Don't rewrite your application, extend it (12/18/1990)

Joel West, "Don't rewrite your application, extend it," MacWEEK, v4, n42 (Dec 18, 1990):38.

If you haven't found an application that meets your organization's needs, pause a minute before diving into the quagmire of custom application development. In most cases, it's better to extend existing commercial applications using external code resources.

Such externals (sometimes referred to as plug-ins) allow you to build a custom environment for your users without having to write a sophisticated application from scratch. The ability to write new C or Pascal code -- to share data with workstations and mainframes, for example -- provides extensibility and integration capabilities far beyond the speed and flexibility of macros.

We usually think of databases when we consider external code resources, but externals also are becoming a standard feature of graphics programs, word processors and spreadsheets.

Range of options. The capabilities and implementation of external code resources vary by application type and by the proprietary external formats of application vendors. The most flexible formats let you add almost any function to an application, such as manipulating text strings, performing complex calculations, displaying a custom user interface or playing sounds.

The best known of these externals are the external commands (XCMDs) and external functions (XFCNs) of HyperCard. These provide a mature, coherently designed interface (not something hacked together by a programmer one weekend) that are better documented than all other externals put together. If you don't like the Apple (now Claris) manuals on XCMDs, you can find plenty of books or magazine articles providing tips and examples. Or you can hire the services of a local HyperCard consultant.

The disadvantage, of course, is that XCMDs are an extension of HyperCard, which can be made to do just about anything but is rarely the most appropriate foundation for a business application.

Still, similar external code resources can be added to many database and spreadsheet applications, providing a wider range of options for information retrieval and analysis.

The filter approach. Other applications offer extensibility via a single well-defined function, typically import or export filters for other data formats.

Such import and export filters are used by graphics and word processing programs to convert files produced by other applications to their native format. They also are often used for importing images from a peripheral directly into the application, such as reading a gray-scale image from a scanner into a photo-retouching program.

The best-known such format is Claris XTND, supported by Claris' CAD, MacWrite II and FileMaker Pro. XTND also is being licensed and used by other application vendors, notably Symantec Corp.

Although other approaches to data conversion exist, external filters provide a seamless integration of unusual data formats that is as easy to use as a standard format.

Programmer beware. For some common functions (such as converting data to IBM PC formats), the externals you need may already be available as commercial, off-the-shelf software packages.

But if you plan to write your own externals, be wary of the quality of the documentation, which varies from vendor to vendor. With the exception of XCMDs, little documentation is available for writing externals except from the application's publisher. Check the documentation and write a few simple externals before committing significant resources to a particular application.

In the future, externals will not only be more common but will work with multiple applications from different vendors. By sheer market presence, the Claris XTND format has the best prospect of becoming such a multivendor standard.

Your system may not support virtual memory (11/20/1990)

Joel West, "Your system may not support virtual memory," MacWEEK, v4, n40 (Nov 20, 1990):36.

When System 7.0 makes its official appearance, users will find its virtual-memory feature a main attraction. But its usefulness will depend initially on hardware and software.

As popularized on DEC minicomputers using VAX/VMS and Berkeley Unix, virtual memory effectively increases the amount of RAM by tapping into free hard disk space. This means that you will be able to run more applications (or allocate more meory to each) without having to buy more SIMMs (single in-line memory modules).

Instead, a Mac equipped with 2 Mbytes can simulate an 8-Mbyte machine, if you're willing to dedicate 8 Mbytes of disk space to hold the virtual storage. If an application tries to acces a memory location that's not in RAM, the system will automatically read a group of adjacent memory locations (a "page") from disk.

The hardware catch. This scenario assumes that you have purchased the right Mac, however, since virtual memory will be available only on those Macs with a processor or coprocessor that supports demand-paged virtual memory.

The Motorola 68030 used in the SE/30, IIx, IIcx, IIsi, IIci and IIfx fully supports the machine-language instructions needed by Apple to implement virtual memory; the 68000 (found in the Mac Plus, SE, Classic and Portable) does not. The 68020 used in the Mac II and LC does not by itself support the instructions but will with the addition of a 68851 PMMU (paged memory management unit). the Mac II comes with a socket for a 68851, as do many accelerators for the SE and Plus; the chip itself costs less than $200.

The LC is more problematic. It doesn't come with a PMMU socket, and Apple hasn't announced plans for an add-on that would include one. Third parties have announced cards that include a 68851, but using one of those in the LC's single slot will preclude using Apple's IIe emulation card.

The software factor. Even if you have the right hardware, the benefits of virtual memory also can be limited by software incompatibilities.

Most applications have been written to run the 64-bit (16 Mbytes) addressing space designed in the original Mac's 68000. Since some of that 16 Mbytes must be reserved for ROM, I/O and expansion slots, an application running in 24-bit addressing mode is guaranteed only 8 Mbytes of addressable memory (on most CPUs).

Applications that can run in 32-bit mode, however, will be able to access up to 1 Gbyte of virtual memory if you reserve enough disk space to hold the corresponding disk image. Unfortunately, to run in 32-bit mode, the Mac's ROM also must be 32-bit clean, which is not true of the pre-1990 Macs. Apple may patch or upgrade the ROM of the SE030 and older modular Macs to make them 32-bit clean, but for now only the IIci, IIfx and IIsi can be run in 32-bit mode.

Performance. Even applications that run under virtual memory will display varying degrees of improved performance. Many word processors, for example, probably won't benefit greatly from virtual memory, since they have been designed to read their documents from disk a little at a time.

Many other applications will benefit immediately, allowing you to simultaneously run a CAD program and image-processing software, for example, on a 2-Mbyte machine.

But some applications not designed for virtual memory have a simple- minded memory-management scheme that assumes all information is available in memory at all times. these programs use memory in a way that causes the virtual-memory software to spend most of its time reading pages from disk. Such a program will be inefficient, particularly if it (or another application) is trying to do computations in the background.

Even with these problems, the System 7.0 virtual-memory software is a cheap enhancement for high-end Macs that will become even more useful as Apple and third-party vendors iron out the remaining kinks.

New low-cost Macs: how will they fare? (11/6/1990)

Joel West, "New low-cost Macs: how will they fare?" MacWEEK, v4, n38 (Nov 6, 1990):40.

The new trio of low-cost Macs marks a major shift for Apple. But what do the machines presage for the Macintosh a year from now?

The message from Apple is that the future is sound, color and expandability. The machine that epitomizes this future is the LC. It's the only machine likely to have an impact across all markets, since the Classic is pretty much limited to education and home use, while the IIsi primarily appeals to business.

Machine of the future. The LC, which has the most important features of the Mac II of three and a half years ago at a third of the price, also offers sound input. Now that user-generated sound is available, application developers will begin experimenting with both sound input and output, such as audio annotation to replace the current Post-it note metaphor.

With sound input; sound output; expandability to 16-bit color via Apple's video expansion SIMM (single in-line memory module); and the 32- bit, 68020 processor, the LC is also Apple's lowest-cost multimedia platform.

Although Apple seems fascinated with multimedia -- particularly animation and sound -- this new technology will have a limited role in the general user community, at least in the short run. Multimedia cannot supplant desktop publishing in significance, so long as a presentation requires schlepping a $2,500, 50-pound computer system.

Macs in education. The one major area where multimedia has proven advantages is in training, as evidenced by the strong demand for courseware applications.

This meshes quite nicely with the LC's most strategically important role, converting Apple's K-12 base from the obsolete Apple II to its mainstream Macintosh product line. In addition to the LC's courseware potential, once Apple ships the IIe emulator card, aggressive pricing of floppy-only LC configurations offers the last-ditch hope to reverse the losses to low-cost Tandy and IBM computers in the schools.

Preventing K-12 students from going DOS, in turn, would keep the university campus as fertile territory for the Mac, particularly the Classic. If the LC is the Mac's future, the Classic is a last nod to its past. The new machine is what the Macintosh 128K should have been: a perfect computer for college students. And college kids aren't likely to complain about the Classic's limitations.

The lower-priced configuration, combined with the Mac's "hip" image among the young adult set, will help Apple solidify the Mac's position in its university strongholds. The $1,200 street price for the hard disk configuration also should make it a popular yuppie home computer.

Business wants expandability. But the Classic is an instant orphan at major businesses sites: it has minimal expandability, no color capability, no virtual-memory support and no horsepower.

Instead, it's the Mac IIsi that offers Apple's first reasonably priced color business computer. As a re-implementation of the Mac II concept, it reduces six slots to one (although you must buy a slot adapter to use current NuBus cards), while eliminating the need for a slot for 90 percent of its owners with built-in 256-color video. Its most severe deficiency shows up during heavy spreadsheet work, since it has no built- in numeric coprocessor. For that, you must buy a $249 (list) slot adapter to get the 68882 floating-point chip.

Cost still a problem. Unfortunately, the new machines do not eliminate all of Apple's cost disadvantages. The current product lineup fragments Mac expandability across NuBus and three types of direct slots, assuring that production runs will remain shorter and board prices higher than in the DOS community.

And both the IIsi and LC call attention to the excessive price of the SE/30. Once the LC begins shipping, the SE/30 will be $1,000 more than a color LC, with 80 percent of its horsepower, and about the same price as a comparable color IIsi.

Consider CD-ROM for internal publishing (10/23/1990)

Joel West, "Consider CD-ROM for internal publishing," MacWEEK, v4, n36 (Oct 23, 1990):34.

If you frequently need to distribute data and software throughout your company, it might be time to consider using CD-ROMs.

Surprised? Don't be. The technology offers two powerful advantages: high capacity (the read-only medium can store at least 550 Mbytes of information) and low cost when produced in quantity ($2 per disc). Commercial software publishers already have begun to embrace CD distribution for precisely these reasons, and there's no reason companies can't do the same for shipping updates of large in-house applications. Other possibilities include product catalogs, maintenance manuals, company directories and newsletters, and even university course schedules.

Powerful and compact. The compactness and durability of the discs also provide important logistical advantages, particularly over floppies, which tend to be the medium most used when people can't send their data over phone lines or LANs. And you can't easily retrieve data segmented across a stack of floppies but instead must copy the data to a local hard disk. By contrast, a CD-ROM can be used either for distribution (copying data at the receiving end) or for on-line retrieval.

Since every Mac has a floppy drive and every user knows how to use it, when do you decide to go the CD route for sending out information? Obviously, when each user has to cope with too many copies.

But what about other high-capacity alternatives, notably 150-Mbyte TEAC tape cartridges and 45-Mbyte SyQuest removable disk cartridges? It depends on the size of your distribution list. A CD-ROM is always more cost-effective when you need to send 50 copies or more.

In fact, the cost of using a CD-ROM for internal distribution is surprisingly affordable: the setup cost is about $1,200, plus $2 per disc (minimum order 100). Turnaround is about a week. What's more, the discs can be shipped directly from the pressing plant to company sites around the world.

True, CD-ROMs cannot be modified or updated once the disc is pressed. And that makes preparation of the master disk (usually on a large-capacity hard disk) extremely important. But there are some side benefits for distributing data. If you ensure that the master is virus-free, the read- only medium can never be infected. Nor can data be accidentally deleted.

Keep it organized. Sending such large amounts of information requires that careful thought be given to its organization. This may be as simple as an introductory HyperCard stack that explains each component on the disc, launching an application or database from a button in the corresponding description card.

For other discs, it will make more sense to rethink your entire data- access strategy. You may want, for example, to convert a series of static text documents into a single interactive hypertext document.

Once the master is prepared, you must decide between three possible CD-ROM formats that can be used with a Macintosh. If the disc will be read only by Macs, then the Macintosh's native hierarchical file system is the easiest and most natural format.

Two other formats -- ISO 9660 and the earlier High Sierra -- allow the disc to be read on both Macs and IBM PCs and compatibles. For such a dual-platform strategy to be effective, you also must have software for both the Mac and PC that can make sense of that data, whether that retrieval software is a commercial application or something developed internally. You also must live with the user-visible file naming and organization limitations imposed by the ISO and High Sierra formats, which force a name such as "Teacher's Directory" to be changed to the uglier "TEACHERS.DRC;1".

The houses that do CD-ROM duplication, including Du Pont, Sony and 3M, can help you prepare your master disk to meet the limitations of your chosen format. They also can offer technical advice on becoming an effective CD-ROM publisher.

Reading the fine print in Apple-Adobe truce (10/9/1990)

Joel West, "Reading the fine print in Apple-Adobe truce," MacWEEK, v4, n34 (Oct 9, 1990):38.

Despite the recent rapprochement between Apple and Adobe, the two companies still have conflicting goals and priorities. Apple's goals include promoting System 7.0 and its TrueType font standard, ensuring that every Mac owner can have high-quality typefaces on the screen and on a printer.

Adobe's commitment (if any) to TrueType remains unclear, but its position on the Mac is not: Like most software developers today, Adobe is dividing its time among the Mac, Windows and other platforms.

The truce between the two companies may have been helped by Jean-ouis Gassee's departure, but it also reflects Adobe's growing realization that it, rather than Apple, must promote its goals in the Mac marketplace.

As always, Adobe wants to sell more printers containing PostScript interpreters. But the company also is promoting its Adobe Type Manager, application packages, and Type 1 fonts that work with both ATM and PostScript printers.

Focus on tomorrow. For users, Adobe's new emphasis on promoting its own goals will become most evident with PostScript Level 2, due to ship with printers released next spring. The company is developing its own Chooser-selectable PostScript driver that will support Level 2 as well as the original PostScript printers and provide better printing efficiency than the LaserWriter driver that Apple ships with system software.

Like any 5-year-old piece of software, the Apple driver is overdue for a complete rewrite. But that rewrite has been tied to the New Print Architecture, due sometime after System 7.0. You won't see full PostScript Level 2 support from Apple before then, so Adobe needs its own driver to take advantage of Level 2 features.

