Apple cart. (evaluation) Stephen Arrants.
Welcome to another Cart! Some important dates--Seymour Papert, Logo's father was born on March 1, 1928; Adam Osborne turns 45 on the sixth. And on March 13, 1970, Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC) announced the PDP-11 minicomputer. By 1980 PDP architecture is the most widely used by minis. This month, a discussion on IBM vs. Apple; will the PCjr. eat away at the Apple IIe? Also, a brief look at Macintosh; a review of proDOS, Apple's new operating system; questions answered, and three short utility programs.
IBM Takes Aim
Let's face it. The Apple II is the Model T of computing. It has become the prototype for home and office computers. Since the Apple I, every manufacturer has had to take the Apple into account when designing a machine. The question has been "How can we make it better than an Apple?' not "How can we make a computer?'
IBM recently released a new PC, the PC jr. In anticipation of the announcement, Apple Computer shares have dropped from a high of 63 1/4 to the low 20s. Is there any need to worry? Can Big Blue sink Apple? Will the Apple II go the way of the Texas Instruments 99/4A?
At first glance, the fear is not without basis. As we were eagerly waiting for IBM to announce the PC jr., Texas Instruments left the home computer market after losing over $600 million in a futile effort to gain a market share. Osborne has declared Chapter 11, and Victor Technology and Fortune Systems are cutting back on personnel and manufacturing. And at press time, Coleco still had been delivered one Adam to stores. The shake-out is here and many people are frightened. As bleak as it books, Apple will not only survive; it may thrive.
Why do I believe that? Inside information? Tarot cards? No, just a calm look at certain facts. The Apple II line (II, II +, IIe), the bread-and-butter of the company, almost totally controls the critically important education market. It is an excellent machine for controlling experiments in schools, laboratories, and factories at a relatively low cost. There is also a vast body of educational software available for it.
Apple is the home computer. Most unbiased observers agree that an Apple is still the ideal home unit. Why? The software library for the Apple is huge. After all, designers and authors have been writing for the Apple for years. It will take a long, long time for a similar amount and variety of software to be available for the PC jr.
The Apple software library continues to grow, too. New word processors, spreadsheets, database systems, etc. are constantly being added to the gigantic Apple collection.
One of the most important--and fun--things about owning a computer is sharing the experience with others. With 1.5 million Apple IIe owners as a base and unofficial sales force, the machines are selling almost faster than Apple can produce them. At the moment (November of '83) Apple is selling slightly more than 500,000 Apple IIe's per year. It is expected that IBM will sell slightly fewer. The number of IIe owners coupled with the number of II and II + owners makes a potent market. I can always find another Apple owner to share programs or techniques with. How many PC jr. owners will be able to make that claim by this time next year?
Yet despite my optimism, 1984 is an important and exciting year of transition for Apple. This is the year of Macintosh. What role will Lisa's little brother play? As the PC jr. looms over Apple, Macintosh will loom over the market for IBM and IBM compatibles. Until Macintosh enters the market, Apple stock will be sluggish. If Mac can do what Apple promises at the expected low price, we will know whether Apple Computer will maintain its leadership in a volatile market or is just marking time.
I think IBM made a crucial mistake in announcing the PC jr. before it could deliver. Since the announcement of the PC jr., IIe sales have heated up. If this trend continues, supplies of the IIe could be very short. That could be a problem. However, John Sculley, who joined Apple from Pepsi-Cola, is a marketer with few equals. He may be able to cut through the problems and keep Apple ahead of any marketing problems.
Still, the IBM challenge is nothing to be brushed away. IBM is big and is merciless when dealing with the competition. One point that Apple has to overcome is the IBM brand name. To many people, IBM equals computers. The Apple IIe may a Model T, but the IBM PC is seen as a Silver Shadow.
Apple must contend with the new features of the PC jr., such as its infrared keyboard. Using this keyboard, a user can activate the PC jr. from almost any direct line location in the room. Then again, who really wants to pay for the ability to sit 10 feet away from your computer? Are binoculars included with the keyboard? The infrared keyboard is fundamentally unimportant.
The PC jr. does not have the advanced features of either the IIe or the PC. The PC jr. keyboard is certainly nothing to get excited about. A Chiclet keyboard for your IBM? C'mon! That's like an automobile with a lawn chair for a driver's seat. The PC jr. has only one disk drive. The IIe can handle many more, and with the release of proDOS, better hard disk storage is available. Memory expansion is limited to 128K. No one will be bringing Lotus 1-2-3 files home from the office to run on the jr. No, on features the IIe wins hands down. Even at its higher price, the IIe still offers more performance per dollar.
Apple didn't get where it is entirely by luck or chance. Jobs and Wozniak created the personal computer of the past and their company is busy creating the personal computer of the future. Future efforts of IBM may slow Apple down; they certainly have in the past. But Apple is here to stay. To use a phrase from another industry, "There's an Apple in your future.' And also in IBM's.
Can Macintosh Make It?
Related to this is the problem of the Macintosh. The chart lists the specifications of the Macintosh as compared to the IIe and Lisa. Can Apple sell a machine like the Macintosh? For one thing, Apple fanatics like me won't be junking the IIe in favor of the Mac.
You can't run proDOS or DOS 3.3 based software on Macintosh. It his no color, and the expansion possibilities are limited. Then there is the price. With the Macintosh expected to sell for around $2495, Lisa at around $5000 (unbundled of software), and the IIe fully configured for $1995, there will be much confusion and hesitation.
