Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue
Copyright 1991 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <email@example.com> Comments: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Michael Hart of Project Gutenberg (a project to provide free electronic texts to the world) writes:
Are you an April fool if you believe:
- Hard disk storage can be bought for $.25 per megabyte.
- The same drives can be used on DOS, MAC and UNIX machines.
- 9600 baud modems are available at $169.
- IBM spelled out the letters IBM with individual xenon atoms.
- AT&T did theirs with one atom eight years earlier.
- The AT&T people used IBM-invented equipment.
- The first Project Gutenberg text was net posted 20 years ago.
- 10,000 ASCII etexts will be posted by the end of year 2001.
- The storage space, machine, and drives already fit on a desktop.
Robert Minich muses on the subject of the Apple/Microsoft suit, "I'm no lawyer (!) but I think the title [of our article in TidBITS-047] should have been "Apple 0.5, MS 0.5, The Rest Of Us 1.0" as I felt what the judge ruled included these major items: 1) Apple does have a basis to protect the Mac OS and GUI 2) "Original work" in copyright law is apparently best translated as being easily distinguishable. More subtle implications seem apparent to me, though they may seem arbitrary to you. The above points seem to imply that since the Mac GUI isn't a copy of Star/Smalltalk, MS Windows isn't likely to be in too much danger. I wish I could find a Star to play with and judge for myself the validity of the judge's claim. <sigh> It also seems to me that MS screwed up in entering into its original agreement with Apple since it seems that they have implicitly accepted Apple's right to the Mac GUI. I also found the agreement itself rather interesting in that Apple and MS were in a way bedfellows. Is it a fatal attraction?"
Ted Weverka kindly let us know about the real terms for some huge numbers.
10^-12 = pico 10^-15 = fempto 10^-18 = atto and 10^12 = tera 10^15 = peta 10^18 = exa (this is the one we were looking for with megatera and gigagiga)
He writes, "We are starting to see more frequent use of peta in the sciences. The high power lasers for inertial confinement fusion are approaching a megajoule in a nanosecond for a petaWatt. These are all I know, and all I believe exist (i.e. there is no 10^21 or 10^-21). I found these some years ago (and memorized them) in the back of the Hewlett Packard manuals for programming the HP9836 in BASIC."
Michael S. Hart -- email@example.com
Robert Minich -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Ted Weverka -- weverka@sashimi.Colorado.EDU
Researchers at Bellcore have created a holographic system for high speed data retrieval using an array of 1000 semiconductor lasers on a chip to retrieve holographic images stored in a single crystal. Unfortunately, the researchers have only retrieved a few images - ultimately they hope to get up to 1000 images from a crystal. Another company, Microelectronics and Computer Technology, is working on a method of storing holographic images in crystallite arrays rather than the single crystals used by Bellcore. Eventually, the holographic images could be used for data storage. While 1000 lasers on a chip is impressive, IBM recently developed a two inch chip holding 20,000 lasers. The ability to put 20,000 lasers on a chip promises a lot for technologies like laser printing, CD-ROM, and fiber optic information transmission.
The memory world has two new technologies, one from IBM and one from SHRAM. IBM showed the "Lightning" SRAM (static RAM) chip at the IEEE conference in February. The chip holds up to 512K of information and can send and receive eight billion bits per second, a feat achieved by having the chip carry out read and write operations simultaneously. SHRAM announced Sheet RAM, which is composed of a ferromagnetic layer on top of a neutral substrate. A single Hall-effect (no idea what that is, sorry) transistor sits on top of the ferromagnetic layer for each memory cell, a scheme somewhat similar to core memory, with its magnetic donuts on interlaced wires. Sheet RAM resembles core memory in that it stores bits by changing magnetic polarity, though of a region rather than a discrete donut. Since Sheet RAM is nonvolatile and probably relatively easy to produce, it could become an excellent form of fast, permanent storage.
Olivetti announced a line of portable PC-clones that are distinguished from the rest of pack by removable keyboards and built-in touch pads for cursor control. One of the problems with laptop and notebook computers is that they can seldom use a mouse. Microsoft's BallPoint (which has been well received so far) helps to address the problem of graphical input, but it's definitely an add-on, in comparison to Olivetti's built-in touch-pads.
I love new input devices, and BioControl Systems of Palo Alto may have one of the best so far. It's a device mounted on a headband that monitors the electrical field movement of your eyes and moves an object on the screen accordingly. BioControl Systems is looking for capital to go beyond the current prototype, possibly first into video game control, but eventually into mouse-type manipulations. It sounds like a wonderful idea, but could play havoc with your eyes after a while.
