Apple cart; more on the Scribe, a programming contest, and Apple snuggles up to IBM. Owen W. Linzmayer.
Happy Birthday Apple IIc! Has it really been a year since you made your debut at the Moscone Center in San Francisco? My how you have grown. This month we take a look back at your first year--at the excitement and disappointment--and attempt to see what the future holds for the youngest member of the Apple family. We also have a follow-up on the Scribe printer, the Great Apple Programming Contest (win free software!), and a brief look at some Apple products that will change the way "the rest of us" do business. Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go. IIc--Year One
In a great execution of "event marketing," Apple introduced the IIc to an enthusiastic audience at San Francisco's Moscone Center--you remember, te site of the Democratic national convention. Apple claims it took orders for over 50,000 IIc computers that very day. Following the warm reception of the Mac, it initially looked as if Apple had another blockbuster product on their hands, and President Sculley predicted that Apple would sell half a million units by year-end. Maybe John spoke too soon.
The Apple IIc, though a perfectly capable machine (and a sexy one at that), was immediately criticized by trade publications for its lack of slots. I am perfectly aware of the fact that the Apple IIc contains the "most popular" peripherals already installed in virtual slots, but along with many third-party hardware manufacturers, I lament that Apple didn't provide external access to at least one expansion slot. Has this been the case, I think Sculley might have realized his 500,000 sales expectations.
Heralded as a portable computer, as of this writing the IIC has yet to get its traveling papers in the form of a full-screen LCD and battery pack. Back in April of last year Apple showed off a full-screen liquid crystal display that would connect to the IIc via the video expansion port. This flat-panel screen is capable of displaying 80 columns by 24 lines of text and even double hi-res animated graphics. Initially this product was slated for release in the fourth-quarter of 1984, but Cupertino continued to push back the release date. Latest word has it that the LCD flat-panel display will be in stores by the time you read this. But when you think about it, how many people will be willing to part with several hundred dollars just so they can lug around a "portable" IIc? I put the word portable in quotes because there is still no official word on the official battery pack that is necessary for the IIC to take to the roads and skyways (Discwasher offers a carrying case with built-in power supply).
Enough of unfulfilled hardware promises, what about all that great software that was going to take advantage of the built-in mouse technology? Well, to be honest, with the exception of a few programs such as Odesta's How about a Nice Game of Chess, the mouse-icon user interface for the II line just hasn't caught on. Not yet at least. If Apple had bundled a mouse into the IIc package, software houses would have flocked to support it.
There is still a chance that the mouse-icon user interface will become as widely accepted for the II line as it has on the Mac, but such acceptance hinges on a recently available IIe ROM upgrade offered by Apple. Four chips are involved, the most important of which is the 65C02, the cpu used in the IIc.
Basically the 65C02 is a low-power chip compatible with the 6502 (used in the rest of the II line), the main difference between the two being that the 65C02 contains special codes that optimize the programmability of the mouse as an input device. This upgrade ensures the compatibility of IIc software for use on the IIe. If enough IIe owners purchase the upgrade I would expect software manufacturers to begin a full-fledged effort to support the mouse-icon interface on the II family.
I'm going to end my diatribe on IIc deficiencies without even mentioning the slow serial port problem (see December 1984 Apple Cart). Let me say for the record that I own a IIc, and though sometimes I seem critical, I don't regret my purchase. I can think of no other computer for the price that is so attractive and operates with such beautiful simplicity. Scribe Errata
I reviewed the Apple Scribe thermal printer in this column in December of 1984, at which time I recommendation was due largely to inadequacies of the thermal transfer process employed by the Scribe to print text and graphics. I found the output highly inconsistent and not up to Apple's standard of quality. Recently I received a letter from Lind Merrill of the Apple II Public Relations Office which prompted me to drag the Scribe out of the closet and take a second look. The letter was printed with a Scribe and reads as follows:
"I am responding to the Apple Scribe printer review article which appeared in your December issue.
"The print quality of the Apple Scribe printer, like all thermal transfer printers, is directly affected by the smoothness of the paper used. It is the paper that unlocks the true potential of the Scribe. By using a smooth surfaced paper, the Scribe has the capability to produce print quality that was never before available in a printer of Scribe's price class. The article did not specify the type of paper used in testing; we recommend Hammermill Thermal Transfer Paper.
"Ribbon prices are quite different from those indicated in Creative Computing's article. Black ribbons have been available since August at $4.99 (not $6.99). Color ribbons are now priced at $5.99 and were never sold at $9.99. We would appreciate it if you would provide this information to your readers."
