Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 160 / JANUARY 1994 / PAGE 4

Editorial license. (IBM's new PS/2 E microcomputer) (Editorial)
by Clifton Karnes

I have seen the future, and it has an IBM logo on it. This may sound strange given IBM's stormy past, but it's true. As most of you know, IBM didn't create the computer revolution, but in 1981 it intercepted the ball from Apple, Commodore, and Atari and carried it for a touchdown. The original IBM PC was a big win for IBM, which all but walked away with the entire PC game.

But in the late 1980s, IBM started to fumble. it repeatedly introduced hardware that was underpowered and overpriced. OS/2 1.0 was a fiasco, and the company's highly publicized separation from Microsoft left IBM out in the cold without a software partner.

But IBM has been bouncing back. With OS/2 2.1, it created an operating system that has intelligent design and delivers high performance. And the ThinkPad notebooks are a similar win for the company, setting new standards in performance, design, and price.

As superior as both of these innovations are, however, they pale beside IBM's latest hardware creation. This new PC from IBM points the way to the future so clearly, it almost takes your breath away. I'm talking about the PS/2 E-IBM's "green" PC, the machine on this issue's cover.

The PS/2 E (known simply as the E) is an innovation in several key areas. It conserves space, saves energy, cuts noise to near zero, and all but eliminates emf emissions.

The E's look is distinctive. The system box is only about one foot square and less than three inches high, bordered by a green band. The box's design is clean and uncluttered. On the front you'll see IBM's logo, an on/off switch, two small status lights, and a small panel. Where's the disk drive? Open the panel, and inside you'll find a 1.44MB floppy drive.

You'll find something else interesting inside: four PCMCIA slots. Instead of a traditional bus for hardware expansion, this PC uses PCMCIA cards. There are four bays which can accept either four Type 1 or Type 2 cards or two Type 3 cards (which are larger).

Open up the system box, and you'll find something else that's amazing. There's no fan. Since this PC runs on a low-power 50-MHz 486SLC2, there's no need for cooling, and as a consequence, there's no noise.

The machine also comes with 8MB of RAM and a 123MB hard disk (which is much too small).

The system unit's small footprint is matched by the keyboard's (there's no built-in numeric keypad, but one is available as an option). And the mouse is built into the keyboard. This is the same pointer used on IBM's notebooks, and although it takes some getting used to, it's quite serviceable. To move the mouse pointer, you press a small red button just below the G and H keys. The left and right mouse buttons are embedded in the keyboard below the space bar. You can use an external mouse if you prefer.

Atop the system unit you'll find the E's most talked about (and expensive) feature: a beautiful 10.4-inch active-matrix color LCD monitor that features XGA graphics and resolutions up to 1024 x 768. The display can handle 65,000 colors and is crisp and fast. It's also a whopping $3,000. If the LCD is too pricey, however, there's a low-power, low-emission CRT monitor available too.

When you boot up the E, you'll find yourself in the OS/2 2.1 Workplace Shell. If you're an OS/2 fan, you'll be right at home. And even if you're not, Windows 3.1 and DOS are just a couple of mouse clicks away. If you decide to bypass OS/2 altogether, you can move the WIN-OS/2 emulator or the DOS session to your OS/2 StartUp folder and land in either environment.

OS/2, however, is worth a look. It sports an attractive and full-featured interface that's more object-oriented and consistent than Windows 3.1.

Although the E is innovative in several areas, the heart of the machine is its power savings. Not only does this PC use less power than traditional ones, it has several power-saving features built in - just like most notebooks do. If the power-saving features are enabled, the E uses less power than a 60-watt light bulb. IBM estimates that an office running 100 Es would save $2,000 a year in electricity, but money isn't really the object; it's saving energy and reducing emf radiation.

The E has the price tag you'd associate with cutting-edge technology (about $5,330 with the flat-panel LCD display), but as more units are made with similar specifications, the price will surely go down. Meanwhile, think of this lean, sexy machine on your desk. The thought is sure to make you smile and sigh.