Apple cart; the rumormill; the new product mill. John J. Anderson; Owen W. Linzmayer.
Howdy, Apple fans. This month Owen and I will once again embark in tandem on an excursion into the wonderful and wacky world of Apple Computer Inc. In case you haven't heard of them, they are the company that buys entire issues of Newsweek. They are the company that offers a free overnight stand with their sexy new computer (supply your own driving gloves). They are the company that fields a commercial in which a disgruntled user of "another brand" takes an ax to his computer and trashes it. A wonderful sight, if I do say so myself.
A low profile, indeed. All they need now is the Beach Boys: Hacking USA.
And best-selling computers are not all that is manufactured out Cupertino way. Some of the very best rumors making the rounds this month concern Apple. Topping the list are two turnabouts, both reported, then "unreported" by Info World magazine. First the weekly trade magazine reported that Apple would be dropping the Lisa line later this year, in favor of some sort of Monster Mac machine. A week later they reported that Steve Jobs and John Sculley had denied the claim, and in fact had asserted a continuing commitment to the line. At roughly the same time, they quoted a certain Stephen Wozniak on the topic of an Apple IIx, complete with 16-bit 65816 processor, built-in disk drive, expandable memory, and add-on slots. A couple of weeks later they took that one back too, citing a letter from Wozniak that claimed there is no IIx project, and he was speaking of a "wish list" rather than a product Apple is working actually on. Oh, sweet mysteries of life.
On the Macintosh rumormill, the grind is much the same as it was when Arlan Levitan reported on it way back in July 1984. Heading the list, of course, is the ever-elusive color Mac. This beast, which I still reckon to be about as real as old Nessie, is most prevalent because color is most coveted by current Mac fans. Like images of sugarplums, the concept fairly dances in their heads. As I stated in my initial review of the Mac, holding one's breath on this score is highly inadvisable.
Much more feasible is the one about a Mac with an 8.5" x 11" screen, capable of displaying a full page at a time. An attractive idea, especially if capable of multitasking. How about the one concerning the Mac with internal hard disk? You can make that one come true now, with the help of a third party product (see below). It is rather likely, too, that Apple will introduce such a product itself in the future. One rumor I pray to be false, however, is that of the Unix Mac. The idea itself is enough to conjure visions of a woof bag. I can only assume that this model will sport a wireless, infrared mouse, and be tinted light blue.
One report I have faith in puts the backlog of orders for 512K upgrades at over 20,000, and further states that the Fat Mac now accounts for 30% of total Mac sales. Judging from the problems I had obtaining a Fat Mac under Apple's editorial program, I can believe it (they get my firstborn son, but it is still a great deal). Once you sit in front of a Fat Mac you're spoiled for life. (For more on that topic, see the Fat Mac review elsewhere in this issue.) Packaged with hard disk, some good 512K software, a set of leather driving gloves, and a case of Pepsi, it will be a tough offer to refuse.
Macintosh sales in general continue to increase, despite the overall industry slump. According to Info World, Apple is now gearing its automated facilities to move production to over 100,000 units a month. According to Time the Mac logged the most successful introduction ever of a new micro.
Enough gossip--time to get down to the hard stuff. Here is the Mac Comdex Floor Report: General Computer Hard Disk
General Computer unveiled HyperDrive, a compact 10-meg hard disk drive that neatly fits the Macintosh internally. Because the HyperDrive interface logic board is directly connected to the Mac motherboard, both serial ports remain free for modem and printer use--a great convenience. Macs equipped with the unit can boot from either hard disk or floppy.
The system software provided with HyperDriver allows the hard disk to divide into many "virtual disks" which automatically resize themselves to accommodate the user's files. As they interface in parallel, as hard disks ought to, the new units can also transfer data seven times faster than Macs with external hard disk drives.
HyperDRive is available in two models: one including Fat Mac memory expansion to 512K RAM ($2795), and one without memory expansion ($2195). This product will excite many Mac owners, and I hope to give you a definitive hands-on review of this one very soon. Micro-Design Hard Disk
Micro-Design announced The Keeper, a hard disk drive available with up to a whopping 33-meg, and a print buffer standard. The Keeper is available with fixed and/or removable disk cartridges. You can choose from a 5-meg removable ($2195), dual 5-meg removable ($3495), 10-meg fixed and 5-meg removable ($3495), as well as a 10-, 20-, and 33-meg fixed cartridge drives ($2095, $2595, and $3195 respectively).
