Douglas Wyman writes, "At the Las Vegas 90 Fall COMDEX I saw a prototype digital camera which used EEROM cards instead of still-video floppies to record images. The image was digitized in color and stored on the card which could then be read out by a display device. The obvious (and visibly apparent) benefit was the stability of the output image which did not shudder and shake when being displayed. I too have examined the still-video devices such as the Canon cameras and do not accept the digital – analog – digital approach that their use requires. The rotating analog playback mechanisms introduce too much shake to the image and require mechanical movement for something that could be all-digital and all-electronic. I hope some other vendor is able to move ahead with that technology before still-video gets a firm hold on the consumer’s attention."
Douglas Wyman — esfm01.SINet.SLB.COM
Everyone has been complaining for the last few years about System 7 needing 2 MB of RAM to run. Given the low price of memory (about $40 per MB), getting another megabyte shouldn’t bankrupt too many people. Still, is 2 MB enough? I personally consider a 1 MB Mac Plus pretty unusable for the level of things I do (OK, so I run out of memory on my 8 MB SE/30 – what if I’m a tad spoiled), will a 2 MB Classic be much different? We’ve been testing that recently, since Tonya just got herself a 2 MB Classic that we haven’t gotten around to upping the memory yet. We are still learning the best way to manage its memory, but it looks as though verdict will be that if you want to run memory hogs like Word 4, you will be a bit limited in what you can do and everything will slow down, sometimes rather significantly. We have also run into some strange problems with the System 7 files sharing on our mini-LocalTalk network between the Classic and the SE/30 (the SE/30 is running 6.0.5). We will report on the details of the strange problems if we ever figure them out (it looks like later tonight we will install DataClub, which may work more smoothly).
These are the basic System 7 memory guidelines from Apple, though we are not yet convinced of their complete accuracy. If you currently have 1 MB, use System 6 and one program. If you have 2 MB, System 7 and one program will work fine. 2.5 MB of RAM allows you to run System 7 with maybe two programs, and anything over 3 MB allows you to run even more programs or a single memory hog like Photoshop. Of course, if you have a ton of INITs, whoops, extensions, the amount of extra memory shrinks rapidly. Another place memory might disappear is if you use file sharing, which eats another 260K to 300K of RAM.
We heard that CE Software does not plan to make version 2.5 (soon to be released) of their popular QuickMail package completely System 7 compatible. The client software will be System 7 compatible and 32-bit clean, but the QM Server and the QM Administrator will not be. CE says that they talked to their largest sites and decided not to make 2.5 compatible because the sites weren’t upgrading their servers to System 7 and because it would entail a significant rewrite of QuickMail. CE will undoubtedly support System 7 in the future, but since it’s taken a while for them to finish 2.5, it could be a long time before a System 7-studly version of QuickMail arrives. With Microsoft as competition, this doesn’t seem to be a terrifically bright move on CE’s part. If you are interested in participating in the discussion and wish to make your feelings known to CE, there are two things you should do. First, send mail to CESOFTWARE at AppleLink ([email protected]) or America Online. Second, there is a QM-L LISTSERV at Yale for discussing QuickMail. To subscribe, send a one line mailfile saying SUBSCRIBE QM-L Your Name (replace Your Name with the appropriate information – I’m sure you can all figure it out) to [email protected] You’ll then get information on the list along with messages sent by other people. CE monitors that list.
On a related note, I’ve just heard of a new LISTSERV dedicated to talking about System 7. I haven’t had time to check it out, what with getting married and all, but it should be interesting if you’re having trouble with System 7 or are concerned about issues surrounding the upgrade. To quote from the announcement: "The new list, SYS7-L, is specifically dedicated to the problems of installation, configuaration and features of the new system, as well as issues relating to product compatibility. We hope that this will serve the Macintosh community well, by providing a hopefully closer look at this new product without diluting the excellent quality of existing Mac mailing lists." To subscribe to the list send a mailfile containing SUBSCRIBE SYS7-L Your Name (same deal with replacement as before) to [email protected] If you have questions, comments, or problems, ask David Remington, the list’s owner, at [email protected] or [email protected] I recommend that you follow a list like this for complete information on System 7, since there’s no way TidBITS can carry all the good information about System 7. We’re sticking with the most interesting and most important stuff, but there’s lots of other useful information we can’t include.