COMMUNICATION WEEK -- 04-Feb-91, pg. 22
BYTE -- Jan-91, pg. 20
BYTE -- Mar-91, pg. 28
PC WEEK -- 11-Mar-91, Vol. 8, #10, pg. 22
InfoWorld -- 11-Mar-91, Vol. 13, #10, pg. 24
BYTE -- Mar-91, pg. 32
Well of course it's hidden, it's a secret! Apple didn't want to admit this for a while, but it's been out long enough that something's finally come of it. The new Macintosh LC can drive many standard VGA monitors from the PC world with the addition of a special cable. Considering that the LC is a low-cost color machine, low-cost monitor options are important. Apple addressed this with the 12" Apple Color monitor, but that monitor suffers from a large pixel size and thus a small amount of information on screen. People who've used it say that it's slightly larger than the 9" monochrome monitors.
However, you can buy some pretty good VGA monitors these days. The truly good ones run about the same amount of money as the excellent 13" Apple Color Monitor, but you can find perfectly reasonable screens for less if you poke around. You have a better chance of finding a good used VGA monitor than you do a used Macintosh monitor. It's likely that even a good VGA monitor will not have the same clarity and bright colors as a Macintosh monitor simply because the Mac and the PC deal with monitors differently and many VGA monitors aren't designed for use with the Mac (most PC-clone monitors use solid colors for the background color and the text color etc., whereas the Mac uses a standard grey color for the desktop (though you can change this) and applies spot color to selected objects and types of objects).
Apple won't help you avoid buying an Apple monitor, so you'll have to find or build your own cable. InfoWorld published a pin-out and wiring diagram in its 11-Mar-91 issue on pg 38, so if you're the enterprising engineer sort, solder away. Alternately, BMUG (the Berkeley Macintosh Users' Group) has a kit for those of you who don't like poking through electronics stores to find parts. If you are less enthusiastic about solder flux, you have a couple of options. NEC will send you a free cable to work with its 2A or 3D Multisync monitors (at least the 3D is a nice monitor - I haven't seen the 2A). More generally, you can buy a $40 adapter from James Engineering, Inc. The MacVGA sits between the Mac and the VGA monitor cable.
To reiterate: test any monitor before you commit to buying it (though in this case, you may have to buy your cable before buying your monitor in order to run the test). Not all VGA monitors will work, and the more expensive SuperVGA and UltraVGA monitors will not provide better than 640 x 480 resolution.
If Apple would offer the two-floppy drive LC to normal people (as far as we know, only educational departments can purchase that configuration now), you could assemble a powerful and inexpensive LC system with a third party hard drive and a decent VGA monitor.
BMUG Inc. -- 415/549-2684
James Engineering -- 415/525-7350
NEC -- 312/237-2264 (number to call for cable)
MacWEEK -- 02-Apr-91, Vol. 5, #13, pg. 6
MacWEEK -- 22-Jan-91, Vol. 5, #3, pg. 6
InfoWorld -- 11-Mar-91, Vol. 13, #10, pg. 38
InfoWorld -- 28-Jan-91, Vol. 13, #4, pg. 34
Well, actually it's only one Giga, but the name of a new CD-ROM product from Quantum Leap Technologies reminded me of our recent mix up about the prefix for 10^18. The Giga-ROM CD is not revolutionary as such, since it is merely a collection of shareware and public domain programs, much like the PD-ROM from the Boston Computer Society. Giga-ROM includes a huge number of files, 11,676 to be precise, and Quantum Leap has compressed all of them with Compact Pro from Bill Goodman. Since Compact Pro can often compress files to half their original size and a CD-ROM can hold about 650 MB, it's not unlikely that the disk contains a full gigabyte of files, hence the name. The size makes Giga-ROM the largest static collection of shareware and public domain software.
What's more interesting about Giga-ROM than its sheer size is a related product, Directories and Menus for the Giga-ROM, that allows the disk to be used immediately with a Second Sight BBS. The maker of Directories and Menus for the Giga-ROM, DMI Systems, sells the disk and its product for a special price of $169. The disk alone will list for $199 and the Directories and Menus for the Giga-ROM will list for $69, so the bundle is a good deal if you are a Second Sight sysop with a little extra money and a CD-ROM drive.
