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Low-Tech Purists and Mac Fans Disdain the Hype

TIMES STAFF WRITER

“I don’t do windows.”

That was the refrain from some people last week after Windows 95, Microsoft’s new software program, made its boisterous way onto the shelves of computer stores worldwide.

Even in high-tech Orange County, where every other household is equipped with a personal computer (versus one of three nationwide), more than a few folks said thanks, but no thanks, to Windows 95.

Among them were the low-tech purists who appreciate the simpler ways, and high-tech devotees of Apple Macintosh computers, some of whom strutted around in a T-shirt that said: “Been there . . . done that!"--a phrase meant to indicate that Windows 95 technology was just approaching that of rival Apple.

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But amid the hype and counter-hype over Windows 95, there was a serious side.

For some, Windows 95 seemed to symbolize technology’s relentless march in society, an almost sinister intrusion on people’s lives. So even as people tried to sleep through the Windows 95 hoopla last week, many tossed and turned.

Take Manuel Gallegos, a typewriter repairman whose workaday world is surrounded by Smith-Coronas, IBMs and Olympias of earlier generations.

When the subject of Windows 95 came up last week at Tom’s Typewriter Service in Laguna Niguel, the 37-year-old Gallegos seemed utterly perplexed about all the fuss over “another gizmo for a computer.”

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“We have nothing like that here,” he said with a chuckle. But Gallegos also acknowledged he is a bit worried. Windows 95, he said, reminded him of how little he knows about computers, a handicap that now weighs heavier than ever in his mind.

“It kind of scares me,” said the Santa Ana father of two.

His employer, Doug Watt, wasn’t fazed by Windows 95, though he saw irony in it all.

“I’m basically dealing with technology 100 years old,” he said. “Probably half of my customers don’t even know what Windows 95 is.”

Watt says he, too, more or less fits in that category. “And I don’t really care,” he said.

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Windows 95 is the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system, which runs the basic functions of a computer. Microsoft’s operating systems currently run about 80% of the computers in the world, and 30 million copies of Windows 95 are expected to be sold by the end of the year.

All of which grates on John Stebbins, an Irvine consultant, teacher and devotee of Apple Macintosh.

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Stebbins, 48, travels in tight Apple circles, but last week he put on his “Been there . . . done that!” T-shirt and walked around a couple of leading computer stores in town during the Windows 95 frenzy.

“Big deal!” he quipped. “Mac’s been doing Windows 95 since 1987,” he said.

Stebbins seemed to take personal offense at Microsoft’s multimillion-dollar ad campaign, which included everything from balloons and streamers to midnight pizza giveaways at computer stores and colored lights on the Empire State Building.

“Because they have millions to spend on it, they want to control your mind and your office,” Stebbins groused.

“I don’t like its attempts to create a one-world order. We can’t have that. Human beings resist that.”

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Of course, not everyone took Windows 95 or its $200-million marketing campaign quite so seriously.

Dean Koontz, the best-selling author of suspense thrillers who lives in Newport Beach, was far from caught up in the Windows 95 hoopla, though he says it was fascinating watching the Hollywood-style hype over a computer product.

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Koontz, 50, says he’s no techie, and in fact he made the switch from typewriter to computer relatively late and reluctantly. So that’s why Koontz has an assistant who takes care of his computer needs, who will advise him on whether Windows 95 is for him.

“I leave those decisions to somebody else to keep my head clear,” said Koontz, adding: “I don’t need to be on the cutting edge of technology. For me, the world isn’t going to change” because of Windows 95.

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Pascal Olhats, chef at the renowned Pascal restaurant in Newport Beach, says he too has little time to be bothered by something like Windows 95. Olhats couldn’t seem to get away from all the talk about it, which filled his upscale restaurant last week.

Like many small-business owners, Olhats and his wife, Mimi, use personal computers to take care of their financial books. Still, Olhats, 41, said of Windows 95: “I’m not too crazy about it”

And why?

“I’d rather not live with it. Personally, I want myself to be a purist. Life should be more simple, more fundamental. . . . Some people need to keep the tradition.”

Connie King, a painter whose works are on exhibit at Bistango in Irvine, wasn’t exactly swept by the Windows 95 moment, either.

Asked what she thought about it, King replied: “Windows 95--is what?”

“Oh. I’m really not into computers,” she added. “I’d love to take a class in it and become more knowledgeable.

“I guess I don’t know what I’m missing.”


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