Apple’s Compatibility Checker claims that Disinfectant 2.4 is not compatible and should be upgraded to 2.5. Unfortunately, there is no 2.5 – it’s a myth. Disinfectant 2.4 is compatible with System 7 as long as you leave the @Disinfectant INIT in the System Folder proper, not the Extensions folder. John Norstad has said that he is working on Disinfectant 3.0, which will take full advantage of System 7 and knowing John, it will be truly snazzy to boot. Along with balloon help and the ability to drop icons on the Disinfectant icon to have them checked, Disinfectant will have an AppleEvent that allows other programs to ask Disinfectant to check files. That should help when downloading. I believe that the only thing Disinfectant will be unable to prevent is infection via file sharing, so watch the rest of the people on your network carefully. 🙂
Finally, in a thread discussing why Mac word processors don’t do typesetting like TeX, Brian Diehm mentioned that he’d heard that Interleaf for the Mac was a major test site for System 7 because it was the first major application being written from the ground up for System 7, rather than being ported up from System 6. Brian thought that a new release of Interleaf for the Mac, complete with a full Macintosh interface and System 7-studliness, might be coming soon. Of course, if I remember correctly, Interleaf was so expensive that only a site that used it on workstations as well and wanted the compatibility would use it. Perhaps this release will also bring a price reduction and put Interleaf into the world of the affordable.
I’m always interested in newer and bigger forms of mass storage, and a number of interesting announcements have come out in the last few months. Probably the storage device that will gain acceptance the fastest is the 88 MB SyQuest drive, which will first appear from PLI, MicroNet, and Mass Microsystems. Prices will be high at first, a bit under $2000 for the drive and about $200 for the cartridge, both of which are more than twice as much as you might pay for a 44 MB SyQuest drive from a reputable vendor. The drives won’t be any faster than their predecessors, but SyQuest says that they are more reliable. SyQuest will continue making the 44 MB version indefinitely, and the 88 MB drives will read but not write existing 44 MB cartridges.
The 88 MB SyQuest drives may hurt the market for another storage technology that has been around for a while. Pinnacle Micro announced a 130 MB magneto-optical drive quite some time ago, and it should start shipping in volume sometime this summer. The drives are similar to the 650 MB erasable opticals, but the 130 MB drive uses a 3.5" optical disk. The smaller disk allows the heads to move a shorter distance, decreasing the access times to about 35 milliseconds or about the speed of a slow hard disk. Part of the problem faced by these drive is the price, which runs about $3000, though I’d expect to see that drop once the drives are in full production. The SyQuest drives came down in price once they became popular, so if the erasable opticals offer enough speed and reliability, they could do quite well.
In May, a company called DJK plans to ship a 20 MB floptical (it uses high density magnetic media with servo tracks optically encoded onto the disk surface) that will use 3.5" floptical disks that look like standard floppies. The external SCSI device will be relatively slow with an 85 millisecond access time, and it has a mean time between failures of 15,000 hours. The developer of the technology, Insite Peripherals, claims it achieved its goal of being able to read and write standard Mac and DOS floppies (though not 800K Mac disks). The main questions still remaining are the price and the media reliability. There is an excellent explanation of how these beasts work in the Oct-90 issue of BYTE.
CD-ROM and WORM drives are becoming more and more similar all the time. A group with the vaguely odd name of the Frankfurt Group (JVC, Sony, and Philips are the main members) released a spec for a write-once CD-ROM drive that can read all current CD-ROMs, although current CD-ROM drives can’t read all the writable CDs. There are a couple of possible reasons for this limitation. First, there might be a different method of laying down the data between which the user would have to choose (concentric circles instead of a single spiral for instance). Second, there could be other variables, such as media tolerances that some standard CD drives could read but others couldn’t. No telling at the moment. JVC has a drive which will probably be priced around $2500 for end users, but no word on what each disk would cost.
As CD-ROMs get closer to WORMs, WORMs get closer to erasable optical drives. Reflection Systems has a drive that uses a phase change technology to flip bits optically, much as magnetic media does with magnetic bits. The phase change method is quite a bit faster (about 90 milliseconds) than standard magneto-optical technology, which has to erase the existing data, write the new data, and verify it, taking three passes to the single pass necessary with phase change. The phase change technology is fast enough that the DVI (Digital Video Interactive) people are interested because it combines massive rewritable removable storage with decent speed for full motion video. The only drawback to the phase change method is that it may cause the disks to wear out faster, though only time will tell on that account. The drives will be marketed by Panasonic (aka Matsushita, the original maker), Corel Systems, Avid and Montage for about $4000 and the disks will run about $250 each. That sounds pricey, but each disk will hold 1 GB of data (500 MB per side and yes, you do have to flip the disk manually), so it’s extremely cost effective after just a couple of disks. For an explanation of how phase change works, check out the article on it in the Nov-90 BYTE.
Back in the mundane world of floppies, it’s looking like the next size for the standard floppy will be 2.8 MB. NeXT standardized on the Sony 2.8 MB drive when it added a floppy to the NeXTstation and NeXTcube, and I’ve heard rumors about Apple putting a 2.8 MB drive into future Macs. I gather that people at Apple aren’t that thrilled with the 2.8 MB technology because switching standard disk formats tends to confuse and irritate users for a year or two after the switch. In addition, 2.8 MB just isn’t that much more than 1.4 MB these days. Floppies are primarily used for backup and transfer, neither of which require somewhat larger floppies. Now 20 MB floppies – that’s a different story.
