More important than the toner recycling program is an announcement from Apple last week that they have completely eliminated the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in cleaning circuit boards and manufacturing equipment. None of Apple’s circuit boards require cleaning with Apple’s new assembly technology, and Apple managed to convert manufacturing operations that do require cleaning so that they could use water.
Working with other companies, Apple achieved this goal over a year ahead of schedule (sounds like some of those engineers should start writing software!) and will now concentrate on disseminating the information and helping other companies eliminate CFCs from their manufacturing processes.
Many scientists believe that CFCs contribute to the erosion of the Earth’s ozone layer, which shields against incoming ultraviolet radiation. In 1989, 81 countries "declared their intentions" to phase out the use of CFCs by the year 2000, a date which the US later moved up to 1995.
Kudos to Apple for placing an emphasis on this sort of technology. It may cost money in the short run and may even contribute to slightly higher prices for Macs over cut-rate PC-clones, but in our opinion the benefits easily outweigh that cost. Apple reduced its CFC solvent emissions from a peak of 270,000 pounds in 1990 to less than 2,500 pounds in 1992. That’s an impressive drop.
Other Apple environmental projects include battery and toner recycling, product grants to environmental groups, environmentally-sensitive packaging, and finally an R&D effort to build energy-efficient computers.
Sleepy Computers — I’d like to see results from this R&D effort in desktop Macs soon. The PowerBooks nap quite nicely to save battery power, but how about desktop Macs also taking a snooze to conserve power? People like me who leave the Mac on constantly would especially appreciate this feature, and it might even protect sleeping Macs from power problems of the sort that destroyed my hard drive last week. The off-on-off power cycle killed the drive, which was running at the time. If that drive had been sitting quietly, catching 40,000 winks (a unit of time similar to a tick, which computers perform very quickly), it might have survived the traumatic experience.
Actually, Apple has joined the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star Computers Program, a voluntary program in which members attempt to drop the power consumption of their machines to less than 30 watts when idle. Other companies in the program include, HP, IBM, DEC, Compaq, Smith-Corona, and Zenith. The PowerBooks meet these standards, but if all desktop machines did, the EPA estimates a savings of 25 billion kilowatt hours per year.
Ted Silveira mentioned on ZiffNet/Mac that several years ago he used a computer from a company called ON that was on all the time, but would go to sleep after about 10 minutes, coming back on with the touch of a key. The ON machine didn’t offer a lot of features, even in 1986, with its Z80 microprocessor, 64K of RAM, CP/M operating system, and a separate dumb terminal for monitor and keyboard. Mass storage came in the form of 2 MB of RAM, although it had a floppy for shuffling files. Nonetheless, the ON had an innovative power system. It had no fan, making it completely silent, and it could keep data safe for about 24 hours with no power using its own internal backup power supply. If the wall power went out, the machine just went to sleep immediately, and you woke it up by touching any key once the power had returned. Finally, the ON had a software-controlled plug in the back where you could plug in your printer, take advantage of the built-in surge protection, and control the printer from your keyboard. Snazziest was the feature that simply turned on the printer if you tried to print to it while it was off rather than giving you a stupid error message. Where are ON’s engineers today?!?
Obviously, Apple would have a hard time providing this level of functionality given the much larger power requirements of today’s computers, but power technology has advanced along with power requirements. I would happily pay an extra $300 to $500 (if not more) for such features because it would decrease the amount of time I waited for my machine to start up and shut down and significantly decrease my electric bill, a direct monetary savings, not to mention the ecological benefits of reduced consumption. Such power protection features would also prevent me from spending $300 or so on an uninteruptible power supply (UPS) which I have to purchase to protect my current system. We’re waiting, Apple.
Ted Silveira — [email protected]
MacWEEK — 22-Jun-92, Vol. 6, #24, pg. 3