Last weekend, after punishing my body with a fast 5K road race that ended with a nasty uphill stretch, Tonya and I shuffled slowly around the aisles at the Boeing Computer Users Group Fair in the Seattle Center Expo Hall. Boeing is a large enough company (about 100,000 employees in the Seattle area alone) that its Users Group commands a lot of power. There were probably about 50 vendors of various types there, although it was a little hard for us to tell since we arrived late. Many of the vendors present were local PC manufacturers selling PC clones at incredible prices, such as $1750 for a capable, if not loaded, 486. Ouch! Somehow I doubt I’ll be able to snag a Quadra 900 for that kind of price.
More interesting was the conversation I had with the Radius rep while checking out a Color Pivot. Initially I was curious what would happen to the Radius Rocket accelerator once Apple introduced the Quadras, since it wouldn’t provide as impressive of a performance boost in comparison to the native power of the Quadras. However, Radius has come up with some truly neat technology that allows the Rocket’s 68040 to continue processing while the Mac’s internal CPU is working. I’ve seen information on a bunch of accelerators over the last few years, but this is the first one that is able to use both CPU’s at the same time. Right now the technology to provide this multiprocessing, called Saturn V, requires the user to activate the second processor by dropping an application on a Rocket icon on the Mac’s desktop. Alternately, you can double click on the icon, which opens a window that looks just like another Macintosh desktop, and once there, start another application. The Radius rep termed the abilities of Saturn V "primitive" in comparison with what it will be able to do in the future. Appropriately written programs will be able to distribute processing to the Rocket automatically, and at some point in the future, Saturn V might be able to sense CPU slowdown and take over some processing automatically. Such distributed processing wouldn’t suffer the slowdowns of other distributed processing schemes that have to run over a network, and if you really need significant processing power, you could fill a six-slot Mac with a bunch of Rockets and have them all working at once. Of course, that would cost a pretty penny, considering the Rocket lists for about $3500.
Less startling but cheaper and more immediately useful will be Radius’s PowerView, which is an external SCSI box that allows you to hook 12" and 13" monitors to the Classic II and the new notebooks. It does require Color QuickDraw, so it won’t help those of you with a Plus or SE, but it will soon support the Pivot and Color Pivot as well, which makes all three machines, the Classic II, the PowerBook 140, and the PowerBook 170, far more attractive for real work.
After talking the Radius guy for a while, we went over to check out a PC Color Pivot that happened to be running at the Aldus booth. It was equally as nice as the Macintosh version (and it’s so much fun flipping those suckers back and forth :-)), and we talked to the Aldus rep for a while too. He mentioned that PageMaker and FreeHand were getting some interesting new features that ought to help Aldus in its battle with Quark. PageMaker will finally be able to accept add-in modules in version 4.2, something which Quark XPress has been able to do for a while, and he claimed that 4.2 would also be fully System 7-savvy. I’d like to see some System 7-savviness with the table utility, and I’d also like to see some speed increases, but on the whole it sounded like Aldus was catching up nicely. Just out of curiousity, I asked him if Aldus had any plans to develop PageMaker for the NeXT, since Quark had backed out on porting XPress, leaving FrameMaker as the only DTP package on the NeXT. Unfortunately for NeXT people, I got the expected response, that NeXT simply wasn’t shipping enough systems for it to be worthwhile. Oh well, someone could make a killing by writing a good DTP package for that machine and putting it on the publishing map.
FreeHand 3.1 for the Mac will also become fully System 7-compatible, will import and export more file formats, and will support pressure-sensitive tablets from companies like Wacom. I’m sure some graphics people will be extremely interested to try out that feature, based on the interest I saw in pressure-sensitive tablets from some graphic designer friends a while ago.
MacWEEK — 17-Sep-91, Vol. 5, #31, pg. 1