The Keeper connects to the printer port of your Macintosh. Your Image-writer printer connects to the back of the Keeper. The built-in printer buffer eliminates wait times during print-out, returning the Mac to your control. The buffer adjusts to the size of the document--up to 1-meg, or about 312 pages.
Volume partitioning allows you to define partitions on the disk to be accessed as though they were separate, smaller disks. This eliminates the overload problem as it exists with the current revision of the Finder. An installation and sizing program guides you through the process. ExperLogo
On the software side, ExperTelligence previewed its new, high performance version of the Logo programming language, dubbed ExperLogo. Because of its ease of use and English-language syntax, Logo has gained wide acceptance as a beginner's language. Its makers claim that enhanced features make it an even better choice as an introductory language, while increased function and speed make ExperLogo a contender as a serious program development language.
Integration of the Macintosh user interface techniques, including pull down menus, multiple windows, help screens and extensive use of the mouse, lend credibility to that claim. The speed--up to 100 times faster--is a most visible and welcome change from existing Logos. A 512K version of the program will appear interpreted but actually be a compiled version of Logo, accounting for the massive increase in execution speed.
Alongside standard turtle graphics, so-called Bunny Graphics extend the range of ExperLogo. Bunnies traverse the screen at amazing speeds, hop around on the surfaces of spheres, and are able to traverse 3-D space. Other new features include load on call, data file handling, and the ability to use data arrays. What's it cost, Doc? $129. Summagraphics Tablet
Summagraphics Corporation announced the macTablet, a 6" x 9" graphics tablet for the Macintosh. The MacTablet with stylus lets Mac users turn their systems into real graphics workstations, by making entry as easy as putting pen to paper. Drawings can be traced from a single piece of paper or from originals up to 0.5" thick, such as magazines or notebook drawings. MacTablet is compatible with MacDraw, MacPaint, and all Macintosh software.
In our initial review of the Mac, our then-resident computer artist complained that the mouse was an unwieldy drawing device. I'm sure she would have much preferred the MacTablet. The unit can be used in conjunction with the mouse, so there is no need to plug and unplug. Its ergonomic design provides a tilt mechanism for easy adjustment. $495.
MacVision links the power of the macintosh with the power of video technology in an exciting manner. Attached to any standard video source, MacVision creates a digitized, photographic image that can be modified and manipulated through MacPaint or other application program. Any RS170 video source can connect with the product: video camera, VCR, video disc, even another computer--$400, minus video source. The output is a high-quality digitized image (see accompanying image of our fearless leader). The first step toward teaching your Mac to see.
Dave will present a full review of MacVision in an upcoming issue. ThinkTank 512
Living Videotext introduced ThinkTank 512, a program designed specifically for the Fat Mac, that combines outline processing, word processing, and graphics. It is the anticipated companion product to ThinkTank 128, which handles outline processing alone in 128K.
ThinkTank 512 is designed for managing ideas, details, planning, organization of data, and high-performance word processing with graphics. Its flexible outline functions enable you to focus on selected areas to work on details, then move to the big picture with the click of the mouse. MacPaint graphics or graphics from other programs can be pasted into ThinkTank documents. The program automatically labels the graphics in outline form and creates a reference library.
Designed to take full advantage of the Fat Mac, ThinkTank 512 can handle up to 3000 headers, with 35 pages of text maximum per header. It also offers new printing formats and more printing options.
Enough from me already. Apple does not live by Mac Alone. In hand the reins to my friend and colleague Owen Linzmayer, who will bring you up to date on the world of the Apple II series. Take it away pal!
Thank you John, for that warm, gushing introduction. It is a pleasure to have you along for this edition of the Cart--drop by anytime. While much attention of late has been focused on the IIc and the Fat Mac, the Apple IIe continues to sell tremendously well. Too well. Orders for the IIe can't be filled fast enough, and new orders are piling up daily.