Features for business. One Level 2 feature that is likely to be appreciated by many Mac users is compression of bit-mapped images, both color and black and white. A Level 2 driver and printer should speed the painfully slow print time for scanned images, faxes and even HyperCard pages.

Level 2 also reflects a tacit recognition that, despite its roots as a typesetting language, most of the installed PostScript printers are being used as general business printers. The new language codifies PostScript extensions for additional features, such as dual paper trays and two-sided printing, that are more appropriate to form letters than page proofing.

Apple's LaserWriter driver never offered such features because Apple doesn't sell such a printer product. Adobe's OEM customers do.

The HP factor. Despite its high profile, Adobe is not the only company with a major role in Apple's printing strategy. A third major player, Hewlett-Packard, is more closely aligned with Apple than is Adobe -- at least when it comes to software standards.

Despite HP's decision to offer PCL Level 5 (the language of the popular LaserJet III) as a competitor to PostScript in the IBM PC world, HP recognizes that the language is irrelevant to Macintosh owners. In fact, HP has hedged its bets by offering both PCL and PostScript.

When it comes to Macintosh standards, HP and other hardware manufacturers will follow Apple's lead in a way that Adobe never will. Unlike Adobe, these manufacturers have no stake in TrueType vs. Type 1 or QuickDraw vs. PostScript, as long as major opportunities remain to sell third-party printers to Macintosh users.

The products from such third-party printer manufacturers will become increasingly important to Apple as it refocuses on its CPU business. With the delays that Apple has had in developing its own 300-dpi plain-paper color printer (in which Gassee took a personal interest), it is conceivable that Apple will leave the color printer market to the third parties.

Five years ago, desktop publishing on the Mac meant using an Apple driver with an Apple printer. Five years from now, neither one may be important to the average user.

New salvos on the home-computing front (9/25/1990)

Joel West, "New salvos on the home-computing front," MacWEEK, v4, n32 (Sept 25, 1990):34.

When Apple introduces its three new Mac models next month, the machines will play an important role in the home computer market.

Once thought to be the province of computerized recipes and video games, the home market has turned out to have many of the same needs and demands as the business market. That's because many people are, in fact, using their home machines to do office work at home.

The home computer market never met industry expectations five years ago, but it gradually has grown to reach 4 million personal computers a year, by one Dataquest estimate. It's big enough that both IBM and Tandy are mounting major efforts to sell home personal computers, emphasizing two-income households.

Apple once owned the home market with the Apple II. But that product's failure as a business computer contributed to its current poor showing in the home market, since most professionals insist on home computers that are compatible with their machines at work.

Today, the home market is too big for Apple to ignore. It's essential that the Mac maintain market share if it is to continue to attract new hardware and software from third parties.

The home machine. If advance reports are accurate, then all three new Macs -- ranging from the entry-level Classic to the higher-performance IIsi -- should appeal to home users. But it's the Macintosh LC, Apple's first color 68020-based machine for about $2,500, that will have the biggest effect. It will be the first Mac to provide color within the home price range. As Apple has discovered, few individuals who have to dip into their own wallets will pass up a $2,000 80286 color system to buy a 68000-based black-and-white SE.

Ironically, the Mac revolution began in the home, with a few fanatics ignoring industry trends and buying this untried machine. As with other home computers, their buying motivation tended to fall in one of three categories of home-based work: bringing work home, moonlighting and self- employment.

Bringing work home is the most common use I've seen, particularly with the rise of telecommuting. For example, a city bureaucrat friend cranks out manuals and brochures one day a week on his accelerated SE.

Many people I know who bought a Mac for their job also talk about "starting a business on the side." Here, user motivation is much stronger than with just a hobby. The father of a friend is, late in life, reaching computer literacy by replacing his electric typewriter with a IIci. Although he will use it to watch his business interests, he chose a Mac because it was best for publishing his boating-squadron newsletter.

The home computer is even more important to those who make their living at home. Another friend does graphic design on a Mac II in a spare bedroom.

Unfortunately, Apple's previous pricing strategy has hurt its efforts to sell Macs for home use. Less-knowledgeable and less-affluent workers will buy what they have at the office or what friends recommend based on their own experience or simply on price. Apple is a loser on all three fronts, unless it decides to license its older ROMs to other manufacturers to broaden the Mac market.

The home program. Of course, software is also important. The original Jobs appliance came with a word processor when software packages cost $125. Now they cost $295. "Borrowing" software for the home is rampant.

IBM recognized the needs of the home market and now bundles software with its PS/1. If Apple truly wants a slice of the lucrative home-market pie, it, along with software publishers and dealers, must ensure basic capabilities with every home Mac that Apple sells.

The package that will allow me to write letters, draw maps, calculate my taxes and publish a newsletter -- all for $195 -- will be the one that dealers sell with every home Mac. Now that Apple is finally getting off its duff, let's hope software publishers respond in time.

Color accuracy: Still a long way to go (9/11/1990)

Joel West, "Color accuracy: still a long way to go," MacWEEK, v4, n30 (Sept 11, 1990):40.

Two years ago, I bemoaned the lack of color consistency among monitors for the Mac and between monitor and printed output.

The need for calibrated color is even greater today, since the Macintosh is widely used for color applications (notably pre-press), previously the sole province of high-end workstations. Average users also experience the problem as colors shift when an image goes from being scanned to being displayed and printed.

There's still no such solution in sight, even with next year's System 7.0. Still, a number of third-party products have appeared, but they only partially solve the problem.

For example, the Pantone Matching System, supported by many applications, improves spot color but has no effect on scanned images or four-color printing. TekColor from Tektronix Inc. (and SuperMac Technology's SuperMatch, which incorporates TekColor) attempt to calibrate printed output to match colors seen on the monitor. RasterOps, Radius and SuperMac all offer competing (and incompatible) products that incorporate an electronic color sensor in an attempt to compensate for color differences among devices.

But a complete solution would require Apple to define QuickDraw colors in terms of scientifically measurable color values, as Adobe Systems Inc. has done in PostScript Level 2, due next year.

Color on the Mac is defined as a percentage of device-specific RGB (red, green, blue) values as produced by monitors. But such relative RGB colors will vary among monitors or print differently among printers. An absolute definition of what any given Mac-produced color is supposed to look like would allow a monitor or printer manufacturer to calibrate the device to a known standard.

But calibration of corresponding colors is only half the battle for color accuracy. The other half is representing colors on a device within its gamut or range of available colors. A color available on one device (say bright red on a monitor) may not be available on another device, such as a printer.

One way to handle this problem is to clip the colors to fit the printer gamut, mapping two shades of bright red that differ on the screen to the closest red available on the printer. The other way is to compress an image's color range to fit within the printer gamut, so that two on- screen shades still will differ noticeably on the printer. The choice of the "best" mapping approach will vary by color, application and personal preference.

Should these options be under user control (producing yet another "dialog from hell") to benefit the professional designer? Or should the Mac automatically "do the right thing" to simplify life for the average user? The best approach would seem to be placing these choices under the control of the application, so that they can be integrated into the image creation and printing process.

PostScript Level 2, with its more precise definition of color values, certainly will beat QuickDraw to the color-calibration punch. It does not provide application control over these mapping options, which seems a serious limitation. Nor will Level 2 allow user feedback.

The overall PostScript standard is intended to be device-independent, so that a color image prepared on one device can be printed on another. But the Mac's WYSIWYG precept implies that the user should know how a color image will be printed as it is being created. In many cases, users will want to limit their color selections to those available on the printer, an interface that is implemented well by the TekColor Picker.

While some users can wait for Apple to define new interfaces and standards, others need accurate color now. For them, a third-party product could be a good interim solution. And when (or if) an Apple- defined Mac standard does become available, the Mac vendors that offer solutions for accurate color should provide upgrade paths for their products.

But if such an upgrade path is important to you, then, as they say on TV, "get it in writing."

The shape of in-house development (8/14/1990)

Joel West, "The shape of in-house development," MacWEEK, v4, n28 (August 14, 1990):30.

With its third birthday behind it and Version 2.0 completed, HyperCard seems better-suited than ever for solving many of the problems that come up in in-house development.

Almost from the beginning, HyperCard has been an excellent choice for one-of-a-kind, quick development. And while simple applications can be built easily with HyperCard, its nearly unlimited extensibility via HyperTalk and external commands (XCMDs) allows developers to create sophisticated applications as well. If those applications have been well- designed, they can be used by any Macintosh user regardless of computer savvy.

With Version 2.0, HyperCard loses some of its un-Maclike rough edges and becomes easier to use to author new stacks. HyperCard should be an important part of the grab bag of tools for in-house development.

That's a surprisingly important role when you consider that three years ago no one fully comprehended what Bill Atkinson's HyperCard was all about. Some people referred to it as a database, while others emphasized its hyper-media possibilities.

I prefer to think of HyperCard as a programming environment based around a card metaphor, with built-in database, hypermedia and bit-mapped graphics capabilities. And that means that you must carefully consider how HyperCard applies to the task at hand.

For example, HyperCard can be a real pain to use for many database purposes. A simple flat database is a much better platform for setting up routine mailing lists, standardized data entries and reports.

But when you want more flexibility or customization, HyperCard shines. It can, for instance, automatically complete fields based on a table look-up or export data in an arbitrary format.

The new HyperCard allows this flexibility to be expressed in a fashion that is more Maclike.

You're finally freed from the tyranny of one 342-by-512-pixel card; you can design stacks around any fixed-size format that you desire. Version 2.0 allows you to resize windows and scroll within a card, although this is more like Atkinson's MacPaint 1.0 than standard Macintosh applications. It's also possible to have multiple stacks open at a time.

HyperCard 2.0 also supports several other features that make it easier to develop stacks, including improved script editing and debugging, built-in icon editing and floating tool palettes.

Such improvements cement HyperCard's advantages for in-house development. It was already much easier to write and debug a HyperCard stack than a Mac program written in C or Pascal. More people can become good HyperTalk programmers than will ever be C toolbox wizards.

And while the resulting program may not have the polish of a custom C-based application, it's a lot easier to write and maintain -- an acceptable trade-off for a program that will be used by 100 people instead of 100,000.

All of these advantages also apply to the major HyperCard alternative, SuperCard 1.5. While HyperCard 2.0 nullifies many of SuperCard's authoring and debugging advantages, SuperCard offers graphics advantages that are essential for many applications. SuperCard provides an integrated gray-scale/color capability and also supports MacDraw-type object graphics instead of HyperCard's MacPaint-style bit maps.

In the future, both products' most important application will be as user-customizable interfaces for information retrieval. Whether it's browsing through a commercial CD-ROM or querying the company mainframe, this is an area where HyperCard (or SuperCard) should be considered the tool of preference.

What's more, HyperCard will assume a greater role once applications are available that take advantage of Interapplication Communications provided by System 7.0. When that happens, HyperCard will become the front-end shell that the Macintosh always needed but never had.

System 7.0 may leave average user behind (7/31/1990)

Joel West, "System 7.0 may leave average user behind," MacWEEK, v4, n26 (July 31, 1990):52.

As everyone knows by now, next year's System 7.0 will offer more of everything.

But more is not always better. Despite Apple's pioneering efforts in ease of use, System 7.0's power for sophisticated users adds a level of complexity that leaves other users behind.

Don't get me wrong; it's still easier to set up a FileMaker database than one in dBASE IV, or a LocalTalk network instead of NetWare. But when it comes to ease of use, the Mac isn't what it used to be. And for that matter, Word 4.0 isn't MacWrite 4.1, SuperPaint 2.0 isn't MacPaint 1.0, and Finder 7.0 isn't Finder 1.1g.

Gone is the simple elegance of the original Macintosh 128K. Now, Apple is intent on positioning System 7.0 to compete with Windows 3.0 and OS/2. The revised System, Finder and associated utilities are replete with features that will appeal to hard-core enthusiasts.

Subscribing to and publishing Interapplication Communications editions may be snazzy, but how relevant is it to the average user? Many of these features will increase users' dependence on their local "Mac guru."

The average user's eroding self-sufficiency also can be attributed to the Mac's inevitable shift from cult machine to just another business computer.

The early adopters were all Mac fanatics, but Apple has worked hard to expand its market beyond fanatics. Many people no longer use the Mac because they love it, but because it's part of their job. The Mac requires training, support and administration -- just less of it than its competitors.

Most sites require their own system administrator, whether officially or by default. Hardware fails, network connections are accidentally severed, or maybe it's just time to upgrade all 27 CPUs to System

The number of Mac users who can adequately tune the system heap is comparable to the percentage of DOS users who can write an AUTOEXEC.BAT file.

Even when things are installed and running smoothly, the Mac is a far more complex machine to run than when it was introduced, the result of a bad case of creeping featurism.

A typical problem for novices has been the increased complexity of the Open and Save As commands, which have little to do with the more elegant and understandable folder meta-phor. Few novices I've watched grasp the hierarchical structure of their hard disk. Instead, they leave documents in the application folder, because that's the folder they get by default.

A recent Macworld magazine survey of its readers established MultiFinder as a tool for the privileged few. Of those surveyed, 60 percent said they used used it seldom or never, 13 percent used MultiFinder sometimes, and 27 percent used it most or all of the time. Anyone who thinks it's just a lack of RAM has never watched a novice fumble through multiple applications on a 9-inch screen.

But complexity is not a problem only for novices. I once felt a mastery of my Mac until I discovered hard disks with non-viscous lubricating grease, head crashes, low-cost power supplies and SCSI timing problems.

And today, faced with a mysterious software crash, my instinctive reaction (justified or not) is a trial-and-error process of turning off INITs until the problem goes away and, I hope, never reappears.

