Videx Ultraterm; high fidelity display for Apple. (evaluation) Jerry Mar.
High Fidelity Display For Apple
After a long session on your Apple, when your aching eyes are vainly straining to focus the fuzzy letters on your screen, have you ever wished that screen displays were better--much better? Let me report that your prayers may have been answered.
Videx Incorporated's new UltraTerm video display card offers the most dramatic enhancement to the Apple video display yet. The high quality display modes in the UltraTerm enables Apple II and III users to view character displays that are truly "high fidelity for the eyes.' Because the UltraTerm characters are formed with an 8 X 12 array of dots, they have three times more detail than the 5 X 7 dot array used in many other displays. This difference is illustrated in Figure 1, which compares the standard Apple IIe 80-column display with the same text on the UltraTerm using the high quality 80 X 24 display mode.
The UltraTerm also offers a plethora of highlighting options, including inverse video, intensified inverse video, and boldface. These same attributes can also be used for the normal display to generate additional display combinations. For example, mixing boldface for the normal display and normal inverse video for the highlighting is equivalent to reduced intensity inverse video highlighting.
Although the exceptional quality display of the UltraTerm is by itself a worthy accomplishment, the UltraTerm also provides expanded screen displays. In addition to displaying in the standard 80-column X 24-line mode, the UltraTerm can also display text in 96 X 24, 160 X 24, 80 X 32, 80 X 48, 132 X 24 and 128 X 32 modes.
For word processing and spreadsheet applications, the 80 X 32, 80 X 48 and 128 X 32 modes are wonderful additions. The 80 X 32 mode utilizes the same character set used in the high quality 80 X 24 display and can be used as a regular display mode while showing 50% more screen information.
Although less readable, the 80 X 48 mode is useful for reviewing text, since close to a full page be displayed on a single screen. The 128 X 32 display mode allows wide tables to be directly viewed without using horizontal scrolling.
Installation and Use
But how easy is it to use? The installation of the UltraTerm card itself is very straightforward. In a normal installation the card is plugged into slot #3 of an Apple, with one card cable plugged into the video monitor and another into the Apple video output. The Ultra Term will also work if you have an Apple IIe and have an 80-column card in the auxiliary slot. Provided you preset the position of a small jumper plug (called the J1 Jumper) on the Ultra Term card to the IIe position, the regular Apple IIe 80-column display will be disabled but memory on that card can be used in the normal fashion.
Probably the most difficult UltraTerm installation requirement is the video monitor. A high frequency (at least 20 MHz bandwidth), high persistence monitor is needed to take advantage of the enhanced displays. Most monitors meet the first requirement, but few meet the second. Suitable monitors include the Apple III monitor and Amdek 300A. Unfortunately, popular monitors like the Apple II monitor and NEC JB1201M do not work well with the UltraTerm.
Once installed, the UltraTerm card is invoked from Basic by typing PR#3 (assuming it is installed in slot #3). When the card is first invoked, the display mode is a "conventional quality' 80 X 24 display mode that emulates Videx's older VideoTerm product.
This mode can be switched to one of enhanced display modes by typing CTRL-V followed by a number from 2 to 8. The normal and highlighting attributes are set by following this with CTRL-W and two additional numbers.
The UltraTerm card also allows you to modify the cursor. The Applesoft sequence POKE 49328,10: POKE 49329,0 changes the default flashing cursor to a nonflashing cursor. There modes can be automatically set using a Basic program, such as HELLO.
But what about using the UltraTerm with commercial programs? Not all programs can make use of the enhanced display modes of the UltraTerm; however, there are many that can. Both the higher quality character sets and the expanded screen sizes can be used with WordStar. Videx offers a preboot program ($29) to enable the Apple Writer II and IIe programs to use three of the UltraTerm enhanced modes.
Videx also has a VisiCale preboot program ($69) that adds four of the enhanced display modes to VisiCalc. Sorcim's SuperCalc 2 CP/M program is able to make use of all the screen modes. Videx has also introduced their own spreadsheet program, called UltraPlan ($169), that can use all UltraTerm modes.
Who Needs it?
Who needs the UltraTerm? Anyone using an Apple for extensive text work should consider the card; in my opinion it is the only card to use for word processing. After using one with an Apple IIe and WordStar for more than five months, I can say it is truly "a sight for sore eyes.' My writing productivity has noticeably improved with the UltraTerm. I spot errors more quickly and I am less fatigued.
For those upgrading an Apple II/II+ to 80-columns, the UltraTerm is a clear winner. It is priced only slightly more than other 80-column cards (list price: $379) and does almost everything better. For example, compared to Videx's own VideoTerm 80-column card, the UltraTerm duplicates all of the VideoTerm features while adding Applesoft cursor moves via the I, J, K and M keys and offers software switching between 80-column and graphics modes.
For owners of Apple IIe's, the tradeoffs are more complex. Although the UltraTerm card is a clear winner for word processing, it is not compatible with the Apple IIe 80-column card. Special Apple IIe features, like cursor movement with the vertical arrow keys, "upper-case restrict' entry mode, graphics mixed with 80-column text, and automatic graphics/text switching, are not available with the UltraTerm card.
With Pascal, this means graphics can be viewed only by physically switching the monitor connection from the UltraTerm to the regular video output of the Apple--an awkward procedure, since the monitor must be reconnected to the UltraTerm to view text. Because of these differences, the UltraTerm will also not work with many commercial Apple IIe programs, including Apple's Quick File II program.
Fortunately, there is a way around these problems, if you are a little daring and already have an Apple IIe 80-column card in the auxiliary slot. The trick is to remove the jumper on the UltraTerm J1 jumper block, and replace it with a three-wire connection and a two-pole, single-throw toggle switch. The switch is wired so that the J1 jumper can be switched between the II/II+ and IIe positions from outside the computer.
The UltraTerm display and all its display benefits are invoked when the switch is in the IIe position. But if the Apple IIe is powered up with the switch in the II/II+ position, the UltraTerm is disabled and the Apple IIe 80-column display will appear on the monitor (even though the monitor is still connected to the UltraTerm). All standard Apple IIe 80-column features work in this mode. This arrangement offers the best of both worlds: 100% compatibility with Apple IIe 80-column software plus ultra high quality displays when needed.
In summary, the UltraTerm display card is a major display improvement for Apple computers. Provided you have a suitable video monitor, it is easily the best 80-column card available. Its biggest drawback is its lack of compatibility with 80-column Apple IIe software; but even that can be overcome if you are willing to make some simple hardware modifications.
Photo: Comparison of the video display, Figure 1a, from an Apple IIe 80-column card, and Figure 1b, the UltraTerm video display card. Both photographs were taken of identical magnifications on an Apple III monitor.
Products: Videx UltraTerm (computer apparatus)