Will businesses go for Macintosh instead of Lisa? How does the Macintosh affect the Apple III market? These are tough questions that Apple must ponder. In their rush to get Macintosh to market, they may end up shooting themselves in the foot. It will be interesting to see what happens with Macintosh.
Drexel University has ordered 3000 units for students. Since it will run MSDOS, it is compatible with the IBM PC. Still, one can't help wondering if the Macintosh will turn out to be Apple's Edsel. We'll have an in-depth review of the Macintosh in an upcoming issue.
proDOS Arrives--Worth The Wait?
During the summer of 1983, Apple released to developers a new operating system for the Apple II called proDOS, Professional Disk Operating System.
For the most part, proDOS commands are compatible with DOS 3.3 There are some changes and improvements, however. Most, but not all, Applesoft programs will run without modification.
ProDOS will not support Integer Basic in any form, and almost all assembly language programs will require extensive modification to run. Any commercial software written under DOS 3.3 will have to be run under DOS 3.3. The copy protection schemes used make them incompatible with proDOS.
ProDOS requires 64K RAM, its files are not compatible with DOS 3.3, and you need a special program to initialize disks. That's the bad news.
The advantages outweigh any disadvantages, however. Type a dash followed by a file name and it will be RUN, BRUN, or EXECed. The STORE command saves the current values of the variables of a program, and RESTORE places them in the same or a different program.
When using DOS 3.3, you must clear long Basic programs out of high-resolution graphics memory youself; proDOS does it automatically. CHAIN is available for use in Applesoft, whereas it will work only with Integer Basic programs under DOS 3.3.
File structure and use are similar to the Apple III SOS. SOS-based data disks can be read on the II by proDOS, although program files cannot, since the II and II use different Basics.
The most significant difference appears with hard disks. Under DOS 3.3 a hard disk had to be initialized to resemble 30 or more floppies, each having a different volume or drive number. ProDOS treats a hard disk as one disk which may contain up to 32 Mb, with a single file limit of 16 Mb. Creating files larger than 128K is almost impossible under DOS 3.3. Such large files are often required for sophisticated database and spreadsheet operations, however. New data file size is almost limitless with proDOS.
The file structure is hierarchical. In other words, one disk can have many directories, each leading to another level. The main level holds 51 files and one directory file. The directory file is accessed to read the sub-levels.
For example, let's say you are just starting up, and want to use a word processor with a specific set of print values, a specific text file, and a specific glossary file. Instead of booting the word processor, and then loading each file, you would just type the pathname /WORD/FEBCART/PRT.CART/ CARTGLOSS. Everything would load at once (or almost, given the speed of hard disks). The use of path names speeds up disk access and program use. Unlike the way this operates in the Apple Pascal Operating System, you don't have to know what you are looking for before you find it.
File names are limited to 15 characters under proDOS. A pathname is limited to 64 characters. Filenames can't include anything other than letters, numbers, or a period. Spaces cannot be used in file names. That is about the only mistake Apple has made with proDOS. Why this was changed is a mystery. Why make files more confusing?
ProDos is much faster than DOS 3.3 and a bit faster than DOS spee-up utilities. When an extended memory card is installed, proDOS automatically uses it as RAM-disk memory. It also time and date stamps files if a clock is present.
Your disk controller card works as is; no changes are required, and it uses the same hardware as DOS 3.3 ProDOS is a useful product and a major development. But you shouldn't worry about replacing DOS 3.3 with proDOS right away. Both will continue to be supported by Apple and by independent software developers. In time, proDOS will replace DOS 3.3, however. Already, Apple is shipping proDOS with disk drives, and DOS 3.3 is an option. But you already have DOS 3.3 on your own disks. And if you just bought an Apple, it is probably on at least one disk you have.
Questions And Answers
I have received a few letters asking how to transfer files from a TRS-80 Model 100 to an Apple. The technique isn't as complex as you might think. John Anderson explained it in a previous review. Here is all you need do: Attach a cable from the Model 100 RS-232 port to a serial card in your Apple. Run a telecommunications program on the Apple and the Model 100 telecommunications program. Make sure the baud, bit, and parity rates are set correctly and download from the 100 to your Apple, saving as a text file. That's it. Edit the text file with a word processor and print it out. Thanks, John.
Two readers have complained that when using Apple Writer IIe with large text files, letters are lost when typing. This has happened to me, and I just attributed it to my typing style or a keyboard problem. I now think that it may be a problem with Apple memory when a large file is used. If so, this is a serious bug in Apple Writer IIe. I have contacted Apple, and they promised to get back to me with an answer or solution.
Debbie Issaacs in Lincoln, NE wants to know if there is a way to remove REM statements from Applesoft programs without using a text editor or word processor. It is possible, and I know that there are commercial utility programs that do this. Can anyone write one of his own? Send it in, and we'll publish it in Apple Cart.
Well, the program to recover a deleted file is all written. I am having some problems debugging it, however. When it recovers a file, it saves it as a 980-sector file. So, until it gets debugged, here are three short programs. The first program is really nothing more than two pokes. When run, this program will give a catalog of a disk, including deleted files. They are highlighted by an inverse character. The second program will show the amount of free disk space, and can be re-written for use inside other programs. The third program writes a text file of the Applesoft pointers, HIMEM, End of Strings, Bytes, End of Variables, LOMEM, End of Program and Start of Program. RUN the program and EXEC the file APPLE POINTS.
Next month: reviews of new books for the IIe, third-party 80-column cards for the IIe, a program to read individual tracks and sectors, and what you can do with that information. See you in April.
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Products: Apple ProDos (computer program)