System 7.0 does offer some improvements in ease of use. Bubble help will give more clues to the average user. A pop-up menu will become a more obviously clickable item, and that will make the Open and Save As commands easier to use. The Font/DA Mover has earned its retirement. And Laser Prep wars will soon become a nightmare of the past.

But some of System 7.0's improvements could prove to be a handicap to new users. For example, Apple-menu aliases can be set up to make it foolproof for a novice to access favorite applications and often-needed documents. But there's the danger that such users would come to depend on those preconfigured options, unable to comprehend and use someone else's differently configured Mac.

When it comes to empowering the individual, today's Macintosh is no Knowledge Navigator -- or even a Macintosh 128K.

At last: a way to test Mac software (6/26/1990)

Joel West, "At last: a way to test Mac software," MacWEEK, v4, n24 (June 26, 1990):24.

Compared with other computers, the Macintosh has always been a software-testing nightmare. That's because the elements that make Macintosh applications unique also make those applications extremely difficult to test. The Mac, for example, has no command-script interpreter that knows about things such as windows and menus.

Contrast that with Unix, which can test an application using a directory of data files and command scripts that automatically put the software through its paces.

To appreciate the problem, imagine developing a new graphics application. You would want to test the application by creating a new document, modifying it, saving it and printing it. Now imagine doing these tests with several combinations of CPUs and peripherals, including at least a Plus and a Mac II-family computer (that is, with and without a 68881) and with and without color QuickDraw. For peripherals you would want to check out black-and-white, 256-color and 24-bit color screens. You also would test printing on a variety of printer types and with an ever- smaller application memory size.

But there's never been an automatic way to repeatedly test an application for multiple revisions and systems. In the early Mac days, Apple offered a crude mechanism called the "monkey," which generated seemingly random but repeatable events. However, this undocumented tool was about as likely to emulate a power user as a real monkey would be to type the works of Shakespeare.

Apple next offered MacroMaker, which provided some capabilities for repeatable events. But MacroMaker is oriented more toward testing a specific mouse position than what the user can see at that position. And MacroMaker does not allow you to execute macros based on what appears on the screen or to operate on a series of windows.

But last month Apple introduced a new utility at its Worldwide Developers Conference that will finally make the job of testing Macintosh applications much easier.

Called Virtual User, this new set of Macintosh Programmer's Workshop- based tools will generate test scripts. It runs on an AppleTalk network, allowing a single CPU to control any CPU running the VU Agent Startup document (INIT).

A key feature is that scripts are written as ordinary text files in a general-purpose language that looks like a cross between Pascal and Smalltalk. Virtual User scripts can operate on a list of windows or dialog boxes, although they are particularly good for testing all the options within a dialog box.

Scripts can make decisions based on a partial match of the expected and actual result. For example, a script can operate on any window with a title whose first word is "Untitled."

Somewhat like MacroMaker, the VU Recorder application can be used to record scripts by watching what you do. Those recorded scripts then can be played back in combination with handwritten scripts.

The current design of Virtual User does have some inherent limitations, however. It's possible to operate symbolically on the known application-independent toolbox elements, but not on the application- specific elements of a window. For example, the Circle tool of MacDraw can be selected only by position -- 75 pixels down from the window corner -- not by its appearance. There also is no way to say, "Select the top- right corner of the front-most polygon and drag it up 45 pixels."

And developers wanting to test the international version of a program will have to translate all the menu and dialog strings within the VU script.

Obviously, Virtual User will be more flexible and powerful with AppleScript, Apple's planned application-control language. But AppleScript is not likely to ship until next year, with AppleScript- compatible applications lagging even further behind.

Still, Virtual User is a great step forward for Macintosh application development. And when it is divorced from MPW and made friendlier to users, it will become a mainstay for in-house training and development.

Quenching the quest for quicker QuickDraw (5/8/1990)

Joel West, "Quenching the quest for quicker QuickDraw," MacWEEK, v4, n18 (May 8, 1990):24.

One way to make a Macintosh faster, and one that is now rapidly gaining attention, is graphics acceleration.

This trend is highlighted by the release of Apple's first graphics accelerator, the Macintosh Display Card 8*24 GC, one of several products now available that provide faster video-display drawing for Mac II-family computers.

Graphics acceleration is but one part of more-powerful and complex system design that uses separate processors for separate functions. On an inexpensive IBM PC or compatible, the main CPU performs all functions, including general control, math, I/O and video-display updating. On more advanced computers, including a Mac IIfx with the 8*24 GC, separate processors handle each function.

For the Macintosh, graphics acceleration for off-the-shelf applications means accelerating QuickDraw, the standard interface for screen display.

When is such acceleration necessary? For most users, an SE/30 with a black-and-white, 342-by-512-pixel screen is plenty fast. But with true color, you have denser data: 24 times as much data per pixel and thus 24 times as much data to be imaged and displayed in the same amount of time.

From a "real estate" standpoint, a two-page black-and-white display has six times as many pixels as the SE/30. A 19- or 21-inch, 24-bit display will require more than 100 times as much data as that one-bit SE/30. And that means that waiting for QuickDraw to graphically update the screen can be painfully slow.

To satisfy the demand for better graphics performance, Radius Inc., RasterOps Corp. and SuperMac Technology offer QuickDraw accelerators to drive 19-inch, 24-bit color displays as well as Apple's 13-inch color monitor.

Radius and RasterOps require a separate video board, while the SuperMac and Apple accelerators are built into a video board. Apple's video board is designed for use only with its monitors, which include 24- bit color on its 13-inch display or eight-bit gray-scale on its 21-inch two-page display. With a 30-MHz RISC chip, Apple claims the 8*24 GC has more horsepower than even the 40-MHz 68030 used in its IIfx.

The accelerated video boards work as graphics coprocessors, much as a Motorola 68882 works as a floating-point coprocessor to the 68030 CPU. Individual operations are passed from the CPU to the accelerator, and then the CPU continues with the next task. The accelerator generally won't take a second drawing request until the first one is complete. All perform QuickDraw calls on the coprocessor instead of on the main CPU, allowing the boards to work with current applications.

A limitation of all but Apple's board is that they accelerate only on-screen graphics drawing. Many applications, such as MacDraw II and HyperCard, prepare off-screen bit images of their on-screen display, which are then copied on-screen for faster updating on non-accelerated video displays. Accelerators that speed up only on-screen drawing will have little effect on such programs. Applications that use Apple's new recommended off-screen drawing approach will be accelerated by both Apple's and RasterOps' boards.

Radius' QuickCAD accelerator board provides a different approach. Instead of accelerating QuickDraw, QuickCAD requires that programmers use a Radius-supplied Startup document (INIT) that implements vector-oriented display lists. This accelerates only niche programs, such as CAD, that rely on display lists and that are rewritten to support QuickCAD.

Besides price, a major factor in deciding which (or whether) to buy is whether the board works with the monitors you own.

Comparative performance is a bit trickier, since the results will differ by application and even by document. Given the dozens of QuickDraw calls, the designer of a QuickDraw accelerator must decide which calls are most important to accelerate and how much effort to put into each. For example, scrolling 24-bit images might be a more significant bottleneck than filling an arbitrary polygon.

OOPS: waiting for the other shoe to drop (4/17/1990)

Joel West, "OOPS: waiting for the other shoe to drop," MacWEEK, v4, n15 (April 17, 1990):34.

In 1988, Apple's most famous ex-employee (Badge No. 0) threw down the gauntlet for Apple and its approach to software development.

Steve Jobs claimed that his new development environment, NextStep, would simplify software development the way that the Macintosh had simplified using a computer. Easier software development presumably means having better software (both commercial and in-house) sooner.

After NeXT's announcement, Apple hinted that its own far-more- impressive tools would be forthcoming to meet the challenge.

But it's been 18 months of waiting for the other shoe to drop. And in that time nothing from Apple has made an appreciable difference in the overall ease of developing Mac software.

Next month's Apple Worldwide Developers' Conference would be a likely venue for any major announcements. But so far, all that's been seen publicly have been small incremental enhancements, accompanied by periodic exhortations and hype.

In the meantime, what we have is ever-larger Macintosh applications from ever-larger programming teams with ever-longer delivery dates.

Apple has long been aware of the problem. As I've noted in earlier columns, Apple was an early innovator in object-oriented programming systems. OOPS is a more-effective means of structuring complex software applications. When coupled with a library of standard objects, development time is reduced significantly.

Apple, for example, developed one of the first Smalltalk interpreters, which was later killed in favor of two third-party products. Its MacApp product is one of the most extensive and practical object libraries, and commercial products written with it have been shipping for the past three years.

HyperTalk and AppleScript are first cuts at an object-oriented replacement for BASIC. And, with its new Finder in System 7.0, Apple will be one of the first computer companies to release core system software written in C++.

This track record notwithstanding, not one leading application has been written using Apple's OOPS tools. And in the time since Jobs' challenge, Apple has offered nothing that dramatically simplifies Mac- application development.

The only news I've seen recently from Apple was an attempt to (pardon the marketing jargon) reposition and differentiate Apple's efforts by modifying the buzzwords. Instead of the standard industry acronym "OOPS," Apple developers should henceforth refer to Apple's unique suite of offerings as "object programming."

Of course, the annual industry technical conference will still be called OOPSLA, the rest of the industry will still be OOPing it up, and Apple' product offerings will remain unchanged. But we can all rest happy that there's a new name for it, right?

Meanwhile, it's been third parties making the small breakthroughs in ease of development. The new Think Pascal development environment offers both MacApp and a reasonable turnaround. Steve Jasik's Incremental Build System speeds up ordinary Macintosh Programmer's Workshop development, although many developers find it cumbersome.

And Apple? It still has nothing like NeXT's Interface Builder, an integrated front end for prototyping applications.

More significantly, Apple has lost its "leading edge" mindshare to NeXT. And that can't be regained through "repositioning," but by innovative product breakthroughs.

The most important problem facing developers in the 1990s is that microcomputer software, no longer the toy programs of the early years, is now approaching the size and complexity of mainframe software.

More lines of code mean more work to develop that code, to test it and to maintain it. Any method that does not reduce source-code size is, at best, a short-term solution.

Apple has long employed some of the leading OOPS visionaries. How that vision will provide new Macintosh applications is yet to be seen.

Here's hoping Apple's new pirates are at work (4/10/1990)

Joel West, "Here's hoping Apple's new pirates are at work," MacWEEK, v4, n14 (April 10, 1990):44.

Here's hoping Apple's new pirates are at work

Two unrelated news items prompted me to contemplate the role of technical leadership in Apple's future.

One event was Apple's decision to reorganize product development yet again, this time in response to the departure of Jean-Louis Gassee. The second was the Chapter 11 filing by Kaypro Corp., once a highflier in the microcomputer business.

What does the latter have to do with the Mac? Not much. But the failure of Kaypro is yet another (albeit little-noticed) object lesson for industry companies, including Apple.

Kaypro's strongest growth, ironically, came about from the death of the company it set out to emulate. The 1983 bankruptcy filing of Osborne Computer left Kaypro alone in the low-cost transportable computer market.

But Kaypro stuck with CP/M while the rest of the world went with MS- DOS. Once customers decided that Kaypro's transportables were obsolete, no amount of promotion made any difference.

Instead, Kaypro ended up late to the IBM PC-clone market, offering products equivalent to those offered by everyone else.

Now look at the Mac, which uses a basic architecture that is 6 years old. Its market share seems to be peaking. The problem is that unique is not enough, because unique is not forever. People stopped buying Kaypro's products and started buying Compaq's because they could get a transportable that was compatible with the other micros in their office.

Today, people buy PC compatibles for their home because, for less than $1,000, they can buy a color machine that works with the software in their office. They buy PC clones as portables because they have a wide range of choices, from 1 pound to 15 pounds, from $1,000 to $5,000. And again, the clones work with the other computers in the office.

Many of the Macintosh peripherals vendors find themselves competing with Apple in monitors, hard disks and so on. So they are broadening out to offer PC-expansion products, since that is what works with computers in the typical office.

And almost every Macintosh software company is turning its attention to Windows and OS/2 because, again, it runs on the most popular office computers.

For the true believers and Apple shareholders, the latter is the most disturbing news. Despite starting from scratch against the seemingly invincible IBM, Steve Jobs, Guy Kawasaki and others at Apple were able to convince many developers that the Macintosh was so exciting that it demanded their attention. Apparently that is no longer true.

Despite the tinkering with sales and the blame heaped upon Allan Loren, all the marketing in the world won't make up for not having products that the market wants. Just ask Kaypro.

With Apple's 18-month to two-year lead time on new products, it's too late now to start work on products that will be seen in 1990 or early 1991. For the next year, Apple must continue on the path Gassee seemed to set, improving execution and building self-confidence. Apple marketing must price and promote its aging product line aggressively.

The decision by John Sculley to run R&D is, I hope, merely an interim solution rather than an ego trip. More than anything else, Apple's R&D efforts need a new direction, new energy and new blood.

Sculley's taking direct charge could help that. Perhaps the managers reporting to Sculley -- Ed Birss, Don Casey and Larry Tesler -- will have greater visibility and resources now that their boss is chairman of the board.

But Apple can't forget that nothing in this industry lasts forever. CP/M died, the Apple II is giving up the ghost and MS-DOS is beginning to creak. The Macintosh will die too, and that day is not as far off as it might seem.

Nearly a decade ago, Apple mobilized its advanced research into a pirate development team whose work helped save the company.

Sculley has built the company's mission on the vow to be different. For his sake and Apple's, I hope the next generation of pirates is already hard at work. n

Ins and outs of buying a Mac fax modem (3/20/1990)

Joel West, "Ins and outs of buying a Mac fax modem," MacWEEK, v4, n11 (March 20, 1990):34.

