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For Little Macs

Not to be mean or anything, but the Plus, SE, and Classic have two main problems. First, they’re slow, and depending on what you want to use (like PageMaker 4.0 over LocalTalk from another Plus) comparisons to molasses in January aren’t even fair. Second, they have small screens, especially if you talk to a PC user who doesn’t know much about screen resolutions. Of course, if you belong to the Apple Computer School of Upgrades, the obvious solution is to run right out and plunk down the bucks for a IIci with 19" color monitor. For those of us more wary of our wallets, there are a few more options.

Accelerators have been around for some time, but the latest one for the Plus comes from Brainstorm Products. Most of the simple accelerators replace the 8 MHz 68000 with a 16 MHz 68000, which can significantly increase the Mac’s speed. Brainstorm’s accelerator uses the 16 MHz 68000 and also includes a ASIC to replace an Apple timing chip. The custom ASIC acts as a bus accelerator, so data traveling over the internal bus will move at the same 16 MHz speed as the processor. In real life, Brainstorm claims this will triple the speed of screen redraws, double the speed of basic calculations, and increase SCSI transfer speed by up to five times. To match the accelerator’s speed, you do need to use RAM rated at 120 nanoseconds or faster – the slower 150 nanosecond RAM won’t cut it. My guess is that an accelerated Plus will run about the speed of a Portable, which uses the same CPU at 16 MHz. David Lau mentioned on Usenet that he had gotten one of these accelerators and was pleased with it. The only problem he could find was speed degradation using AppleTalk under System 7, which Brainstorm said they plan to fix in software soon. He also confirmed that Brainstorm made accurate speed claims.

The accelerator (which doesn’t appear to have a name – the rep I spoke with never mentioned it) costs $249, and Brainstorm has been shipping the version for the Plus for several months. An expansion card for the SE should ship later this summer, and Brainstorm hopes to provide a version for the Classic by the end of the year. Since the versions for the Plus and the Classic are just chips and the SE version requires cracking the case, the upgrades must be installed by a dealer. They also have a one year warranty. So if you’re looking to put a little life back in your Plus, give Brainstorm a call. Given the price of a used Plus these days, it’s probably worth putting a couple of hundred dollars into it to spruce it up for modern times.

A little extra speed is nice, but you may have noticed that you spend an awful amount of time scrolling around on screen. Why do you think so many people buy full page monitors? Technology Fusion may have the cheap answer, TotalVision. The TotalVision board gives a Plus, SE, or Classic a virtual screen up to 1024 by 1024 pixels in size. Stepping Out, a software utility, did the same thing, but because Stepping Out ran in software, it could slow the Mac down by up to 25%. TotalVision does all of the graphics processing necessary to simulate the large screen in hardware, which makes it extremely fast. You can modify the screen size with a Control Panel, and a persistent menu lets you perform some other useful actions. You can increase the screen resolution from 72 dpi to 90 dpi, which allows you to see the entire width of a normal page on screen; you can instantly move to the upper left (home) of the virtual screen; you can zoom in two times; you can inverse the video, which some people prefer, though I suspect those people would also prefer working on an amber PC monitor; you can freeze the virtual panning; and finally, you can do a screen dump of the entire virtual screen.

Like the Brainstorm accelerator, the SE version is a card, but the Plus and Classic versions plug onto the processor directly. Once again, it’s a job for a dealer, but Technology Fusion includes a coupon for a free installation by an Apple dealer in the $349 list price. There’s no telling if these products would work together, but if they did, they would provide a lot of life for the older Macs. Hmm, I may have to suggest that Brainstorm and Technology Fusion pool their resources to come up with a hybrid of the two products. Could be pretty popular.

Brainstorm — 415/964-2131
Technology Fusion — 303/278-1295

Information from:
David Lau — [email protected]
Brainstorm rep

Related articles:
MacWEEK — 05-Feb-91, Vol. 5, #5, pg. 82
MacWEEK — 16-Apr-91, Vol. 5, #14, pg. 9

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