The Directories and Menus for the Giga-ROM is just what it sounds like, an integrated, pre-built set of 142 Second Sight menus and 158 file directories for the Giga-ROM, It's not a trivial task to set up these menus and directories, and the concept of setting up that many menus and directories is frightening. DMI claims that its single-step installation process is easy and takes only about 30 minutes. Of course, finding a file in a haystack while connected by modem isn't much fun, so DMI includes a completely keyword text index that can be used with a runtime version of Pete Johnson's Archie, which I assume is an archive manager. For more speed, users can download the index and use it locally. If you want to use Giga-ROM locally, Quantum Leap includes an ON Location index if you happen to use ON Location for disk and file indexing.
I haven't seen this product yet, since neither I nor my local Second Sight BBS (the Memory Alpha BBS, kindly run by Mark H. Anbinder) have a CD-ROM player. However, the price on CD-ROM players is coming down slowly, and eventually it will be financially feasible for a small local BBS to have as many files available as some commercial online services. Quantum Leap guarantees virus-free files, and since they exist on a read-only medium, those files will remain virus-free, a guarantee that I hope will improve the reputation of BBS's in terms of virus contagion. The read-only medium also ensures that the disk will require no maintenance, unlike standard hard disk systems. Of course, a BBS would need a hard disk to receive new files and to make mail possible, so the Giga-ROM won't reduce the current amount of maintenance.
A similar product that I haven't heard as much about is the BBS in a Box from Wayzata Technology. It includes fewer files than the Giga-ROM, only 7000, but includes directories for the Second Sight and also the graphical Telefinder BBS.
Quantum Leap Technologies -- 800/762-2877
DMI Systems -- 514/932-4066
Wayzata Technology -- 800/735-7321 -- 612/447-7321
Quantum Leap Technologies propaganda
MacWEEK -- 16-Apr-91, Vol. 5, #14, pg. 20
Once you've got your Second Sight BBS running the Giga-ROM, you might want to upgrade your modem. Of course, all of this assume a rich relative recently passed away and left you a ton of money (preferably in paper, though I'd rather have a ton of quarters than a ton of pennies). Standard 9600 baud v.everything (that's my abbreviation for v.22, v.22bis, v.32, v.42, v.42bis, and MNP 1-5, though not v.32bis, which is just starting to show up in modems now) modems run about $500 on the low end. $500 is an excellent price for such a modem, since when talking to another v.everything modem, it can quadruple the speed to 38,400 baud (and yes, I do know the approximate difference between baud and bits-per-second, I prefer using baud since it's easier to say even though the two aren't exactly equivalent).
But if a man in a trench coat came up to you in a dark alley and said, "Hey. Mac. Wanna buy a 9600 baud modem, cheap? How about a measly $169?" What would you say? Considering that you're talking to a man in trench coat in a dark alley, you probably wouldn't enter into a detailed discussion about whether or not the modem supported v.42 bis. You'd probably say nervously, "Sure, sounds good," give him the money, and stick to the lighted alleys the rest of the way home.
When you arrive home and look at what you've got, it would probably be a CompuCom 9600 baud modem that does support MNP 5, but not v.32, v.32bis, v.42, or v.42bis. CompuCom is bucking the mega-compatible trend (that makes it pico-compatible, I guess), so its modem, the SpeedModem Champ, will only work at 2400 baud with most other modems, 4800 baud if the other modem supports MNP 5. However, CompuCom came up with its own proprietary protocol and error checking mechanisms, so if you're talking to another SpeedModem Champ, you can hit the same 38,400 baud that the more expensive modems can do. Considering the fact that you can buy three SpeedModem Champ modems for the price of even the cheapest of the v.everything modems, it's a gamble that just might work.
If you are interested in fast communications and know that everyone you will be talking to at 9600 baud will also be using a SpeedModem Champ, it sounds like a pretty good deal. And if the other people don't have SpeedModem Champs, well, 2400 baud with MNP 5 isn't too bad and $169 is less than I paid for my 2400 baud MNP 5 Practical Peripherals modem a year ago.
Oh, yeah, I should mention that you should never buy modems from guys in dark alleys, especially if they're clothed in trench coats. The modem you just bought is an internal PC card and won't even think about working with a Macintosh. CompuCom is working on an external version of the modem that will probably be slightly more expensive (external modems always are) and will work with the Mac. The nice person I spoke with on the phone assured me that the external version should be out late this summer, since she had a Mac Plus and wanted one.
CompuCom -- 800/228-6648
InfoWorld -- 01-Apr-91, Vol. 13, #13, pg. 31
Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.
Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue