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More Macworld Impressions

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A few brief observations on Macworld San Francisco from a different viewpoint.

  • Multimedia, particularly captured video and animated video, continues to be very big. Another person in my research group looked at this stuff more closely than I, so he may have better insights. My eyes glaze over when I talk to the salespeople for these products.

  • Color printers are becoming affordable. There are three primary technologies that yield good quality:

    • dye-sublimation: beautiful, very expensive ($5/page)

    • thermal-wax: great saturation and cheaper ($0.50/page)

    • solid ink: less brilliant, plain paper, cheaper still

    The solid ink appears to be the most practical technology. Ink-jet like guns melt the ink and shoot it onto the page. It ends up being cheaper than thermal-wax because the paper is less expensive and because the cost-per-page is proportional to the amount of ink placed on the page. Brother, one of the manufacturers, claims that the cost for a page of normal text is only four cents. In contrast, the cost of printing using the thermal-wax system is more or less constant, no matter how much color is placed on the page. Thermal wax is somewhat better for transparencies, though, because of the nice saturated colors.

    The printers themselves are becoming affordable to businesses. The thermal-wax and solid ink printers were all under $10,000.

  • Normal laser printers are getting really cheap. TI has a 9 page-per-minute (ppm) printer with Level II PostScript for $2249. They have one doing 16 ppm for $3649. At the same time, printer resolution is increasing. Several manufacturers were pushing 600 dpi printers for reasonable prices.

  • SuperMac has a "full-page" black and white monitor which runs through the SCSI port. It uses lossless compression to keep the bandwidth down. This had me drooling, because I could use it with my Mac Plus, unlike most larger monitors. I can't afford one, but I want one. [Adam: One caveat to these SCSI monitors. I gather that because they are using the SCSI port they can only operate at the same bit depth as the main monitor. In comparison, I have a Micron Xceed card in my SE/30 that drives an Apple 13" color monitor at 256 colors even though my SE/30's internal monitor is only black and white.]

  • Extensible systems are showing up more in different types of programs. In the past, the only user-extensible programs were spreadsheets. However, extensibility seems to have arrived. I saw powerful macro languages in the Nisus word processor and the PowerDraw CAD program. One guy was showing how PowerDraw could be used to generate low level control instructions for a computer-controlled milling machine. [Adam: I also believe that both PageMaker 4.2 and Quark XPress 3.1 have add-ons that give them rudimentary scripting languages. In some ways, this user-extensibility is thanks to HyperCard's popularity.]

  • "Open-architecture." This is a buzz-word for systems which are designed to support plug-in modules. Third-party vendors are allowed access to the code (apparently for a fee). They create useful add-ons which manipulate the internal data structures. This has been around for a while with "plug-ins" for image processing software, but both Quark XPress and Canvas were touting their flexibility from this choice. The folks from PowerDraw seem to be thinking about doing this, too. They say that users don't think of macro-based extensions as being "part of the system." I think this means that the users don't like paying extra money for them, which they will for the more seamlessly integrated features added via an "open-architecture". [Adam: The most popular program that uses this method is of course Word 5.0 now, but it remains to be seen how many third party modules take advantage of Word's plug-in capabilities.]

Information from:
Ethan Munson -- munson@cs.berkeley.edu

 

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