Thanks for the letter Linda, I always appreciate fan mai. When I reviewed the Scribe I specifically stated that "Apple recommends any 16 to 20 pound smooth finish stock or Xerox 4024 copier paper." For my test purposes, I used the Xerox paper as it gave me that best print quality of all the papers I tried. I have since tracked down a ream of Hammermill paper and must admit that the print quality is greatly improved with this paper.
Even in light of what you have brought to my attention, Linda, I must still recommend the Imagewriter in lieu of the Scribe for several reasons. First of all, Hammermill Thermal Transfer paper is expensive, and the people that opt to buy the Scribe do so because it is an inexpensive way to get hardcopy--they shouldn't be burdened with the cost of special paper. Second, the Scribe ribbons are also relatively expensive, and are consumed far too quickly to make them economical; the low price of the Scribe is offset by the high cost of ribbons and paper. But the Scribe is not alone--none of the thermal transfer printers I have seen to date offers what I consider adequate print quality for the money. Write Away!!!
Ok, you've asked for it, so here it is. The Great Apple Programming Contest. Many readers have been complaining about the high price of commercial software, so here it is, a programming contest that will add to the body of public domain software. And there are prizes, too. Sound good? Read on for details.
To enter the contest, simply mail us your favorite piece of code in any language for any Apple computer in machine-readable format (program listings not acceptable, unless under 10 lines). If you have a CompuServe account, feel free to upload your submissions directly to the Apple Cart section in the Creative Computing SIG (go pcs-22 from any function prompt). Incidentally, the best of the runners-up will be posted on CompuServe for easy downloading. The winners (especially those of short to medium length) will stand a good chance of being published in the magazine.
There will be software prizes in each of the following categories: graphics, utility, entertainment, nonsense, best overall, and best short program. The Mac, the II, and the III will have their own sets of winners, so there are plenty of chances to win.
Please include with your submission a short description of what the program does, what computer it runs on (list all requirements), a program listing, your address and phone number, and what type of software package you prefer if you win. The contest ends May 15, 1985. Winners will be notified within one month of that date. All submissions become the propperty of Creative Computing. The contest is open to all readers, except employees of Ziff-Davis Publishing Company. There you have it--a most generous offer if I do say so myself. What are you waiting for? Power up your system and get those disk drives spinning, you've got a contest to win. Working in the Mc Office
At its annual shareholder's meeting on January 23, Apple announced several new products that make the Macintosh a viable contender in the fight to keep IBM from maintaining its stranglehold in the business computer market. Although a more in-depth evaluation will appear in a subsequent issue, a brief overview of these products is in order now.
The Macintosh Office is centered around AppleLink, a local area network that will support as many as 32 computers or peripheral devices, including other AppleLink networks. The cost for each node of the network is $50, compared to $300 to $1000 for connections in other similar networks. The Mac Office allows workers to share information and greatly improves communications and productivity in the work environment.
Probably the most important thing to note is that the AppleLink can connect not only Macs, but IBM personal computers as well. Imagine that; it's akin to the U.S. allowing the Soviet Union to borrow the keys to the space shuttle. Actually, it is a brilliant move by Apple. You see, there are so many IBM PCs entrenched in the corporate world that managers are hesitant to buy Macintosh computers. By ensuring that with AppleLink the Mac can communicate with IBM computers, Apple just may infiltrate the covered business market now dominated by IBM.
Two other very important announcements made at the shareholder's meeting were the introduction of a laser printer, named LaserWriter, and the reduction in price of the Mac line of computers. The LaserWriter can produce near typeset-quality text and high-resolution graphics all at a maximum rate of eight pages per minute. The output of the LaserWriter must be seen to be believed. Also, since it can emulate the Diablo 630 daisywheel printer, the LaserWriter can be used by IBM-compatible personal computers.
In addition to renaming the Lisa 2/10 computer the Macintosh XL, Apple announced that it was reducing the price of the machine to $3995. The Fat Mac has also been reduced from $3195 to $2795. Also note that the price of the 128K to 512K upgrade has been slashed several hundred dollars, bringing it down to $700.
If that is still out of your reach, you may want to contact Centra Systems Inc. of Agoura Hills, CA. They provide a functionally and electronically equivalent upgrade for $350 plus shipping. Their work includes a 90-day warranty and is certainly worth looking into if you can afford to be without your Mac for a week or two while the upgrade is being performed.