A fax modem is to the fax machine what a printer is to the copier. Instead of scanning in an image from an existing piece of paper, as is done on a facsimile machine, a fax modem generates the image electronically.

A fax modem also can be used to receive faxes electronically rather than directly printing them to paper. The fax modem exchanges a compressed bit-mapped image across phone lines with an ordinary office fax machine.

Fax modems as internal expansion boards have existed on IBM PCs and compatibles for years. Although the graphics required for a fax modem would appear to be a natural match to the Macintosh, Mac products have yet to live up to their potential.

Part of the difficulty is particular to the Mac. For example, users expect a product to be easy to use and well-integrated with the Mac operating system, and those requirements demand more complex software than on a PC. Mac products are also more expensive than those for the PC, because products have to include an external case and power supply to run across the entire Mac line.

Beyond that, the proper role of both Mac fax modems and PC fax boards is yet to be realized.

For example, the superior quality of fax-modem output makes it better for sending computer-generated images. Fax modems also have a marked advantage, as they support the ability to send the same message to multiple recipients. The best fax software will even allow you to keep your list updated from your existing Mac-based database, something you'll never get on a stand-alone fax machine.

But a fax modem's advantages are less dramatic at the receiving end, in that it forces you to leave an expensive computer switched on to receive messages. And as with any high-resolution bit-mapped document, faxes are slow to print on a PostScript printer.

A fax machine, on the other hand, automatically prints your messages as they arrive -- something that background fax software can't do in today's Mac printing architecture.

A fax modem does have an advantage in forwarding a received message to another fax without the serious image degradation of a fax of a fax data transfer.

So how do you choose a fax modem? Your first concerns, of course, would be the usual ones of price, availability, warranty and support. Generally, the 9,600-bps products are more expensive than 4,800-bps models, but the price difference can be recovered if you send a lot of long-distance faxes.

But fax modems can be difficult to compare, because a good product includes a complex mixture of hardware, firmware (software in the modem) and Mac-based software. Software includes a Chooser-selectable output driver; low-level drivers for sending and receiving data; and a separate application that views and prints incoming faxes and routes complicated, multiple-document outgoing jobs.

If your fax modem will be a stand-alone device, you want a 1,200-or 2,400-bps model or some way to switch between the fax modem and your existing data modem.

For most offices, a more important issue is networking, since each fax modem requires a separate dedicated phone line. After all, you wouldn't want to publish three or four incoming fax numbers for a 20- person office.

But the bottom line for most people is reliability and utility, areas that have caused problems for first-generation Mac products.

The importance of software reliability should not be underestimated. The Chooser driver may not be compatible with your application or the firmware may not send correctly to a particular fax machine. Low-level drivers may not be compatible with Startup documents (INITs) and networking software; they could even bring your Mac to its knees when transmitting faxes.

As with any complex product, use a review to narrow your choices down to two or three products, or look for a friend's recommendation. Better still, find a product that you can try for a week, either on loan or with a money-back guarantee, to see if it meets your particular needs. n

;Factoring System 7.0 into buying decisions (2/20/1990)

Joel West, "Factoring System 7.0 into buying decisions," MacWEEK, v4, n7 (Feb 20, 1990):30.

With Apple's recent update of its announced plans for System 7.0, it's time for many users to make some choices.

The publicly estimated shipping date -- summer 1990 -- reflects only about a four-month slippage from estimates last year, so the current date can be treated as realistic. One of the reasons that Apple can feel confident that System 7.0 will ship this summer was that it dropped several features that won't be ready in time, including the print architecture and the new text-layout routines.

There are more than enough features left, however, for System 7.0 to have a greater effect on users than any software change since the Macintosh was released.

Many of these features will require application developers and hardware vendors to begin modifying their products in the coming six months. Since it can take three months to a year for these modified versions to be shipped, the new versions will only begin to be available during the second half of the year.

Among the most important changes will be the redesigned of applications to take advantage of Interapplication Communications (IAC). Since it will require significant work on developers' parts to work with IAC, Apple's new breakthrough will have little effect until the new applications are available. A much easier task for developers will be making applications "32-bit clean" (able to run in Apple's new 4-Gbyte addressing mode) and taking advantage of virtual memory.

Printer drivers (including Apple's) may need revisions to take advantage of outline fonts, as may programs that contain advanced text capabilities, such as page-layout applications.

All software should eventually be revised to take advantage of Apple's new Help Manager, which will provide a standard interface for context-sensitive help across all Macintosh software. But users will see an immediate benefit with the on-line help provided in Apple's software, such as the Finder.

This new Finder -- the first full rewrite since it was released - will be among the most visible improvements when System 7.0 ships. Also, System 7.0 will include Macintosh FileShare, the peer-to-peer file sharing software.

These new features will reduce or eliminate the demand for several third-party products. The largest such group will comprise those that perform file sharing, such as TOPS.

How should System 7.0 be factored into buying decisions in the next six months?

There are few reasons to hold off on buying applications, video boards or printers, since these types of software (or the software drivers for the hardware) are likely to be fully upward-compatible with System 7.0. About the only reason to wait would be to see if the software will support some specific new feature.

In two areas, I would purchase only those products that take advantage of new features. One area is the Communications Toolbox, which affects products such as networked modems and serial I/O boards.

Another is software drivers for third-party hard disks. Although existing drivers will work under System 7.0, those that are revised to take advantage of asynchronous SCSI I/O and to be fully compatible with virtual memory should be much faster than those that aren't. How can you tell which to buy now? There's no way to know for sure, but I would expect that any leading drive vendor that has made a major investment in software would continue to do so.

Should you go out right now and buy a PMMU (paged-memory management unit), the Motorola 68851 chip that allows a Mac II to take advantage of virtual memory? I can't see why, because these have been getting cheaper since System 7.0 was announced and they're not much use without A/UX or virtual.

But if you don't already have the recommended 2 Mbytes of memory, buy RAM as you can afford it. More memory is usable even before System 7.0 comes out, and the prices have plummeted: I paid $72 per 1-Mbyte SIMM (single in-line memory module) last month vs. $250 a year earlier from the same dealer.

And with predictions of a weaker dollar, which would raise prices, and overcapacity in semiconductor manufacturing plants, which would lower prices, it's hard to predict where RAM prices will be six months from now.

Comm Toolbox: bonanza for big sites (12/12/1989)

Joel West, "Comm Toolbox: bonanza for big sites," MacWEEK, v3, n44 (Dec 12, 1989):38.

The Macintosh Communications Toolbox will be a part of System 7.0 that remedies several of the Mac's serial communications deficiencies and provides a modular software architecture for a wide range of Apple and third-party products.

The Comm Toolbox will affect how developers write communications software. The new standards also will open opportunities for developers of communications hard-ware, such as modems or serial ports connected to LocalTalk networks, or internal serial port expansion boards.

Perhaps most far-reaching, the Comm Toolbox may create a new class of applications that are not primarily communications products but use communications as part of their function.

This potential should be especially interesting to the in-house developer. Instead of writing communications routines, you simply call existing routines from the toolbox. Thus, you can concentrate on the specific capabilities you need, such as mainframe data retrieval.

The Comm Toolbox may prove most useful for those sites connecting Macintoshes to mainframes and minicomputers. Tie-ins to Digital Equipment Corp.-based networks also are planned. And while the Comm Toolbox won't replace gateways between LocalTalk and Ethernet networks serving Unix workstations, it could be used to provide reliable mail-forwarding between Macintosh and Unix mail systems.

Products that take advantage of the Comm Toolbox can be divided into three categories. At the highest level, applications (such as a terminal program) call the Comm Toolbox to perform communications operations. At the lowest level, drivers allow the Comm Toolbox and compatible applications to use specific hardware.

In the middle, three managers provide a standard user interface (used by applications) for selecting plug-in "tools" in the System folder. The Connection Manager lets you select a particular serial port, its transfer rate, parity and so on. Apple supplies a modem tool (among others) that handles such details as tone or rotary dial for a Hayes-compatible modem.

The Terminal Manager controls the emulation characteristics of the terminal tools, such as the Local Echo and Screen Width settings.

Finally, the File Transfer Manager controls tools that implement serial file transfer protocols, such as Xmodem or Kermit.

Additionally, Apple has provided a way for hardware developers of products such as NuBus serial port cards or network modems to register their device-specific drivers with the Comm Toolbox. This permits any Comm Toolbox-compatible application to directly select hardware ports.

Such mix-and-match flexibility will be an important factor behind the power of the Comm Toolbox once it is adopted and supported by the various communications software developers.

For example, a vendor with an established proprietary communications protocol, such as Communications Research Group with its MacBlast, could site license a Macintosh file transfer tool with its mainframe communications software. MIS directors could choose to combine that protocol with the terminal program that best meets their users' needs.

Although the Comm Toolbox is available before System 7.0, its immediate effect is uncertain. Will Apple promote a list of products compatible with the Comm Toolbox? Will most developers offer Comm Toolbox versions of their products now? Or will Apple, its developers and its customers hold off until the Comm Toolbox ships with System 7.0?

Certainly Apple has not finished integrating the Comm Toolbox with the rest of its software architecture. AppleTalk, the Printing Manager and MacWorkStation should be extended to use serial ports via the Comm Toolbox. And the Comm Toolbox does not yet provide a standard for the crucial problem of port allocation.

But, unlike other areas of system software, there are no competing standards announced or on the horizon. For any in-house developer, the time to evaluate the Comm Toolbox is now.

Should you invest in Adobe Type Manager (11/21/1989)

Joel West, "Should you invest in Adobe Type Manager?" MacWEEK, v3, n42 (Nov 21, 1989):36.

The recent introduction of Adobe Type Manager raises a number of key questions for large Macintosh installations. For example, when will it be useful and how will ATM fit into future font strategies?

The first question about ATM that must be answered, however, is, "What is it?"

Adobe Type Manager provides scalable screen and printed text using outline font definitions. It is based on the same font-rendering technology used in Apple's LaserWriter printers but works more like the font software found in many printer drivers.

ATM traps QuickDraw's standard text procedure and, for Adobe fonts, draws those fonts using Adobe's font definitions. The $99 package includes four font families: Times, Helvetica, Courier and Symbol. It uses at least 160 Kbytes of RAM, more if you set the font cache beyond the 64-Kbyte minimum.

ATM's main benefit is providing high-resolution fonts at any size. For example, the bit-map fonts that come with the LaserWriter II SC print smoothly at up to 24 points; ATM can print 60 or 61 points. And unlike QuickDraw's slanted text, ATM provides true italics as well as more- distinct bold at large sizes.

However, ATM's rotated text is not as good as on many printers or drivers. The few applications that cleanly rotate existing bit-map fonts will look good when printing with ATM, but those that print ugly rotated bit maps will still look ugly with ATM, even if they look nice on the LaserWriter.

Nor can ATM improve font quality in painting programs or HyperCard.

There's more behind ATM, of course, than just font-rendering software. Its introduction is a calculated effort by Adobe to influence typeface loyalties before Apple delivers a competing outline font format with System 7.0.

Once you buy the ATM razor, Adobe hopes you will buy a lot of razor blades in the form of Adobe typefaces. For $198, you get the next seven font families, giving you the full LaserWriter IINTX complement, but each additional family typically runs $185.

This can add up quickly because ATM and its fonts are licensed per CPU, not per printer. A site that has invested heavily in Adobe fonts will be less interested in buying fonts in Apple's System 7.0 format -- or so Adobe hopes.

Against this you must weigh Apple's promises of several bundled typefaces, faster on-screen display, and compatibility with most applications and hardware, including PostScript printers.

Typographically, Apple's as-yet-unnamed font format is a decade more advanced than Adobe's existing product. A font that fully exploits Apple's new format will produce excellent results on 72-dpi screens as well as on 2,500-dpi typesetters -- unlike Adobe, which has made subtle trade-offs at either extreme. But Apple's fonts are proving extremely time-consuming to produce, since a simple typeface conversion provides no such quality breakthrough.

Because it will come with every Mac, Apple's new format will become the primary standard for most developers, no matter what Adobe does in the interim.

So deciding the long-term value of an Adobe font investment requires assumptions about Adobe's future in the Mac market.

Many loyal desktop publishing users wonder why Apple and Microsoft are "picking on" Adobe. When Adobe was the only game in town, it developed a reputation for arrogance (as do many industry leaders) that encouraged companies to find other alternatives. That's why Apple and Microsoft will be sharing Microsoft's PostScript clone and Apple's fonts.

The release of ATM suggests a more hungry, less complacent Adobe, and perhaps one that finally acknowledges what every other developer in the Macintosh market knows: Only Apple makes the rules.

The old Adobe would bear a grudge against any company that used a PostScript clone. Will a new Adobe work with Apple anyway, thus maximizing the role of Adobe and its customers in the Mac market?

After all, if Microsoft can bury the hatchet with Apple, why not Adobe?

Made in the United States (11/7/1989)

Joel West, "Made in the United States," MacWEEK, v3, n40 (Nov 7, 1989):38.

Recently, Apple made a decision that could have a crucial impact on its future. Apple decided not to co-sponsor U.S. Memories Inc., a consortium set up to manufacture dynamic RAM modules.

If it's right, Apple saved its cash for a rainy day. If it's wrong, users may someday face a situation where Macintoshes are hard to come by. That's because, as last year's DRAM debacle dramatically demonstrated, Apple is critically dependent on the pricing and availability of outside components.

As with other large computer companies, Apple tries to arrange different suppliers and to sign long-term contracts to assure a reliable supply of those components. But some forces are larger than even a company the size of Apple can control. That's why IBM, Digital Equipment Corp., Hewlett-Packard and AT&T as well as four semiconductor companies co-ounded the manufacturing consortium.

Apple reportedly declined to join because it had a better use for its money and because it saw no customer benefit in joining.

Apple has manufacturing plants in California, Ireland and Singapore, with components also coming from Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, the Philippines and Mexico.

IBM, DEC and H-P have an equally international view but recognize that two keys to Japanese success have been vertical integration to supply many components and tight partnerships with outside suppliers.

Today, Apple buys most of its DRAMs from potential competitors: Toshiba, a leading laptop maker, and NEC, the dominant computer company in Japan. Cray Research used a similar approach until its Japanese supplier started making supercomputers, then delayed supplies of key components to Cray.

Apple also has a close relationship with Sony, from which it buys floppy disk drives, hard disks, CD-ROM drives and video tubes. Apple already buys sound chips from Sony and would likely buy DRAMs if Sony made them.

But such a dependence on overseas suppliers exposes any company to political and economic forces that may be beyond its control.

Apple and other companies can influence U.S. trade policy via extensive lobbying. But there's little that any company can do about the price of the yen or about international politics. Some Japanese politicians are even thinking about firing the first salvo in the next trade war.

As last year demonstrated, scarce DRAMs both increase user prices and reduce overall sales. Apple's sales growth is crucial to existing Macintosh sites because that money is used to fund increasingly complex R&D.

Certainly, lack of funds was not behind the Apple decision, since the company is sitting on three-quarters of a billion dollars. Apple could use that money to assure a DRAM supply by acquiring a small, innovative semiconductor company, such as key supplier VLSI Technology.

But since the days of the Lisa "Twiggy" drive, Apple has been leery of designing its own components when it can buy them. If Apple continues to reduce its manufacturing contribution, it could eventually become strictly a design company.

Perhaps that is Apple's goal: to become a software company that merely licenses its software and firmware to manufacturers.

In his new book, "The Japan That Can Say 'No,' " Sony Chairman Ako Morita argues that such "hollowing out" is not in the United States' long- term interests: "When people forget how to produce goods, and that appears to be the case in America, they will not be able to supply themselves even with their most basic needs."

Advice to the in-house Macintosh developer (10/17/1989)

Joel West, "Advice to the in-house Macintosh developer," MacWEEK, v3, n37 (Oct 17, 1989):34.

As companies purchase more Macintoshes, their need for custom programs increases as well. Such custom software may range from a few spreadsheet macros to a full-blown application. In the latter case, the pitfalls facing the in-house developer parallel those dealt with by commercial developers.

Usually, though, the goals of the in-house developer are more limited. The software to be developed tends to have a narrow focus, and the target audience is smaller and better defined. Commensurately, development resources also are smaller.

For many in-house developers the best approach is to turn to the shortcuts long favored by value-added resellers, creating custom applications with HyperCard, SuperCard, 4th Dimension or Excel instead of the programming tools typically used for developing million-selling applications.

But regardless of whether the software is intended for dealers' shelves or for in-house use, the development pitfalls are the same. In each case the final goal is an intangible product, leading to an amorphous definition of what needs to be done and how much work it will take.

Mac software must be well-designed to realize the benefits expected of the Mac. If the interface is not clear, coherent and consistent, you lose the ease-of-use advantage that may have justified the Mac's purchase. At the same time, if the software is not designed to share data with other programs, you lose the interoperability that is the basis of applications such as desktop publishing and desktop presentations.

Both general and Mac-specific development headaches can be mitigated in the design phase by having a good spec or series of specs. Depending on the project, you need to prepare one or more of the following:

>Requirements document: a laundry list of what the software must do, but not how.

>User's spec: a plan that often can be handled by writing a draft user manual before writing the software.

>Internal spec: a description of the implementation approach, which is crucial when more than one programmer is involved.

You may need additional plans, schedules or specifications if exactly meeting your schedule and budget is important. If you aren't concerned about project overrun, it may be easier to run a looser, less structured development effort.

Even the best designs require validation, and that is particularly true for the interface of a Mac program. User testing is essential to the acceptance of any new package. Even if time is limited, you must test your assumptions on at least one or two prototypical users.

But as with any other software project, the planning and resource allocation must go beyond the initial development period to the entire software life cycle.

Software doesn't rust or wear out. Instead, most problems stem from a bug or from using the software for something it wasn't designed to do. The latter can include requirements that could not have been anticipated, such as compatibility with new applications or new versions of system software.

But many problems can be anticipated, such as compatibility with various Macintosh CPUs. This might include testing on the entire Macintosh family and checking to see if the results look good on black- and-white, eight-bit color and 24-bit color displays. This also includes designing for any screen size.

Why design for the largest possible target, even if you're sure the software will be used by a much narrower audience? Well, suppose the top manager brings in his or her personal machine from home or, when it comes time to rent machines for a temporary overload, your standard configuration is not available. You'll be forced to do a panic update on someone else's schedule rather than your own.

Finally, learn as much as you can about Mac development. Books, magazines, sample programs and development tools are available, and $30 spent today pales compared with a half-day's development later on.

Along these lines, Apple has set up a program to provide technical information to the in-house developer. If your budget can handle it, joining the Apple Associates program may be the best place to begin your development effort. n

Font wars on the computer front (10/13/1989)

Joel West, "Font wars on the computer front," MacWEEK, v3, n35 (Oct 3, 1989):30.

The font solution under development for the Mac's System 7.0 is affecting the shoot-out over the font approach for Microsoft's OS/2 Presentation Manager.

Together, these two solutions will bring digital typography to more people than ever before. At the same time, setting the font technology for these systems could make or break the companies that have developed such technologies.

Software for generating digital typefaces -- scalable outline fonts -- can be evaluated using several criteria. Speed is the most noticeable, but also important are the code size and memory usage.

Typefaces can differ dramatically in type quality at small point sizes because of the "hints" used to make the scaled font more readable. The ease of generating new typefaces also varies depending on the format.

A number of vendors have been actively licensing their intelligent typeface technologies to microcomputer application vendors and printer manufacturers.

In addition to Adobe, the most visible is Bitstream Inc., the one company that lives or dies by retail sales of microcomputer fonts. Its Fontware is used by many Post-Script clone printers, such as the Qume CrystalPrint. On the Macintosh side, Fontware algorithms are incorporated in the printer software for GCC printers. To compete for OS/2, Bitstream has developed a faster algorithm, code-named "Speedo," which recently shipped.

Another perspective is held by Compugraphic, a maker of stand-alone typesetting systems. Its Intellifont engine has one major ally, Hewlett- Packard, which uses it in the software for the DeskWriter, H-P's first Mac-only printer.

The third typeface supplier is URW, the German type foundry. URW's Nimbus software is now shipped by Mirus and Palomar, while URW typefaces are also used by a new engine, the Nimbus Q, from The Company, a URW affiliate; the first Nimbus Q driver has been shipped by GDT Softworks. All of these formats were taken into consideration in the design of Apple's font format, and all have been players in the OS/2 font decision.

Apple's engine appears to be fast with modest memory consumption. It renders well at small sizes; most engines target 25-pixel type, while Apple does well at half that size.

By designing its own format, Apple has chosen an approach that provides the most opportunities for third-party type suppliers. Although this will be a less lucrative market than selling proprietary font engines, it is open to all of the font engine vendors as well as type foundries.

But the fundamental differences between two proprietary typeface formats can make it difficult to translate between formats.

Each format starts with digitized characters with several thousand pixels in each dimension. These images are translated into a series of straight lines and curves. The curves may be circular arcs, quadratic splines or cubic splines. Apple's format is based on quadratic Bezier curves.

Although using the same type of curve makes it easier to move from one format to another, ordinary number crunching can be used to refit the curves. Not so with hints, which are fundamentally different. Apple has solved this problem by defining a format that can represent all of the popular hinting mechanisms.

This sets a difficult path for OS/2 to follow. If Microsoft does not follow Apple's lead, but instead chooses one font vendor's format, other vendors will have a hard time translatiApple and Microsoft may also differ in the markets that they create for add-on fonts. Apple will offer only a small set (fewer than than 50) of bundled typefaces. All other fonts will be sold by third parties.

Microsoft is considering selling its own package of the most-popular typefaces, pre-empting the OS/2 font market. If so, look for a greater range of suppliers -- and typefaces -- in the Macintosh market. n

Apple and Adobe go their own ways (8/15/1989)

Joel West, "Apple and Adobe go their own ways," MacWEEK, v3, n30 (August 15, 1989):38.

Although I do my best to interpret the technical side of the Macintosh industry, there was no time that my interpretation was so in demand as after Apple's move last month to sell its 16 percent stake in Adobe Systems.

"So what do you think of Apple's move on Adobe?" was the question I heard from almost everyone I talked to.

Although I can't say I predicted it, the split was the logical and inevitable consequence of recent developments, not the sudden change in direction that many of my fellow industry members seemed to think.

From a financial point of view, it was an excellent move for Apple. Even for a $5 billion-a-year company, an $80 million profit is nothing to sneeze at.

But the most important question on everyone's mind was the question of what change would occur in Apple's strategic partnership with Adobe, a partnership that provided Adobe with instant market credibility and put PostScript on the map.

Like most strategic business relationships, this one lasted only as long as the two corporations held goals in common. Companies, like countries, have only permanent interests, not permanent allies.

The stock sale was the obvious culmination of a divergence that became apparent with Adobe's failed attempt to railroad Apple into adopting Display PostScript. Apple declared independence from Adobe last year for its screen graphics and, with this year's System 7.0 open font architecture, for its screen and printer fonts.

This confirms what I've been saying for months to anyone who'll listen: Apple wants to use PostScript as a niche printing solution, but its future lies with enhancing its own proprietary solutions, such as an extended version of QuickDraw.

To make this strategy work, Apple must have an alternative available -- whether it is a new version of QuickDraw or a PostScript clone -- before it can replace the Adobe-licensed ROM it ships with every Laser- Writer NT and NTX.

And even with a strong QuickDraw offering, the Macintosh is PostScript's strongest market, and Apple must firmly support the page description language for the foreseeable future. Being able to proof documents at 300 dpi and typeset them at 2,500 dpi is crucial to desktop publishing, and it will be a long time (if ever) before QuickDraw-based typesetters become available.

But using a clone to eliminate the PostScript license fees could reduce the list price of a LaserWriter by $500 when all of the major laser printer vendors have introduced or are readying Laser-Writer competitors.

Controlling its own PostScript emulation code will also let Apple design a printer that supports both PostScript and QuickDraw, an obvious necessity during Apple's transition to its new technology.

Apple isn't the only one that can benefit from the change. Despite a major loss of business, the sale seems to be in Adobe's best interests. With such an obvious divergence of interests, having Apple as a major shareholder was an untenable position for both companies in the long run.

Adobe had already diversified its sales to reduce its dependence on LaserWriter sales, with Apple now accounting for less than a third of its revenues.

Now Adobe's challenge is to show that, unlike MicroPro, Digital Research and Lotus, it is more than a one-product company. The key printer manufacturers are either signed up or using a clone, and Display PostScript is out of the running for most platforms. The trick will be to come up with a strategy that builds from Adobe's strengths but that is not tied to these areas where its growth is blocked.

The move also has positive implications for all of Apple's investments and "spin-outs" such as Mirus and Claris.

Apple clearly understands that its role is to encourage its companies to take the steps necessary to succeed, not to force them to toe the Apple party line. Assuming it makes prudent investments, Apple wins two ways: by having the strategic solution that it needs and by the financial gain from the investment.

Apple needs low-cost Mac as much as we do (8/1/1989)

Joel West, "Apple needs low-cost Mac as much as we do," MacWEEK, v3, n28 (August 1, 1989):44.

As Apple continues with its strategy to expand market share, a key missing piece is the low-cost Macintosh.

I would define low-cost as a black-and-white system for less than $1,000, or a color system with hard disk for less than $2,000. Both need at least 2 Mbytes of RAM to work with System 7.0. It's something developers have been requesting for years, and Apple is now hinting at plans to reduce product cost without reducing product capabilities.

Apple's low-end strategy came to mind when I read the report of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Commission on Industrial Productivity. Published by MIT Press and excerpted in the June Scientific American, the report analyzes why Japanese companies have gained market share in the past 30 years at the expense of U.S. manufacturers.

In discussing the computer industry, the MIT group notes one mistake that Apple has taken pains to avoid. Many U.S. companies took a short- term view by licensing their technology to Japanese competitors. After a few years, surprise! The U.S. company is being pushed out of the market.

The open standard of the IBM PC AT is easier still to emulate, since IBM PC clones do not even need a license. Asian clones have almost taken over the low end, and the leading Japanese companies are trying to establish market share for higher-end products.

Upon reflection, I must agree with Apple's strategy of not licensing its technology to competitors. The company's software and firmware (ROM- based software) are its primary competitive advantage.

But if Apple won't allow others to make a low-cost Macintosh, the company needs to provide its own, either by reducing the price of an existing CPU or, more likely, by making a new, less-expensive unit.

Any new Mac must include at least a 68030 if it's not to become obsolete with System 7.0. The color firmware at the core of Apple's desktop media push requires at least an '020, while virtual memory needs the '030.

That might describe today's SE/30, which, at $5,000, is hardly "low cost." How could something similar be offered at a lower price?

The two basic approaches are to reduce the cost of the components and to make it easier (and cheaper) to assemble those components. Despite a massive up-front design and tooling cost, a redesigned SE/30 would cost Apple less to make than today's aging Plus and SE.

In fact, the SE is an example of reduced component costs. Once capital costs have been amortized, an SE costs Apple less than a Plus because a reduced chip count provides the same functionality. Motorola is also helping here, by adding on-chip memory management to the 68030 and floating-point acceleration to the 68040. Motorola has even produced a chip for General Motors that incorporates I/O interfaces onto a 68020-like CPU.

