarios & perspectives, in terms of performance that time, that I think its interface was really unmatchable even for today! Some of the reasons that I see for currently general software development trends that are mainly written for Windows, it's because they started earlier, delivering the system at your Home, when no ones were taking actions. 

    In comparison with those who came later or after, Other Operational Systems (O.S) weren't so popular as Windows. Its Very Important to note here. That some product might perform better for some functions, when others don't, as your friend said.

    Sometimes we are caught by the times!  In next years we are all facing the 5th revolution with A.I machines, and increase of Automation. 

    We are all must remain strong and do not machines suppress our creativity, but the opposite must be true.

    Thank you for your post, Christopher!  



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    Andre Newinski S.E., A.M.ASCE
    Engenheiro Estrutural
    AN
    Santo Angelo
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  • 8.  RE: Mac vs PC in Engineering

    Posted 12-23-2021 08:14 PM
    Hello everyone,

    I work in Mac and Windows without major inconveniences, particularly in MS Office, except for some "advanced" characteristics in PowerPoint and some typos in the Spanish versions. I use macros and personalized functions for pavement design in Excel without any problems. Also, I can run programs written in Scilab in Mac, Windows, or even Linux. Python programming offers the same advantage.

    The trouble arises with some engineering software or lab-equipment software written explicitly for MS Windows (the latter may be a nightmare, even between Windows versions). In my case, Slide, TransCAD, and Transmodeler keep me as a Windows user.

    I agree that the Apple hardware is expensive, but in my particular case, I have a 2011 iMac in good working conditions (Office, QGis, Scilab, and Python programming). If you divide the purchase value between the continuous performance period (10 years), it is cheaper than the three Windows-based laptops that I burnt in the same period. Of course, perhaps I was lucky, and other colleagues may have had unfortunate experiences with Apple products.

    Best wishes for everyone, happy holidays.


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    Luis Vasquez-Varela Aff.M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    Manizales
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  • 9.  RE: Mac vs PC in Engineering

    Posted 12-27-2021 10:06 AM
    Working for a small firm in Oklahoma, we are using windows system due to the operation is easier and the data reduction is faster as well. I have a personal MacBook that has autocad on it as well yet it does not operate at near the capacity that our laptops at work do. I can have multiple operating applications open and our computers do not act as if there is anything open

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    Cameron Freeborn S.M.ASCE
    Intern
    Lexington OK
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  • 10.  RE: Mac vs PC in Engineering

    Posted 01-08-2022 11:07 AM
    Apple is catching up in that regard with their M1 processors.

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    Tsee Lee, A.M.ASCE
    City of New York
    Long Island City, NY
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  • 11.  RE: Mac vs PC in Engineering

    Posted 12-27-2021 11:21 AM
    While finishing my bachelor's degree, I had a Mac laptop and performed all the engineering programs in a PC computer lab. I had the laptop since high school, where I had focused on a lot of STEM classes before Ohio State.

    When the pandemic hit and my remaining coursework required a Windows computer, the university helped me figure out how to use programs that either simulated a Windows computer on my Mac laptop, or gave me remote access to the Windows computer lab. I still preferred actually being in the lab over either software, because both would drain the energy in my laptop.

    Now that I have my degree, I'm sure that when I need to use software on a Windows computer, the computer will be available in the office.

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    Alexander Granato A.M.ASCE
    Student
    Bexley OH
    granato.3@...
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  • 12.  RE: Mac vs PC in Engineering

    Posted 01-08-2022 11:08 AM
    I was reading just today about how most teenagers and young adults today use iPhones, the share almost doubling in the last several years. This is a trend that, if it continues, will probably lead to more Apple computers in the future. I know engineering students who persevered with inadequate access to course-required applications. How much less likely will they be to purchase any Windows computer in the future?

    I like competition so I like companies that challenge Apple, but they need to do a better job figuring out how to stop the 3-trillion-dollar behemoth.

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    Tsee Lee, A.M.ASCE
    City of New York
    Long Island City, NY
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  • 13.  RE: Mac vs PC in Engineering

    Posted 01-10-2022 09:34 AM
    I've always used an iPhone, but thats never stopped me from preferring to work on a PC. If this random webpage I found is accurate, only 40% of those who own an iPhone also own a macbook. So maybe you've got nothing to worry about there!

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 14.  RE: Mac vs PC in Engineering

    Posted 01-10-2022 11:17 PM
    That's a distinct possibility. Another is that this means that much more market share from which Apple can take from Windows/Intel/AMD.

    Mobile market shares are still changing rapidly. The PC took a decade or so to become the dominant platform and that was helped by monopolistic licensing terms. It may take a while longer to see how the mobile revolution will impact desktops, but according to one survey, while 40% of U.S. consumers use iPhones, among those aged 18 to 24, more than 70% do (link). In China, where you'd expect cost to be a bigger factor, iPhones has outsold others for two months, although there were apparently some extraneous factors. Anecdotally, I see Android users moving to iPhones. As Apple integrates different devices and develops cutting-edge processors like the M1, I see no reason why they can't start taking market share from other platforms.

    It may not happen this year or next, but I wouldn't count them out.

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    Tsee Lee, A.M.ASCE
    City of New York
    Long Island City, NY
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  • 15.  RE: Mac vs PC in Engineering

    Posted 01-10-2022 09:34 AM
    oops - forgot the link!
    https://appleinsider.com/articles/21/08/26/iphone-users-drawn-to-ipad-but-not-mac-or-apples-home-devices-study-finds

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 16.  RE: Mac vs PC in Engineering

    Posted 01-31-2022 03:35 PM
    My preference was based on familiarity and the availability of software used. The programs (e.g., MathCAD, AutoCAD, RISA 3-D, etc.) that I used were windows based only programs for such a long time. There were little to no programs with any other operating systems. The compatibility of older working files is often a challenge with new versions of programs within windows. I cannot imagine the challenge across platforms. With a move from paper to electronic, a change in operating systems would require carrying both systems unless starting new.

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    James Williams P.E., M.ASCE
    Principal/Owner
    POA&M Structural Engineering, PLC
    Yorktown, VA
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