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Published in TidBITS 28.
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Night of the Living Clones

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It's starting to sound like one of those horror movies where it turns out that everyone you know has been taken over by pods from outer space. I think that's the case a lot of the time - it explains many of the people I know quite well. I'm talking, of course, about the proliferation of computers that can emulate other computers. In particular, there have been a number of interesting Macintosh clone announcements. The last one we reported on, created by, Abacus Research and Development Inc. (ARDI), was still working on software and hadn't mentioned anything about PC-compatibility either. This announcement is from a similarly-named company, Research, Development, & Innovations (RDI), which says that it plans to display at Comdex an 8.5 pound, battery powered, SPARC-based (the chip set that runs the Sun workstations) laptop that can run all Sun, Macintosh, and PC software.

The president of RDI, Rick Schrameck, says the BriteLite laptop will run Mac software faster than an SE and PC software faster than a 286. Neither speed is amazing, but both are respectable considering that there aren't any 8.5 pound Macintosh-compatible portables that are any faster and few PC-clone laptops are much faster than 286's either. Of course, such functionality doesn't come cheap; the BriteLite will list for between $7000 and $12000 and will ship in December.

I didn't hear what came with the laptop in terms of disk drives and monitors and external ports and all that jazz, but I'd expect a large hard disk since Suns usually require a lot of storage just for the Unix operating system (to give you an approximation, A/UX comes on an 80 MB hard disk if you buy the hard disk version, though that includes the man pages, so you wouldn't need to port all that around to meetings - at least I hope not). Suns almost always have large monitors as well, so I would expect that the monitor would have a fine resolution to fit more dots on the screen at once, though readability becomes an issue quickly with laptops of any breed. It must have a port for a mouse or trackball if it is to run Macintosh software, and it wouldn't be surprising if it had an external monitor port as well to drive a real monitor. Given a large enough hard disk, a floppy drive could be external without causing undue hassle. And all in 8.5 pounds. I wonder how they do it.

I'm sure that Apple isn't happy about the announcement, but they never are, so that's not surprising. It will be interesting to hear how RDI has managed to emulate the Mac. They might have licensed ROMlib from ARDI since that ran on Sun workstations and was coming along quite well, although it was a ways from running "all" Macintosh software as RDI claims. If anyone goes to Comdex and can get more information on RDI and the BriteLite, we'd appreciate hearing more of the details and receiving contact information. As usual, you know where to find us.

Information from:
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor
Wayne Folta -- folta@tove.cs.umd.edu

Related articles:
Wall Street Journal -- 07-Nov-90

 

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