Computers, March 1984

  • 29 February 1984
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In a matter of weeks, the latest Apple computer will become availlable here in Ireland. The Apple Macinntosh is a computing stable mate of the Apple Lisa using integrated softtware architecture. In simple terms, this means that the hardware and software development proceeded together to produce a machine which really was user-friendly and certainly did meet the exact requirements of the micro user.

Engine room details are interesting.

Powering the Macintosh is a 32-bit MC68000 microprocessor and offers 64K ROM and 128K RAM. Unlike most micros, Macintosh uses three half-inch disks - as opposed to the conventional five quarter-inch floppy disks. It also has built-in RS-232 and RS-422 serial communications ports allowing Macintosh to be connected to modems and other peripherals without any extra hardware costs.

In keeping with LISA's userness, Macintosh has the obligatory mouse; a device physically external to the computer through which suppoosedly non-technical and non-eomputing individuals can communicate with the machine. The user simply moves the on-screen cursor by moving the attached mouse. A list of options is displayed on the side of the screen and when the user gets to the option of his or her choice, then a press of a button will carry out the desired function.

This facility to hand, the user can then explore the sophisticated Macinntosh software. Such as MacWrite, a word-processing package which gives a typeset look to the input text. Further features include multiple font sizes, type faces and styles, easily adjusted margins and tabs, and a formatting facility which allows text to be dissplayed justified, range left or right.

The MacPaint package explores the possibilities of the mouse to the full in that it transforms the said object into an artist's pen. As the user moves the mouse, the track of movement is displayeo- on the screen. It is possible to cross-hatch, spray-paint, fill-in ennclosed spaces and erase. Optimum conditions for use would obviously be a flat surface, normally the desk on which the computer is situated. Although intended for architecture, artists and illustrators, the exact potential of this exciting package remains to be seen.

MacProject is a novel time-planning program which is intended to schedule the user's time over a given period. For example, if the user was building a house, the input information of actiivities to be carried out and deadlines would be graphically arranged, offering the user the computer's idea of how the workload should be structured with regard to time.

In deference to the all-conquering might of IBM and other companies producing minis and mainframes as well as micros, Apple has included a program which, with the help of periipheral hardware, will allow the Macinntosh to communicate with larger machines. Previous Apple computers didn't have this facility.

At present, the software which Apple anticipate will be used with Macintosh is still in the development phase. Large software houses are modiifying existing software to suit the Macintosh: the Lotus Development Corporation are developing a version of their very popular 1-2-3 program and Software Publishing Corporation are developing a Macintosh variant of their PFS filing package.

Since the microcomputer revoluution of the late 1970s, Apple has been the No.1 company in terms of profits, return on investment and market share. However, the coming of the IBM personal computer in 1981 has put a whole new complexion on the micro market worldwide. From relaatively little involvement five years ago, IBM now command that No. 1 spot, with the others, including Apple, far behind.

Apple still very firmly controls the No. 2 position and is in a strong financial position. Last year, Apple sales were up some 69% on the preevious year, from ~ 583 million to . ~ 982.7 million. Their market share, however, has slipped dramatically. In two years, Apple's share of the U.S. market fell from over 40% to just under 25%. At the same time, IBM increased its share of the micro market from around 7% to around 45%. While Apple's long-term future is assured, the company is anxious for part of that future to include the reeemergence of Apple as the top microoproducing company.

The biggest hope for Apple was the Lisa, launched about a year ago amid a blaze of pu blicity, assurances, and informed industry projections regarrding its absolute winning power in the marketplace. In its 1983 Annual Report, Apple admitted that "sales of the Lisa system, while on track with our, early, modest expectations, were generally disappointing in fiscal 1983 ". For many reasons, the Lisa didn't succeed where previously Apples had. blossomed.

Perhaps the main reason why the Lisa wasn't so successful was because it was the first public member of a new computing family. Here in Ireeland, some say that a more likely reason was that the gap between announcement and availability was too long. There were problems concerning software, which wasn't available in the abundance it might have been. And to complicate the marketing thrust even further, the lapse between the public introduction and dealer availability meant that the dealers themselves were unsure about machine capability and likely software developpments.

This time, with Macintosh, it would seem as if Apple has got everything right. The introduction/availability gap should be considerably shorter, a full range of software will be. available (including a localised Irish accounting and business system being developed by the Pascal company in Dublin), and it is fully compatible with the larger IBM computers. Very importantly, software which will run on Lisa will also run on Macintosh, though not vice versa.