However, the low-level Mac design is tied to specific non-Motorola chips, which must be included or emulated in any future system.

Apple's likely approach is to design its own application-specific integrated circuits to reduce the chip count of future Macs, much as it designed a single chip for the Apple IIGS to replace the Apple II chip set.

Recently Apple has focused on designing for ease of manufacturing. As the MIT study makes clear, a major Japanese advantage has been to design products suited to a company's manufacturing process, resulting in simultaneous improvements in quality, cost and the speed of getting products to market.

Low-priced, high-volume products are crucial to this process; with them a company can realize economies of scale in manufacturing and learn how to reduce unit costs.

These cost-cutting strategies can be used to reduce the cost of all products, which is why companies that attempt to keep a high-end niche are vulnerable to mass producers of low-end, high-quality products. Simpler designs have fewer assembly errors, and an improved design can more than make up for higher U.S. wages.

The Macintosh IIcx is Apple's first step in this direction, with a manufacturing cost much lower than that of either a Plus or many AT clones. Apply the same techniques to the SE/30 and you would have a low- cost machine that could be ready late next year.

System 7.0 draws outline of a font solution (6/13/1989)

Joel West, "System 7.0 draws outline of a font solution," MacWEEK, v3, n23 (June 13, 1989):46.

Apple's announcements regarding System 7.0 offer an exciting view of the future Macintosh. One of the most significant breakthroughs is that the new operating system will provide text-related services.

In previous columns I offered my thoughts on the state of services today and what new services would look like, and I asked key questions about aspects of them that didn't appear to be set in stone. For example, six months ago I asked, "Will huge font libraries of major typefaces become available?"

The news here is good. Apple's new open font standard has garnered an impressive list of endorsements from ATF, Bitstream, Compugraphic, Linotype, Monotype and URW.

But converting fonts to a new format usually requires some work by a skilled font designer who must fine-tune those "hints" for small type sizes that aren't converted automatically. Such skilled designers are scarcer than programmers, so the concept of vaporware is as strong in the font world as it is in software. It remains to be seen how many of these fonts will actually be ready when 7.0 ships.

In outlining the limitations of then-existing font technology, I also noted that the scalable fonts used in printer drivers are too slow for screen display and too poor in quality for 10-point text at screen resolution. Coincidentally, Apple has displayed 10-point screen fonts to developers that looked just as good as bit maps and were nearly as fast.

Another important question in any Mac font solution is the role of PostScript printers and the tens of thousands of PostScript fonts that have been purchased by Mac users. Last year I speculated about a Mac- based Display PostScript, but those speculations were premature. In the face of strong Apple resistance, Display PostScript went instead to Steve Jobs' little cube and never made it to the Mac.

But a week before Apple's outline font revelations, Adobe announced plans to offer the portion of PostScript that users most want: its scalable font technology. When shipped with Adobe fonts this fall, the new Type Manager software will allow those fonts to be used on the screen, even with non-PostScript printers. In addition, Adobe is working with Apple to develop a utility that will translate Apple's font format into fully hinted PostScript fonts.

Adobe has hedged its bets perfectly, working with the new format if it becomes popular while selling its own format until Apple-format fonts become available.

But this is also one of those rare cases where a big, successful company with proprietary technology decides to do what's best for the user. If both pieces of software arrive on time and work properly, Adobe fonts could be used on the Mac, while Mac fonts could be used with Adobe printer controllers.

In previous columns, I've also talked about kerning, tracking, justification and line layout. With System 7.0, Apple offers the Line Layout Manager with built-in support for these typographic necessities that have been separately implemented by each of the major desktop publishing packages. It also has a few capabilities I didn't anticipate, such as dynamic ligatures that allow QuickDraw to draw true cursive characters in real time.

More important, the new manager, coupled with improvements in the Script Manager, should extend the Mac's lead as an international system architecture.

These changes should make it easier for Macintosh developers to support key foreign markets.

An example I'm familiar with is the process of line layout, or adjusting horizontal text placement to allow for differences between screen and printer fonts. The algorithm my firm developed works with the Roman character set, which is enough to support the Western Hemisphere and Western Europe.

But such algorithms don't work with other character sets, notably Japanese and Arabic. Fortunately for us, these markets so far account for less than 10 percent of Mac users.

But these markets should be where Macintosh growth is most rapid. And when System 7.0 arrives, high-quality line layout for all languages will be built into the system software for every software package. n

System 7.0: A developer's perspective (5/23/1989)

Joel West, "System 7.0: a developer's perspective," MacWEEK, v3, n21 (May 23, 1989):30.

At its third annual developers' conference Apple topped all previous efforts in terms of the sheer volume of information presented.

To some degree, this reflects the dramatically increased complexity of System 7.0, which offers (by quick count) eight new managers as well as revisions to 16 others.

But among those developers I talked to, Apple won points for its unusual candor. Warning developers about change as much as year before the new system ships in a first, as is providing everyone at the conference with a 2-inch-thick binder containing the detailed interfaces to the system routines.

Does that mean that the "not invented here" attitude and the "I'm Apple, you're just a developer" arrogance are gone from Cupertino? Hardly: It is an integral part of the elan or esprit de corps of contemporary Appledom.

But corporate Apple does seem to have realized that it can benefit from the front-line experience of the thousands of Mac programmers and engineers outside the company.

As a consequence, the plan for System 7.0 is responsive to the real needs of real developers. This is unlike many previous releases, which were designed in invory-tower isolation or only to meet the needs of Apple's own products.

Beyond the sexiest of the enhancements, such as virtual memory, interapplication communication and outline fonts, there are dozens of smaller changes that provide features for which developers have been begging -- or screaming.

Many of these are features that Apple itself has used internally but that outside developers could not duplicate in a portable, documented way.

One of the most obvious is the floating "windoid" hack used by HyperCard. Other hacks that will be made kosher include changing Finder comments, sublaunching, external file systems, automatic background applications and performance monitoring

These changes also include standard, supported mechanisms to replace techniques that previously had to be written by each developer, such as tear-off menus, kerning, ligatures, playing disk-based sounds and real- time multimedia, not to mention printer and communication drivers.

Overall, I was impressed by Apple's decision to support all machines down to the Mac Plus, with only virtual memory and the color-related enhancements unavailable on the 68000-based CPUs. Unfortunately, the 2- Mbyte minimum means that developers will have to support both 6.0 and 7.0 for some years to come.

Personally, I was disappointed that Apple isn't moving more aggressively toward an object-oriented toolbox. But the tools aren't quite ready and neither is the developer community, so I guess I can take solace in the official sanction of C++ as Apple's internal language of choice, as evidenced by its use in rewriting the Finder.

(I was also disappointed to learn at the last minute of Apple's policy of requiring non-disclosure agreements from developers who are also members of the press. Forced to choose, I decided it was preferable to leave so I could write whatever I wanted about System 7.0 in this column and elsewhere.)

Response to developer questions indicated that Apple is working on additional key features, but their announcement is being withheld until Apple is 100 percent sure it can deliver by the due date. So if the "core" (mandatory) features run a little late, there will be time to slip in a few more goodies.

In gauging developer reaction, remember that most developers are specialists, concerned with one narrow area like fast screen bliting or low-level disk drivers. Apple's specialists are responding to each of these narrower goals, guided by a few generalists who are trying to make sure that the pieces fit together as a coherent whole.

With the plan now established, what remains is, of course, execution. Can these features be delivered on time? Will they be as good as they are sound? As the TV correspondents say, the answer remains to be seen.

RenderMan: The PostScript of 3-D imaging (5/9/1989)

Joel West, "RenderMan: the PostScript of 3-D imaging," MacWEEK, v3, n19 (May 9, 1989):38.

Four years ago, Adobe's PostScript language fueled the explosive growth fo desktop publishing. Today, Pixar is trying to do the same for 3-D graphics with its RenderMan interface.

What distinguishes RenderMan from current 3-D technologies is its emphasis on realism. While today's Macintosh programs display 3-D objects using wire frames or faceted polyhedra, RenderMan-generated objects appear to be continuous curves. RenderMan can also simulate realistic surface textures, light sources, and even camera depth-of-field and motion blur.

A prototype version of RenderMan is already running on the Mac as part of Pixar's efforts to establish RenderMan as an industry graphics standard. The role that such a standard could play can be best understood by using an analogy to PostScript.

RenderMan allows 3-D applications to produce synthetic images that cannot be distinguished from photographs, much as PostScript allows desktop publishing applications to produce typeset-quality originals.

In desktop publishing, you use a page-layout program to place text and graphics in your document, which is an electronic representation of a physical piece of paper.

Eventually, the program or printer driver translates the document into a PostScript page description. A PostScript interpreter converts that description to an image, usually as dots on a piece of paper or typesetting film.

In creating 3-D graphics, you use a modeling application to place light sources and various shapes. In this case, the document is the electronic analog of a portion of the 3-D world.

If the application produces RenderMan-compatible output, then a RenderMan interpreter can convert that output to light intensities in a video signal or a 35mm slide.

Like PostScript, RenderMan is device-independent, allowing the application to produce output without knowing how it will be displayed. It is also resolution-independent, so users can resize and reshape images at any resolution without introducing defects.

With some minor extensions, the RenderMan file format could be used to support a 3-D clip art library, much as Encapsulated PostScript (EPS) defines a standard way to exchange two-dimensional PostScript art.

As Adobe is with PostScript, Pixar is more interested in getting other developers to support RenderMan output than to interpret it. Pixar intends to sell its own RenderMan interpreter, called Photorealistic RenderMan, based on its previous-generation REYES (render everything you've ever seen) software. Unlike Adobe, Pixar has clearly spelled out from the outset what rival interpreters must do to be called "RenderMan- compatible."

Autodesk has provided the first key Macintosh endorsement by announcing that its Autoshade rendering option will be based on RenderMan. Other developers are studying the format's specs, with further announcements likely.

But although Pixar sells Photorealistic RenderMan interpreters for Sun workstations and 386-based PCs, it does not yet offer developers an interpreter to run on an ordinary Macintosh II.

Levco has ported Photorealistic RenderMan to the Macintosh but requires a $4,000 configuration of its Transputer NuBus board to do the computations. This provides better performance than a Macintosh-based solution but raises the entry-level cost to developers and users.

How does RenderMan affect Apple's plans for 3-D on the Mac?

Apple has always based its Macintosh sales on proprietary software technology, and its Advanced Technology gruop has been furiously hiring Silicon Valley's 3-D experts to build 3-D technology for the Macintosh. The first evidence of this effort was the Pencil Test video produced for last summer's Siggraph conference.

Thus, it's not surprising that Apple was not among the computer vendors endorsing RenderMan at its unveiling last year.

But if RenderMan should establish itself as an industry standard that can't be ignored, then Apple would be forced to redirect its efforts to work within, or along-side, that standard.

RenderMan certainly has a head start over any proprietary Apple solution: its first Academy Award. This year's Oscar-winning animated short subject, "Tin Toy," was produced on Pixar equipment using Photo- realistic RenderMan.

Peripherals will be on center stage at developers' conference,(4/25/1989)

Joel West, "Peripherals will be on center stage at developers' conference," MacWEEK, v3, n17 (April 25, 1989):88.

In less than two weeks Apple will convene its third annual developers' conference, proferring its strategic vision for the future and answering nitty-gritty questions about the present.

One of the hot topics on the agenda will be mass storage peripherals. Those who support such products say Apple has two opportunities for the future: improving performance (particularly a multitasking operating system) and providing support for foreign file systems.

The cornerstones of Macintosh peripheral performance are the SCSI Manager and related hardware. While SCSI has fueled the availability of a wide range of peripherals, its current performance is inadequate for larger disk drives and a true multitasking operating system.

At the core is the restriction that all I/O transfers must be made by the processor. In its initial SCSI implementation on the Mac Plus, Apple tried to speed I/O by providing "blind" transfers. however, that version was extremely timing dependent, so that Mac Plus blind transfers don't work reliably with all disk drives.

The SE, II and later machines include hardware changes that assure transfers are not made unless the data is ready. This also pushes the maximum SCSI throughput from 263 Kbytes per second on a Plus to 656 Kbps on an SE. The Mac II is twice again as fast.

But unlike most high-performance computers, the Mac doesn't provide direct memory access, which would allow special chips to perform data transfers without tying up the CPU. Third-party SCSI boards show that this can double the effective throughout of a Mac II to 3 Mbps.

While such performance is wasted on most of today's hard disks, it is sorely needed for 300-Mbyte and larger hard disks and for next-generation drives.

Also lurking on the horizon is the issue of multiasking performance. On a single-tasking operating system, tying up the CPU isn't all that important. But on a multitasking OS, the SCSI transmission wastes horsepower that could be used by other tasks.

More significantly the Macintosh spends most of its time waiting for the disk head to position, not transferring data.

First on every developers wish list is modifications to the SCSI Manager and the hierarchical file system (HFS) that will allow asynchronous operation. This would enable disk drivers to sort disk accesses by position on the disk, as has been done for two decades on larger computers. Such sorting would speed up some tasks twofold to fivefold. For example, you'd see an increase when the Mac rebuilds the desktop after a crash, task that can now take 10 minutes on an optical disk.

Apple's other opportunity lies in reading and writing non-Mac disks. As with most computers, the Mac has its own standard disk format. Unlike many other such formats, HFS can also be extended to support other disk formats, thus allowing the Finder and applications to read those disks as if they were a Mac disk.

On such extension is the Apple Filing Protocol, in which the AppleTalk network is used to access a remote disk, even one that is hooked to a DOS or VAX/VMS computer.

Apple already supports read-only direct connection of one foreign file system on its CD-ROM player, with a Startup docuent (INIT) that allows any Mac program to read a High Sierra CD-ROM using HFS calls.

Similarly, a read/write HFS foreign file system for MS-DOS would let users take full advantage of the 1.4-Mbyte SuperDrive included in the new Macs. Today, users can only read and write DOS disks using the separate Apple File Exchange.

Apple already has a prototype of the necessary software but hasn't released it yet. Why not?

One possible argument is that Apple's distribution of the software would threaten large installation sales, even though third parties already provide this capability. How is it a threat? When one or two users need a Macintosh (such as for desktop publishing), Apple usually sells machines to the entire work group. If those few machines could easily read and write DOS floppies, the argument goes, perhaps MIS would buy all the other users cheaper PC clones.

I, for one, don't buy it. For example, the Mac's training advantages are as strong as ever.

But until Apple sees this as more of a user advantage than a sales disadvantage, this is one piece of extremely useful technology that will remain locked up in the lab.

More from Apple equals less from third parties? (4/11/1989)

Joel West, "More from Apple equals less from third parties?" MacWEEK, v3, n15 (April 11, 1989):40.

When Jean-Louis Gassee moved to California, Apple acquired a controversial product champion to replace Steve Jobs.

On Gassees watch, Apple has gone from one machine, the Mac Plus, to a broad range of workstations comprising six different models. That transition is extremely important to the company's financial health and stability.

But the climate for outside development of Mac-related hardware is now less favorable. If Apple took two steps forward in 1987, it took one step back in 1989. The opportunities provided by the "Open Mac" have been diluted by a combination of competition and confusion.

The introduction of the Mac SE and the II in 1987 created a large market for hardware and-on products while providing Apple with a stronger machine for business and a high-end flagship. The one weakness was a huge gap between the SE and II in capabilities and price.

The addition of the IIx, SE/30 and IIex fills in that gap and effectively defines two product lines: compact and modular. Now there is a real question of which of which machine to buy. A year ago, if you wanted color or 68020-based machine, the automatic choice was a Mac II.

Even with that expanded product line, the cost of key features hasn't changed much.

Suppose, for example, that you want to buy an entry-level color system. In 1987, the list price of a Mac II with 1 Mbyte of RAM and a 40- Mbyte hard disk was $6,996. A similarly configured IIex system costs -- surprise -- $6,996.

What's interesting here is that fully configured systems cost about what they did two years ago, but models without hard disks are more expensive. This puts pressure on third-party disk manufacturers as Apple seeks to expand beyond its 30 percent share of the drive market.

Apple is also increasing pressure on third-party accelerators and video systems.

SE accelerator makers are hit by the new SE/30, which costs only $1,000 more to buy than an SE. Retrofitting an SE with an SE/30 motherboard costs about $1,700, and for that you get Color QuickDraw to boot.

At the same time, Apple's new black-and-white monitors for its Macintosh II series could force most products out of that market.

THis is the same approach used by IBM and Digital Equipment Corp.: Wait for third parties to create a market, and if it's big enough, try to take it over.

To be fair, Apple has always said it will compete in hardware. Those manufacturers that want to be around for the long haul must stay two steps ahead of Apple.

"There's a big foot that comes along every so often in your market," said one entrepreneur. When you see the Apple logo on the bottom of a foot about to stomp on you, he said, it's time to ready other products.

What other products are these companies likely to offer? Not NuBus color video. The market there is already crowded and is likely to see an Apple introduction next year.

Apple is encouraging boards for the SE/30 and seems to be steering clear of the SE/30 add-on market, as it did with the SE. Apple also said there's another CPU coming that will be compatible with SE/30 cards.

Adapting the hardware of an SE/30 board from a NuBus board requires only about 25 percent more work. In addition, the more-costly firmware moves over for almost nothing.

Even with these attractions, confusion remains. It the "'030 Processor Direct Slot" important enough to support a wide range of products? Will dealers and value-added resellers stock three types of cards, one each for the SE, the SE/30 and the NuBus-based machines.

How will the Mac SE/30 be used? Mac SE expansion was mostly video cards and accelerators, while the Mac II inspired a more eclectic range of offerings. Will engineers buy an SE/30 or IIex for data acquisition?

Overall, which of the two machines will be more successful? When I asked John Sculley at the IIex press conference, he told me that Apple had no internal forecast on that question.

I suppose Aple could be using big-Blue's approach for introducing a wide variety of new products: Throw everything against the wall, then wait to see what sticks.

Or perhaps, as Jean-Louis Gassee might have suggested, Apple does have a forecast -- but it's from the same squad that predicted DRAM demand.

At the trailing edge of technology (3/28/1989)

Joel West, "At the trailing edge of technology," MacWEEK, v3, n13 (March 28, 1989):62.

In product announcements, the weekly headlines or even a bull session over pizza, the tendency is to focus on the latest and greatest products.

But the reality of a maturing Macintosh market is that many users do not have the latest and greatest products and are, in fact, quite happy to remain on the trailing edge of Macintosh technology. They're sticking to their old reliable computer, system software, disk drive, printer and applications.

The phenomenon is not just found in Dubuque or Klamath Falls but in big cities, big corporations and big universities.

Ironically, many of these trailing-edge users were early and vocal supporters of the Macintosh. Because they were early adopters they still have the older, less sophisticated equipment while more recent converts make use of state-of-the-art hardware and software.

I know of several cases in which an original Macintosh 128 became a 512 and then a Plus. Some have accelerators but many Macs remain underpowered and useless. That is, if you believe the "leading edge" adherents.

At larger sites, the upgrade cost is multiplied by a factor of 10 or 100. This is particularly noticeable in universities that populated computing laboratories with Macintoshes early on.

Cost is not an issue for system software, since updates are free if you can find a dealer or users group that will make you a copy. Still, you'll find many older systems and Finders on these machines. For example, I'm writing this article under System 4.2 and Finder 6.0. MultiFinder is an option only for those with more than 1 Mbyte, still a minority among installed machines.

Although many of these users might be suffering from Mac envy, there are also logical reasons for life at the trailing edge. At larger corporations, trailing-edge technology might be an integral part of the company's computing strategy.

I recently spoke with an engineer at a large aerospace company who asked me about using Switcher, a program I always found clumsy and haven't used in years. The company's MIS department had only recently distributed MultiFinder -- 18 months after it was first released.

For the larger sites, the initial bias is to delay upgrading unless the benefits are overwhelming. There is a training cost associated with new software. And, as the managers of mainframe computers learned long ago, the first users of any new version of an operating system are guinea pigs.

Some system managers would test a new mainframe operating system on just one machine, but this usually isn't practical in a networked Macintosh shop. For one thing, all systems sharing a LaserWriter printer must use the same version of LaserPrep.

In some cases, the impetus to upgrade comes only when a user or site selects an application that requires it.

Apple has traditionally encouraged developers to target the new machines, claiming that those who use older technology are least likely to buy new software. Their requirements are static and, besides, if you can't spring for a more powerful machine, how can you afford an $895 software package?

On the other hand, if your problem is static and your existing solution works, why change? Although I have the newer versions, I prefer MORE 1.1 to MORE II, and SuperPaint 1.1 to SuperPaint 2.0. The only time I feel compelled to upgrade is when the previous version is buggy and poorly done.

Apple has made a significant effort to keep system software up to date for one of its most popular systems, the Mac Plus. This should remain a viable (although trailing edge) platform for several years.

So if you don't have the latest and greatest, don't despair. You're far from alone.

Engineering: More than just CAD (3/14/1989)

Joel West, "Engineering: more than just CAD," (column) MacWEEK, v3, n11 (March 14, 1989):38.

Within the engineering market, Apple's interest is in themost wide- ranging solutions, those that sell thousands and tens of thousands of computers. For example, if you classify a Mac II as a workstation, then Apple sold more workstations in its first six months than Sun Microsystems sold in its first six years.

Thus, it makes sense that the Mac engineering focus has been on the most horizontal of the engineering applications, CAD.

The Mac's strong graphics orientation makes it a more natural CAD platform than most computers. MacDraw and other drawing programs showed the Mac's potential even on the early underpowered machines.

Once it had the Macintosh II, Apple's first engineering targets were CAD and CAM. Incorporating the related fields of mechanical engineering, civil engineering and architecture, CAD/CAM represents one of the largest and best-understood engineering markets.

Today, many CAD packages are available for the Macintosh. Several are popular enough to be found at the local computer store. But such general-purpose CAD solutions cannot solve every drafting problem. Each specialized area requires different features, either as part of a horizontal CAD package, as a separate add-on or as part of a more narrowly focused "vertical" solution.

For example, an architect needs a 3-D CAD package that will generate drawings using standard construction symbols. Because architecture is the primary market for many 3-D CAD packages, such support is often an integral part of these packages.

On the other hand, surveying has one fundamental difference from general-purpose CAD: Real-world surveying measurements have errors that must be averaged across the drawing to produce polygons that meet at each corner.

There's more to design than just drawing, and Apple has attracted an impressive array of structural analysis tools, such as skeletal and finite-element analysis.

Other related engineering solutions available include conversion of CAD data to standard CAD formats like DXF, IGES or CGM, with nine-track tape and Ethernet for transporting that data. Other key peripherals include 3-D input devices and E-size plotters for bluprints.

With Apple's marketing efforts for structural engineering in place, its latest engineering interest has shifted to electronic design automation (EDA).

Today, the Macintosh is weak in two key areas of basic electronic design: schematic capture and printed circuit board layout.

The fomer is a form of analysis that allows the designer to build the circuit schematic, while the latter is a specialized form of CAD that places individual components on the tiny PC board real estate.

A complete board-level design package can export the schematic database to the layout program, auto-route connections between components, validate the layout against the schematic and prevent obvious mistakes, such as wiring one output lead to another. Several such packages are available on DOS machines, but none of the Mac solutions yet fill the bill.

Other important EDA tools include cross-compilers for microprocessors and logic equation compilers for designing PALs.

Apple itself is aware of the limitations of Mac-based solutions, and it recently has purchased EDA systems for its own engineers from dedicated CAD systems vendor Mentor Graphics. Mentor's systems comprise its proprietary software with high-end workstations from Apollo.

This illustrates two growth areas for Mac engineering solutions.

First, while Apple may aggressively evangelize the largest CAD markets, value-added resellers like Mentor control most of the medium-size niches in the engineering market. Platform choices by these resellers ultimately determine which Mac-based solutions are offered to engineers.

Second, Apple's current computers cannot support the most computationally intensive design applications. Until faster products are available, many engineering markets will remain closed to the Macintosh.

Desktop engineering playing from strengths (2/28/1989)

Joel West, "Desktop engineering playing from strengths," MacWEEK, v3, n9 (Feb 28, 1989):62.

In its attempts to crack engineering and related technical markets, Apple has a number of winning cards in its hand.

Apple's recent marketing efforts have stressed that, in effect, engineers are people, too, people who spend most of their day doing work other than hard-core engineering.

Engineers write memos and reports, prepare presentations and fill out expense reports. In a small company, they might share a laser printer with accounting. In a large company, they must download information from the corporation mainframe and track project results.

In the past five years, the Mac has proved itself more than adequate for such purposes. As with DOS microcomputers, the hardware and software are cheap compared with more expensive workstations, minis and mainframes. Micros are readily available through a wide variety of convenient retailers, thus making it easy for many companies to justify buying such computers without a specific engineering usage.

In some ways, these comparative advantages also reflect weaknesses. Back in the days of the underpowered 128K Mac, about all that engineers could use their Macs for was to write cute memos in MacWrite. Even today, the Mac and Mac-based solutions are only cracking a small part of the computer-aided engineering market.

At the same time, the winning attributes of the Macintosh in business markets provide the cornerstone of Apple's efforts to expand sales in technical markets.

The common thread for computer-aided engineering has been complex quantitative analysis: "number crunching." This evolved from slide rules and stacks of scribled notes into the reams of computer-generated tabular data of the 1960s. Next came the ability to display graphical representations of such complex data on the screen. The Mac's role in this arena is already well-established.

Of course the Macintosh's strongest suit has been its ease of use. That is now becoming a key requirement for engineering computers, in hopes of reducing the relearning time required by engineers after long gaps between each new design or analysis effort.

The Mac's graphics and ease of use fueled the zeal of that species of early adopters known to friend and foe as "Mac fanatics." The fanatics have played key roles in selling the Macintosh in the large organizations included in the MacWEEK, 200, such as the major aerospace companies represented there.

But Apple's most important engineering move was introducing the Macintosh II almost two years ago. At last, the Mac was competitive with high-end DOS machines and low-end workstations, correcting a performance disadvantage that was particulary acute for floating-point numerical calculations.

Still, the current Macintoshes represent little threat to established engineering and graphics workstations for real-time data acquisition and simulation.

And due to the Mac II's relatively late entry, both DOS and workstation platforms have a large head start in attracting engineering solutions. Apple is working hard to address that lead.

Before the Mac II, Apple by-passed the annual A/E/C engineering trade show. It has been a major presence there ever since.

To complement such marketing efforts, Apple recently made changes to improve the distribution and support of Macintoshes to engineering companies.

As previously adopted for its A/UX efforts, Apple has pre-qualified a fraction of its reseller network to target engineering sales. The Apple- provided specialized training won't turn salesmen into rocket scientists, but it will better enable them to identify off-the-shelf solutions appropriate for each customer's needs.

And as part of the recent reorganization of the Apple Developer's Group, Apple now offers clearly defined support plans for two other conduits to engineering buyers. Value-added resellers have been integrated into the Apple Partners category, on a par with certified developers. And computer consultants -- those who provide specialized advice without actually selling hardware -- have their first official support from Apple as Apple associates.

Still, as with other Apple efforts to reach more customers, the company needs an ever-wider range of specialized solutions to win in the engineering market. I will discuss that need in my next column.