Apple has offered to fill IIe back-orders with the more expensive IIc, but this gesture can hardly stem the tide. Apple has been forced to increase production of the IIe, the machine that just won't fade away.
So, let's see what we have for the multitudes of Apple IIe owners among you (sound of paper shuffling on the desk of an overworked assistant editor). Ah yes, here it is, the Multi I/O board from AST Research. Best known for their add-on boards for the IBM PC, this Irvine, CA, firm is now offering its first Apple product, the Multi I/O for the IIe.
Multi I/O is a single board interface with three popular peripheral functions: printer serial port, serial communications interface, and a ProDOS-compatible clock/calendar with battery backup. All this for just $235. Multi I/O
The Multi I/O board comes in its own static-free plastic bag and is packaged with a 30-page manual and a ProDOS-based utilities disk. Installation of the Multi I/O is a simple matter of attaching the supplied interface cables, configuring the board, choosing a slot (1, 2, or 7) and inserting the card.
Before we look at Multi I/O features a word or two on configuring the card.
On the bottom righthand side of the card is a red DIP switch. Tabs 1-4 on this switch set the baud rate (50-19200) for the serial printer port. Tabs 5-8 correspond to the communications port. It is important that equipment interfaced to these ports be configured to the same baud rate as the port itself.
In addition to this DIP switch, there are two configuration blocks that must be set identically for proper operation. These bars of jumpers delineate where the various functions of the Multi I/O will be mapped. The printed port may be mapped for slot 1 or 2, the communications port for slot 2 or 3, and the clock for slot 4 or 7. Any or all of the functions may be disabled by not mapping to a slot (that is, remove the shorting block from the pin corresponding to that function). Finally, there is a jumper block that acts as the write-protect for the clock.
Once installed, the first thing you should do is set the clock to the correct time and date. Having done this, the board will retain this information even when the computer is turned off, thanks to a lithium battery built into the board itself.
The advantages of a real-time clock are obvious to most--time and date stamping of files, stopwatch accuracy for timing functions, and keeping a computerized appointment book, just to name a few. Unfortunately, the problem with all clock peripherals, not just the Multi I/O, is that each is accessed in its own unique way, and software must be written specifically for the particular clock that you have installed in your computer.
While Thunderware, Inc. of Orinda, CA, has more or less set the de facto standard with its Thunderclock card, not everyone adheres to the "standard." If you are going to be writing your own clock applications, all you must do is follow the specifications set forth by the manufacturer of your clock. AST Research includes in the Multi I/O manual a short tutorial on accessing the clock via Applesoft commands.
The printer port on the Multi I/O allows you to connect virtually any serial printer to your IIe, though Apple's Imagewriter is the printer of preference. The number of word and stop bits, as well as the parity, can be software selected. Only external modems can be attached to the serial communications port of the Multi I/O, and a smart modem must be used if your wish to take advantage of the built-in telephone dialer feature.
As I mentioned before, the Multi I/O comes with a ProDOS-based utilities disk. The disk is self-booting and comes up with a menu from which you may choose the following options:
* Clock Utility
* Telephone Dialer
* Text File Listing Utility
* Terminal Program
* Graphics Printing Utility
The Multi I/O provides three of the most popular peripheral options all on one board, but unfortunately, it uses up three slots, though it occupies only one. If, for example, you set the printer port for slot 1, the communications port for slot 2, and the clock for slot 7, nothing can be in those slots--with the exception of the Multi I/O, of course. And assuming that you purchased the board because you want to do word processing, you almost certainly have an 80-column card in the auxiliary slot (this disables slot 3).
Naturally, you have a disk drive interface card plugged in somewhere, so if you take advantage of all the Multi I/O features, you are left with only two open slots (see Figure 1).
On the bright side, the Multi I/O reduces power consumption, and doesn't block the flow of air inside the computer as much as three boards would.
If you are looking for a no frills way to give your Apple IIe two serial interface ports and a real-time clock, you will look long and hard to find three separate boards with the same features at a comparable price.
Well, that's about it for February, I hope we have satisfied your hunger for Apple information. Both John and I can be reached on the CompuServe telecommunications network. Our PPNs are 76703,654 and 72255,1560, respectively. We're in touch, so you be in touch.