Yes, a color Mac; the width myth; Thunderscan; Hyperdrive hard disk; Alpacom Daisywheel. (Apple cart) John J. Anderson.
Happy Spring to you all, Apple Fans. Lots has been going on in the Orchard lately, and the real task of the Apple Cart is deciding what will be included, as opposed to what won't. There are so many products and issues that fairly cry out for mention, and our space is limited.
Our II series maven Mr. Linzmayer has been so buried with work that his IIc coverage did not make it to us by press time--rest assured the next column will be devoted solely to the II series. We have heard from many of you concerning splitting the Apple Cart, and are giving the idea serious consideration. Perhaps we will devote a new feature to "desktop metaphor machines," so the Cart can return specifically to the Apple II series. Owen is evaluating his IIc LCD for next month.
Color Mac Sighted
You may or may not remember the caution we originally attached to that most ubiquitous of Mac rumors: color. I suggested in the July 1984 Creative that holding one's breath was inadvisable, for the appearance of a color Macintosh for very far off. That advice was, and remains, on the mark.
But confirmation has arrived. It has taken a year, but we have heard from an unimpeachable source about a color version of the Macintosh computer. We don't know very much more than that at least one unit exists, and that some privileged personnel have had an opportunity to see it.
And when will we finally get to see it? Well, if the long-awaited Commodore Amiga machine finally makes its debut, sporting Mac-like capabilities in color for the cost of a monochrome Mac, Apple may begin to think about an early introduction of its own hi-res color machine. If Atari's ST series machines are viable and begin to ship, this will add to the Color Mac pressure. Our only hope is that the color resolution will be up to snuff. Anything less than crystal clarity, rivaling that of the monochrome Mac, will be unacceptable.
The Width Myth
Is the Apple Macintosh, with its Motorola 68000 processor, a 16-bit or 32-bit machine? I have pegged it as a 32-bit machine in the past and taken a lot of heat for that. I am fully aware of the complexities of the argument, and frankly have ducked the issue as long as possible. Like benchmarks, these sorts of judgments invariably and quickly lead to partisan politics.
Here's a magnificent hedge for you: Although the 68000 has some limitations that cause it to be regarded as a 16-bit MPU, it is probably fair to say that the Mac is as much a true 32-bit machine as the IBM PC is a true 16-bit machine. And IBM zealots have certainly tried to position that 8088 inside the original PC as a 16-bit machine, even though that MPU employs a data path a mere eight bits wide. The 68000 exhibits many of the features of a 32-bit machine, with a 16-bit data path. It uses a 24-bit address bus, which gives it the capability to address 16 megabytes on the fly. All internal registers are 32 bits wide, with the exception of the 16-bit status register. There are 15 general registers, and two stack pointers. Show me another 16-bit processor that can access that kind of memory with such versatility!
Some of you have written to ask if the MC68000 within the Mac can ever be upgraded to the new Motorola 68020, which is, with its 32-bit data path to memory, undeniably a "true" 32-bit microprocessor. The answer to this is no. Although the 68020 supports the 68000 instruction set entirely and is designed to maintain strict software compatibility with its older sibling, its pinouts are not in dual-inline package (DIP) configuration. Rather, the flip side of Motorola's 32-bit chip sports a whopping 114 separate conecting pins in a configuration that might be labeled as a "quad" or "QIP" layout--three pins wide on all but a single side (see Figure 1).
Of course, in addition to the fact that the physical layouts are incompatible, many of the signals that are multiplexed (more than one signal sharing a common circuit) on the 68000 have their own discrete pinouts on the 68020. Although one might imagine some fanciful kludge to surmount these problems, it is realistic to surmise that the effort would not be worth the result. Current Mac circuitry is simply not devised to make use of the advantages of a 32-bit data path. For what we'll have to wait for a new crop of machines.
Collegiate Owen Linzmayer is now hard at work on a special section for our next graphics issue. It consists of an examination and round-up of digitization packages. In it he compares imaging systems for a wide range of machines. The piece will be quite comprehensive, and i am looking forward to it.
I promised him I would not jump the gun concerning Macintosh imaging systems, but I cannot help but make passing mention of the ThunderScan, from Thunderware, in Orinda, CA. This self-contained hardware and software system does not require an external campera and gives superb results for a total investment of $230 list.