Will every user become a programmer? (2/14/1989)

Joel West, "Will every user become a programmer?" MacWEEK, v3, n7 (Feb 14, 1989):34.

DO YOU WRITE SOFTWARE for the Macintosh? Even if your employer isn't Microsoft or Claris, Apple may be looking for you.

Apple's newly restructured Apple Developer's Group is now reaching out to Macintosh users beyond its original target of third-party software developers. This comes as more programming power is being placed in the hands of users.

Apple's original Certified Developer program was responsible for the wide variety of software and hardware available for the Mac in early years and has been widely copied by Apple's competitors.

Such a successful track record is not something to be changed lightly. Why then did Apple announce a revamped program at last month's Macworld Expo?

Previously Apple's attention was focused on developing retail software that sells thousands of copies. Such software serves the needs of most Mac owners, particularly the individuals and small businesses that were the Mac's early users.

But recent years have seen the Mac reach large corporate and government organizations. At many of these sites, custom applications are developed by in-house programmers who previously had little help from Apple.

In addition, user programming traditionally has been important in the scientific and engineering markets, which have been targeted by Apple. Although an engineer may use a pre-programmed CAD package the way an accountant uses a spreadsheet, a technical researcher is more likely than most users to write new, specialized code to solve particular problems.

How has Apple addressed these changes? The new Partners and Associates program aims at two categories. The "partners" designation subsumes commercial software developers and publishers, hardware manufacturers and value-added resellers.

What's new is the extension of benefits to "associates," which includes anyone who develops software for his or her own organization, particularly those in education and the Fortune 500. The program also picks up those who previously fell between the cracks, including consultants, book authors and industry analysts.

Both categories get technical documentation and other mailings. The Partners get hardware price breaks and AppleLink tech support.

The pricing is designed to favor large organizations and those who are seriously committed to the Mac. Partners pay $600 per year vs. $350 a year paid by Associates -- a far cry from the early, disorganized years when a $100 software supplement subscriber received more than that back in floppy disks.

At the same time the definition of programming has grown from traditional application programming to include application customization. The idea, pioneered by products such as dBase II and Lotus 1-2-3, is to provide a way for users to build upon the built-in functionality of an application rather than build that functionality from scratch.

A database or spreadsheet would now be considered inadequate without programmable macros. Such capabilities are extending into other areas, such as communications. This may range from simple log-on macros to an integrated Mac-like front end to a mainframe database, as provided by Apple's scriptable MacWorkstation.

Apple's most important break-through here has been HyperCard, an intelligent browser in which the HyperTalk programming language was almost an afterthought. It would be wrong to say that any user can become a HyperCard programmer, but the package is more accessible than any previous programming environment. HyperCard has created a whole new industry of third-party solutions, particularly in vertical markets.

Nonprocedural programming has also become important. Here, users describe relationships instead of algorithms. Nonprocedural programming is manifest in many products, from spreadsheet formulas, relational databases, style templates and communication profiles. Such description are also the basis of some forms of artificial intelligence, including expert systems.

An increase in user customization does not mean a return to a decade ago when hobbyist computer owners wrote all their own programs. Instead, more elaborate customization through computer-aided software engineering promises to replace today's laborious process of application development.

Apple's tool development is important cog (1/31/1989)

Joel West, "Apple's tool development is important cog," MacWEEK, v3, n5 (Jan 31, 1989):32.

APPLE'S EVANGELISTIC EFFORTS on behalf of tools used for software development, such as programming languages, is unique. It both encourages outside products and preempts portions of the marketplace with its own products.

The right tools are an important lure for writing new application software, as well as a factor in making that software available sooner to users. What's more, Mac software development has expanded beyond just the commercial developer to include more end users. (I'll discuss this in more detail in my next column.)

As with application software, when publishers of third-party tools make money selling their solutions, Apple makes money selling hardware, and users have a wide range of off-the-shelf solutions to choose from.

Third-party tool developers get encouragement from Apple, but their products can also be wiped out if Apple competes. As the joke about IBM goes, if you get in bed with an elephant, don't expect to sleep very well because the elephant may roll over and crush you.

Why does Apple develop such tools? Originally, all software was strategically important to the Mac, but now Apple's focus is limited to "system software." And that includes tools.

Most computer manufacturers have three goals in their tools development:

* To facilitate development of operating system software.

* To let others write software.

* As a separate profit source.

Apple's tools reflect its open systems interconnect requirements, including coding new ROMs, diagnostic programs, System, Finder and drivers. The original system software was developed in assembler and Pascal, but the recent emphasis has been on C and C++, which is why all are found in MPW. And many of the revision control features of MPW 3.0 stem from Apple's difficulties in testing ROM and System updates.

Apple's tools match its original focus on developers of retail business applications, such as word processing and spreadsheets. Again, the availability of C, Pascal and assembler meets such needs.

However, the new thrust into scientific and engineering markets assures a crucial role for other languages. These less-popular niche languages have so far been handled exclusively by third parties.

Apple recently bought one such company, Coral Software, which offers Common Lisp. But Apple's goal was to start the nucleus of an AI research lab in the midst of the Cambridge/Route 128 talent pool, not to assume responsibility for Coral's existing products.

Besides Lisp, other important research and engineering languages include fortran, Ada and Smalltalk, and in all cases, Apple depends on outside suppliers.

Fortran development has been entirely driven by third parties, as Apple's young staff has little experience with this aging but still popular language. Apple's recent thrust into the federal market has lured Ada vendors Altsys, Meridian and Telesoft to develop this key product for government bids.

Meanwhile, Apple killed its own nearly complete MacSmalltalk 2.0 in favor of Digitalk's Smalltalk/V. The fact that the PC Smalltalk/V is the only commercially successful object-oriented product was an important factor in that decision.

The small size of the tools market means there will be no smash hits comparable to an Excel or PageMaker. To date, there are only two clear success stories. One is TMON from ICOM Simulations, a debugger that is more popular than Apple's MacsBug.

The second is LightspeedC, the most popular Mac compiler. Other C suppliers are either gone, or lag far behind. In contrast, Pascall dollars are split between MPW, Lightspeed, Turbo and TML.

Apple has helped third parties by licensing MPW, which is included with products such as Language Systems' Fortran, Meridian's Ada, SemperSoft's Modula-2 and TML's Pascal. That Apple did not charge hefty license fees to recover its multimillion-dollar MPW development cost suggests the strategic importance of such outside products.

But economic realities ensure that Apple will continue to be active in providing tools. Such tools are the foundation of Apple's strategy of using software to distinguish itself from its hardware competitors.

As one insider confided, "If we left it to other companies, most would go bankrupt, and there wouldn't be anything being done."

Five great moments in Macintosh history (1/17/1989)

Joel West, "Five great moments in Macintosh history," MacWEEK, v3, n3 (Jan 17, 1989):102.

THIS IS the time when many of us pundits reminisce about everything that has happened since the Macintosh was introduced five years ago.

Coincidentally, it's also the time of year for the annual NFL end-of- season frenzy.

The two audiences are not as unrelated as they might seem. At last year's Macworld Expo in San Francisco, in fact, attendance was markedly down during the 49ers playoff game.

For the football fan, one of the most popular TV features in the past few years has been the flashback to a great moment in football history, replaying a great touchdown run or interception return.

I decided I'd like to try something similar in honor of the Mac's fifth birthday, looking back at how Macintosh technology -- and the benefits it offers -- has evolved in those five years.

The Mac has come a long way since that first "insanely great" yet underpowered machine of 1984.

The original Macintosh was conceived as a home appliance, like a toaster, that would be used by individuals, not companies. As a side bet, Apple mounted an aggressive effort to convince each and every college student to own a Mac. Both were logical approaches for a company whose biggest markets were home computers and K-12 education.

Since then, the Mac has become a serious business computer, establishing its beachhead in corporate America and changing the rules as it goes along.

I've arbitrarily chosen five steps along the path from there to here. In chronological order, they are:

1. LaserWriter (1985). It saved the Macintosh, and possibly even the company, at its low ebb. It made PC owners insanely jealous and launched the Mac as a publishing platform, while inspiring the crucial second wave of Macintosh software.

And for a long, long time, it was the only reason to use AppleTalk -- reason enough to make AppleTalk the single most successful networking architecture as measured by the number of installed nodes. It also gave AppleTalk the field test that any product needs to evolve and mature.

2. Excel (1985). Some might argue for PageMaker, which allowed people to do things they had never done before. But for the operations side of corporate America, it was more important to do something it understood (bean counting) better than was previously possible.

The hard-core techies knew that a 68000 was more than a match for an 80286, but it took a head-to-head comparison to prove it.

3. Macintosh Plus (1986). Sure, it had more memory than an IBM PC AT and a decent-capacity floppy drive. And providing the option of a fast hard disk removed the last remaining obstacle to corporate acceptance.

More important, the Plus was the first hardware that was legally expandable by third parties, a step toward an open hardware architecture. You could now legally add third-party memory or a third-party disk drive to any machine.

The fact that SuperMac, rather than Apple, dominated the early SCSI drive market cemented the role of third-party hardware suppliers in the Macintosh market, guaranteeing a wider range of alternatives for the user.

4. Macintosh II (1987). The first of a second generation of CPUs, the Mac II introduced color and gray-scale capability, not to mention real horsepower.

The NuBus gave Apple a bus standard for the future. Since then, the range of third-party expansion options has proved that the Macintosh II is both a desktop microcomputer and a low-end workstation.

5. HyperCard (1987). It spawned hundreds of new companies, gave Apple a way to use CD-ROMs, made Danny Goodman a celebrity and forever changed the defintion of "system software." Meanwhile, its real impact has only begun to be felt.

My only question is, what can Apple Fellow Bill Atkinson possibly do for an encore?

In other areas, the evolution has been spread out among several products or revisions, rather than coming at one fell swoop.

For example, MultiFinder 1.0 was but one step, albeit crucial one, between Switcher and a true multi-tasking OS that has yet to appear.

And the Kanji Mac was a prototype for the truly international, Script Manager-based Macintosh of today.

As for the next five years, I'm not ready to prognosticate just yet. I'd probably have better luck predicting who will win the 1994 Super Bowl.

The '030's advantages for business users (1/3/1989)

Joel West, "The '030's advantages for business users," MacWEEK, v3, n1 (Jan 3, 1989):34.

APPLE WILL be introducing a series of 68030-based systems later this year, according to a recent speech by CEO John Sculley. Is this something the average business user should care about? For the following reasons, the answer is yes.

The current Macintosh Plus and SE contain the same Motorola 68000 CPU as the original 128K Mac, although its performance has been enhanced slightly because of changes in the video circuitry.

What user advantages does the 68030 offer over the 68000? To answer that, we need to look at each generation succeeding the '030.

The first successor, the 68010, corrected small problems in the original Motorola design and allowed it to support a multitasking operating system. The chip formed the heart of the first generation of engineering workstations.

Next came the 68020, which offered about four times the horsepower of a comparable 68000. It is considered the minimum necessary configuration to support Color Quick-Draw, the cornerstone of Apple's color and gray- scale graphics architecture.

Lastly, the 68030 integrates memory-management functions onto the CPU, allowing an operating system to protect one application from "bombing" the entire computer.

Why choose the newer '030 (now found only in the Macintosh IIx) over the '020 of the Macintosh II? Not performance, which is only about 20 percent faster than the '020, and that primarily because of an added cache. No, the main advantage of the newer '030 is the on-chip memory- management unit, or MMU. An MMU enables the CPU to assign different parts of RAM to separate applications, preventing one program from tampering with the memory used by another.

Motorola, for one, would like Apple to switch to its latest chip as of a head-to-head fight with Intel for prestige and market share.

The Apple account is important to Motorola's semiconductor division, both symbolically and financially. One brokerage estimated that one out of every seven 68020s shipped last year resided in a Mac II, making Apple Motorola's flagship customer.

By adopting the 68030 over the 68020, Apple indicates that it believes there is an advantage to increasing the installed base of systems with an MMU. A comparable situation occured a few years back in the MS- DOS world. Microsoft knew that its OS/2 would require the memory protection first available with the Intel 80286. Experience has also shown that Windows and the OS/2 Presentation Manager require the performance of an 80386- or fast 80286-based system.

Before introducing its new operating system, it was important for Microsoft to encourage sales of '286- and '386-based machines. That strategy has suceeded, with most of the MS-DOS machines sold in the past two years containing CPUs ready for OS/2.

By the same token, a future version of MultiFinder that supports memory protection and true multitasking requires the Mac to have an MMU. This can be either the built-in variety of the 68030 or the external 68851 available for the 68020. If most of the systems sold in 1989 and 1990 provide such an option, the Macintosh world will be ready, much in the way of the IBM PC and compatibles world, for an improved operaing system, which Sculley said is due in 1991.

In addition to memory protection, an MMU provides support for a virtual memory operating system. This allows an applciation to directly use more memory than is physically available in RAM. You could use a 2- Mbyte machine to manipulate high-resolution images, large page-layout documents or complex CAD drawings.

A new generation of hardware is also due for math calculations. We probably won't see the 68881 floatingpoint coprocessor on any machine after the Macintosh II. Instead, the 68030 is normally paired with the faster 68882 math coprocessor, as is found in the Mac IIx.

For a comparable price, the '882 provides a theoretical 50 percent speed improvement over the '881. Motorola has discouraged new applications of the '881 and plans faster chip cycles only for the '882. All of this points to why users should care about any new 68030-based platforms.

If you like, you can try a 68882 today, as it is a pin-for-pin successor to the 68881 and can be used to replace that chip on any Macintosh II.

The external math coprocessor should disappear entirely with the built-in floating point of the 68040, which Motorola plans to introduce later this year. But it probably will be 1991 before the Macintosh crowd reaches fortysomething.