Having got the company infrastruccture in top working order, it remains for Apple to sell the Macintosh, ideally in very large numbers. To help them on their way, Apple has added subbstantial amounts to the corporate advertising and marketing budget. Although they believe they were 'stung' a. couple of years back in Britain (through selective television advertising which had no discernible effect on sale), Apple has upped its budget there alone from around ~ 700,000 to something approximaating ~ 2.5 million.

When it becomes available in a few weeks time, the Apple Macintosh will retail at around ~ 2,500, very cheap compared to the Lisa. With a gamut of computers from lesser-known and less- I reputable companies selling at around the same price, there is little doubt that the Macintosh will be a big seller.

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To coincide with Computex, next month's computer column will be taking a look at the Irish microcompuuter market, past, present, but partiicularly the future. If your company manufactures or markets any products connected with microcomputers, we would welcome details of them for possible inclusion. •


As Time Goes By - March 1984

It took ages to figure out why Lazy Pete Maguire was smiling. He'd been at it since he came in, just leaning on the bar in the Oasis, the smile growing and contracting like the flame on a piece of coal, but always there. He didn't say much, just every now and then a that's great or a you don't say, not being unfriendly, just sitting there like he was nursing something pleasant in his mind.

It was Sunday morning, the Sunday after the civil defence exercise thing on RTE that went on all night. Great fun. They should do a series, with Aidan Grennell as National Control.

This came to us from the same folks who brought us the civil defence booklet on nuclear war in 1 965. The one that told you that if you are out in the open when the bomb goes off you should "Turn your back to the flash". It also said you should take care to bring your insurance policies with you if you were forced out of your home by the level of radiation. So, it's the following week and you go down to see your man at the Hiberrnian. "Had a bit of trouble, then sir?"

"It's the house."

"Not to worry, sir, we never make a drama out of a crisis."

"It's covered in fallout."

"Nasty stuff, that fallout, sir, there's a lot of it about these days."

Fingers Kavanagh had stayed up all night to hear the show. He asked Pete what he thought of it. Pete said, no, he'd had a good sleep last night, the sleep of the just. And his smile grew larger.

Pete has been under a strain for some time. As General Secretary of the Spontaneous Aggravation Party he has had his work cut out over the past couple of years. The politicians have made such a good job of making a balls of things themselves that it has hardly needed our intervention at all. For instance, there we were preparing to organise a boycott of the local elections. Had the usual posters ready:

Don't Vote - It Only Encourages Them; Whoever You Vote For The Politicians Win; If Voting Could Change The System They'd Make It fllegal. And the buggers went ahead and proved our point for us by canncelling the elections.

Still, there's always the Euro elecctions. We have some juicy plans for when the candidates for that circus go on the knocker. Such candidates, by the way, will henceforth be known as the gravy trainees.

Since there wasn't much converrsation at the bar I got stuck into my Tribune, trying to figure out who bugged Seamus Mallon. Who benefits? I asked myself. Things had been a bit tame on the political front until this cropped up. The Forum, the Schnorum. Bunch of eejits sitting around disscussing who's going to pay the ferryyman and they not noticing the boat is sinking. Sixty years of politics and this is the best they can do.

Fingers broke the silence with a complaint about the fact that the Times and Indo were putting up their prices from Monday. I did my hoarrding joke - about how it's okay beecause I bought a few dozen of each en Saturday, stocking up, won't have to buy a paper for weeks. I do that joke every time the price of a paper goes up and it still gets a laugh. Even Pete giggled.

After a while I went down the back to make 'a phone call. I had the ten pee in the slot before I remembered that the phone in the Oasis is broken. It was vandalised ages back.

The Boss set up another round of drinks and I asked him when he's going to get the phone fixed. He grunted and said he runs a bar, not a communications facility. Pete burst out laughing at this. I thought it was funny, but not all that funny.

Fingers did his Eddie Collins routine. He's been doing this since Charlie Haughey snuck into Ghaddafy's tent behind Eddie's back. Fingers does this great routine about Eddie going abroad next time, wearing a false nose and moustache job, channging taxis three or four times, dodging behind cars, looking back to see if Charlie is following him.

After that Pete finished his drink and said he was going home to watch the match on telly. As we were leaving something occurred to me and I checked the handset of the phone. No microphone. I called after Pete but he just kept walking, his hands in his pockets. Before he vanished around the corner he did a little skip and kicked his heels. •