Dulmont Magnum; the first Aussie micro. (evaluation) John Anderson.
Come to think of it, the Australians should have a halfway decent chance of designing and marketing a microcomputer. What will the proximity to the suppliers of the Far East, the raw materials are there. Because English is spoken (after a fashion), there isn't much of a language barrier with the rest of the English-speaking world. And Australia has been actively interested in the field of microcomputing for quite some time. One might be less surprised by the recent appearance of an Australian computer than by the fact that it has taken this long for one to appear at all.
What is rather surprising about the first Aussie micro is that it is a notebook portable. The Dulmont Magnum is about the size and weight of the Hewlett Packard Portable, and packs much of its punch.
The Magnum combines a 16-bit Intel 80186 processor with 96K of RAM, and word processor, spreadsheet, telecommunications, file manager, and appointment programs burned into ROM. It also features dual 128K ROM cartridge slots.
Opening the hinged flip-top lid of the Dulmont machine reveals a full-size half-stroke keyboard and an easy-to-read 80-column X 8-line LCD. The Magnum comes standard with a rechargeable ni-cad battery pack, good for about twelve hours of continuous use. A small lithium battery keeps RAM contents intact and runs the clock when the computer is not in use. An AC adapter is also supplied standard. The Keyboard
The 76-Key Selectric-style keyboard sports 12 function keys and a Help key. Cursor keys are laid out to the left and right of the spacebar, and take some getting use to. The Return key is oversized and hard to miss.
Most keys have an automatic repeat feature, so if you press the key for more than half a second, it will repeat at a rate of ten characters per second. There is a "keyclick" option, to provide greater feedback to those who desire it.
Like the HP Portable, the Magnum keyboard cannot be called a full-stroke. Full depression of a key occurs within a depth of 0.25". Still, touch-typing is quite possible, and with a little bit of practice I'm sure you would no longer notice the difference.
Slightly more uncomfortable is the rake of the keyboard itself, which in order to accommodate the fold-in screen, is actually angled slightly away from the user. Again, given some time with the machine, this no longer seems a major consideration--merely an idiosyncrasy. The Screen Display
Again showing a similarity to the HP, the Dulmont offers a key combination to adjust LCD contrast. I had no problem reading the screen display of the Magnum, and in fact found it to be slightly easier to read than the HP. Then again, with an LCD only half the size of that on the 110(8 lines as opposed to 16), legibility is understandably improved.
The lid angle itself is, of course, adjustable, and a lever on the top of the keyboard selects the point at which the opened screen will rest. This avoids the problem of having the screen flop down unexpectedly.
Unlike the HP, the Dulmont Magnum can power an external CRT, and furthermore, requires no additional equipment to do so, as do the Tandy Model 100 and NEC 8201. This is probably the outstanding feature of the unit.
The Dulmont comes standard with the following connector ports: parallel I/O, dual serial I/O, video, and a bus expansion port. This expansion port can be used to connect to disk drives, or external RAM expandable to 256K. ROM Onboard
The Magnum has 128K of internal ROM, in which the bundled software packages appear. This chunk of code is accessed by the unit as drive A. Drive B and C correspond to the ROM cartridge slots left and right of the keyboard proper. Drive D corresponds to internal CMOS memory. If external drives are attached, they are accessed as drives E and F. Let's take a closer look now at drive A.
Magwriter is a full-featured word processor with sufficient capability to handle either a quick memo on the move or prepare a lengthy document. It is designed for ease of use; you can get by with a small subset of its capabilities, learning more only as your needs expand.
Some of the features of Magwriter are the following: full screen display with arrow keys used for cursor movement; "undo" facility to allow for correction of editing foul-ups; ability to read WordStar files and accept many WordStar commands, print to screen, disk file, or printer (or all simultaneously); print line may be up to 250 characters long; full top, bottom, left, and right margin control; support of headers and footers; automatic page numbering; mail merge capability; and ability to read other files into workspace, write portions of a workspace into other files, obtain a directory listing, and delete files from within Magwriter. Magcalc
Magcalc is a full-function spreadsheet program, allowing you to build complex models. As with Magwriter, it is designed for ease of use. Menu-driven operation enables you to learn it very quickly.
A summary of Magcalc features follows: 250 X 250 cells; rows, columns and cells may be named, and these names used in formulae to ease readability; absolute, relative, and indirect addressing for cells in formulae; variable precision calculation (specify significant digits to speed calc time); cells may be displayed as dollars, normal, fixed, exponential, graph, and default; rows and columns can be "locked" in place on the screen while the rest of the spreadsheet is scrolled; the screen can be split either horizontally or vertically, allowing "window" capability; hierarchical protection, with global enable/disable; portion or whole of spreadsheet can be printed to screen, disk, or printer. Magterm et al.
Magterm provides sophisticated communication capabilities via the serial ports which allow the Magnum to be used for terminal emulation or transferring files between machines. Magterm allows for up to 9600 baud operation, with X-on/X-off protocol, terminal emulation, file transfer, and chat modes.
Address/Phone Book maintains a file of names, addresses, and telephone numbers. The file can be edited using the word processor and then searched for an arbitrary string: first or last name, area code, and so on. The program operates on a text file, similar to the address program in the Model 100. While it should not be confused with an actual database program, it is useful and simple to work with.
Diary combines an electronic clock/calendar with a diary system that allows you to make and edit diary entries for any day. The diary file can be edited by the word processor as well. In addition to your "home" time, the planner will display the time in four other time zones around the world. Compatibility
The Magnum is MS-DOS compatible, and you can transport programs from your desktop machine via serial port. We did not try it, but a serial to serial cable is included in the basic package.
Our standard warning is issued for this as for all MS-DOS "compatible" machines: make sure the specific program you want to run will run on a compatible before you buy it. Not all compatibles run all MS-DOS programs. Bear in mind also that the 8-line display of the Dulmont LCD is bound to affect the use of many desktop programs. The Kicker
The two ROM cartridge slots and external video are the major selling points of the Dulmont. A relatively small display and relatively large pricetag are its weak points. As portables go, the Dulmont holds its own, and certainly its designers from down under should be proud of their debut in the micro industry. Should you buy one? Well, if you're shopping for a portable, why not at least have a look?
Products: Dulmont Magnum (computer)