Corel — 613/728-8200
DJK Development — 313/254-2632
Mass Microsystems — 800/522-7979 — 408/522-1200
MicroNet Technology, Inc. — 714/837-6033
Panasonic — 800/742-8086 — 201/348-7000
Pinnacle Micro — 800/553-7070 — 714/727-3300
PLI — 800/288-8754 — 415/657-2211
Reflection — 800/445-9400 — 408/432-0943
Pinnacle Micro propaganda
Joe from Reflection Systems.
PC WEEK — 25-Mar-91, Vol. 8, #12, pg. 101
InfoWorld — 25-Mar-91, Vol. 13, #12, pg. 8
MacWEEK — 26-Mar-91, Vol. 5, #12, pg. 29
MacWEEK — 19-Feb-91, Vol. 5, #7, pg. 1, 8
BYTE — Oct-90, pg. 301
BYTE — Nov-90, pg. 289
One of my favorite people to talk to is Ward Bond, president of Infogrip, because he always pushes the envelope of technology. Infogrip makes the BAT chord keyboard, which should show up in the Mac market after they get enough money to pay an industrial designer to snazz it up for picky consumers. It’s already being sold to CAD users, I gather, since they don’t care much what it looks like as long as it saves time, which it does.
In any event, Infogrip has two new products which fit right in with what I’ve been saying for a long time about peripatetic (a nice Greek word meaning "performed while moving around") computing. The most exciting of these products from a retail standpoint is the Mini-BAT, which is palmtop computer like the Sharp Wizard or the new HP 95LX. Like the Sharp Wizard, the Mini-BAT does not use DOS, which can either be good or bad, depending on your compu-religious affiliation. The Mini-BAT comes with word processing software, calendar/alarm software, database software, 64K of memory, and a NiCad battery pack that lasts for 40 hours of working between charges. For more money on top of the retail price (less than $600) you can add up to 576K of memory, a Lotus 1-2-3 compatible spreadsheet, a pocket fax modem, an alphanumeric pager, a kit for transferring data to a PC or a Mac, and last but not least, foreign language translation programs for Spanish, French, and German. That’s pretty impressive for a non-DOS palmtop. Like both the Wizard and the 95LX, the Mini-BAT has a full (if something 3.5" x 7" x .8" and weighing less than a pound can have "full" associated with it in any way) keyboard. Unlike the other two, or any other portable computer of any size, the Mini-BAT also includes a special seven-key chord keyboard so you can actually type on it, even without looking. A friend lent me a Digital Diary for a while, and although I liked what it could do as far as keeping track of information, I hated entering information on its pseudo-keyboard so much I finally stopped using it out of pure irritation. In the BYTE review of the HP 95LX, they say that its main downfall is its abysmal keyboard. The reviewer even made a nasty comment about how not only was typing the Great American Novel not possible on this keyboard, even the Great American short story would be pretty hard to manage. The Mini-BAT should be able to put all current portable computer keyboards to shame because anyone can learn to touch-type on a chord keyboard quickly since you don’t have to move your fingers around to different keys. The ability to type without looking at either the screen or the keyboard should minimize the Mini-BAT’s main limitation, which is a small LCD screen.
Infogrip’s other new product gets around the Mini-BAT’s screen limitation, and if your compu-religious affiliation involves bowing toward Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond five times a day, you will like the Walk-Around Chordable Computer with Private Eye. It’s a long name, but basically you get a portable 8086, 80286, or 80386 computer running DOS. You wear the computer around your neck like a guitar, and use a BAT chord keyboard to enter information. Display is handled by the head-mounted Private Eye, which weighs less than three ounces and provides what looks like a full-size screen floating a few feet in front of you. No need to worry about electromagnetic fields with this baby, although you might walk into walls occasionally. That’s all we know about the Walk-Around, so call Ward at Infogrip if you want more information.
Another project that Infogrip is working on but hasn’t mentioned to the popular press is something with the terrible name of CompCap. The company that thought of the name and the product is Park Engineering, and the machine is an 8086 DOS computer shoehorned into a hardhat. A Private Eye provides the display and if everything goes right, a BAT should be included for text entry. For those of you who wear hardhats a lot (architects, construction people, engineers, people with soft heads, etc.), a CompCap is an excellent way to keep the computing power close at hand, or perhaps I should say, under your hat.
Ward said that he was talking to people at Apple, so if we’re lucky a future Apple portable will have a reasonable keyboard. I’ve heard from a couple of people now that Apple may release some small, possibly pen-based, machines using RISC or 68040 chips in the next year. Perhaps the most interesting of these will be an el-cheapo handheld in the $600 range that would be ideal with a BAT keyboard. Actually, since it’s looking as though there will be separate pen-based, handheld, and notebook machines, the BAT would work well with all of them, and would take care of my main complaints with pen-based computers. You use the pen for the simple stuff and the BAT for the real text entry and you get the best of both worlds without a massive keyboard weighing you down. Nice thought, that. Anyone at Apple listening?
Infogrip — 504/336-0033
Park Engineering, Don Merriam — 206/747-3309
Ward Bond, Infogrip