The ThunderScan is a unique device, which replaces the ribbon cartridge in your Imagewriter printer. You load an original into the printer and the scanning unit sends a digitized image to the Macintosh. Though the process is somewhat lengthy, as it depends on the fixed mechanical speed of carriage returns and incremental linefeeds of the printer, it outputs high quality images. So impressed are we with our results that we have had to fight down the urge to digitize every piece of paper in the lab.
Details of our adventures with ThunderScan will have to wait for Owen's round-up, but suffice it for now to say that working with it is a joy. The software is very good and allows you to view an image in a full-screen window. Images can be saved with all grey-scale information intact (make sure you have some room on disk) or as straight MacPaint documents. Scanning can take place from 25% to 400% of the original image size, and brightness as well as contrast sliders exist in software. The software allows for high contrast or half-tones, and rehalftoning can be effected without having to rescan.
The possibilities of this product are endless, and it has fired up our imaginations quite a bit (Figures 2 and 3). Already our logo has been digitized and is available in the Apple Cart library (DL7) on Creative Computing Online (CompuServe PCS-22). That library will surely grow. Stay tuned for a comparative review of the product. Or better yet, go out and buy one while you're waiting.
In February I wrote concerning the Hyperdrive, which you may remember is the 10 meg internal hard disk for the Mac, from General Computer of Cambridge, MA. Well Pax Goodson of GCC drove down the other day to give me a hands-on demonstration of the product.
It's for real, folks, and then some. I watched Pax boot up from hard disk with n floppy inserted. I watched him boot MacPaint in a matter of seconds. I watched him create a MacWrite document, cut it to the clipboard, close, then open a new document, and do a paste, all in under 12 seconds. This parallel drive, as opposed to external drives which rely on the modem port for serial interface, is fast. It is so fast, you'd be hard pressed to tell that you were not looking at a RAMdisk in action.
The superquiet internal fan doesn't give the RAMdisk impression away either. I have a Tecmar drive, which occasionally does an uncanny impersonation of a Learjet, especially when it's been in use over the course of an entire day. I was fearful that the Hyperdrive fan, inside that potential soundbox that is the Mac, would make the Mac sound like (horrors!) an IBM machine. Such is no the case.
According to General Computer, the firm has received orders with a total retail value of over $52 million since introduction a mere four months ago. Word has it that Steve Jobs said this little hardware miracle could never be created (perhaps he stipulated to his designers that it shouldn't be do-able). But here it is, and it makes the Mac work the way it should--fast. I can give no better recommendation than to say that I put in an order on the spot.
The software included with the hardware system is superlative, and features many conveniences to make sector allocation and security measures a breeze to deal with. The downside: installation must be done by your dealer. To reiterate a bit of the February piece, prices are $2200 for the drive alone, installed, and $2800 installed alongside an upgrade to 512K.
A full review of the Hyperdrive will appear in an upcoming issue.
Alphacom Letter Quality Daisywheel
The Imagewriter is a pretty darned nice printer for graphics, but let's face it--it isn't exactly the greatest text printer you've ever seen. Mac owners certainly wouldn't want to be without an Imagewriter, but when it comes time for those formal business letters or grant proposals, you might find yourself edging back toward the Selectric. I know I have.
The Mac market is ripe for a low-cost, high quality daisywheel printer, which Mac owners can put inexpensively alongside their existing Imagewriter. The Alphaco Daisywheel is just such a printer, and at $430 complete with interface and cable, comes at an unbeatable price.
The specs in brief: the Alphacom Daisy clocks in at 22 cps, in 10, 12, or 15 cpi, with optional proportional spacing. The printer is friction feed only, with a form width of up to 13". The printwheels as well as ribbon cartridges are Diablo and Qume compatible. Buffer size is 93 bytes, expandable optionally to 4K. The Alphacom measures 19" x 5.5" x 12" and weighs 21 lbs.
Print quality is impeccable (Figure 4), and the system runs quietly for a daisywheel. The Alphacom Letter Quality Printer uses inexpensive modular interfaces ($30 each). Using the Macintosh interface, we drove the printer reliably both from the Daisywheel Connection and Microsoft Word. Setting up the unit is easy and the accompanying documentation is relatively thorough and competent.
Catch you next month.