South Florida Sun Sentinel from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on February 10, 1984 · Page 65
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South Florida Sun Sentinel from Fort Lauderdale, Florida · Page 65

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Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Issue Date:
Friday, February 10, 1984
Page:
Page 65
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f i It l( t w ' . t 1 'It ' Sun-Sniinl, Friday, Feb. 10, 1984 3D Kirchhoff 'ST mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm 1 -mmmmmmmammmmmmmmmmmmmmammmmmmmmmm New Macintosh easy to operate, super in graphics Aye, Macintosh, you're a bonnie bit of binary. A wee slip of thing, but lovely none the less. No doubt, lassie, you'll become the apple of a lot of eyes. Frugal, you may not be, but, aye, accomodating you are. I'll stop now, not wanting to offend those of Scottish descent, of which there's a wee bit in me. For 90 minutes last week, I used Macintosh for writing a memo and watched a graphic being built to include in it. In the -world of electronic buzzwords, Macintosh is the most "user-friendly" unit on the market. Apple maintains if you can point, you can use it. And I got the point. For the first 100 days, Macintosh comes with word processing called MacWrite. And graphics called MacPaint. All for Mac$2,495. Bundle it with an Apple Imagewriter printer and it comes to big Mac$2,995. The basic unit comes with a keyboard, mouse (user control) and displaydisk-drive unit. The screen is a 9V -inch, black on white display. The internal disk drive holds 400K on a 3 -inch disk. The unit has 128K ram capability (expandable to 500K) and 64K of room devoted to the superior graphics. Options are a $125 numeric keypad, an overpriced $99 carrying case and a second plug-in disk drive. Currently there are only four software items available. Basic, MacWrite, MacPaint and Microsoft Multiplan, a spreadsheet. Apple's brochure mentions MacTerminal, MacProject and MacDraw, but the people at the computer store did not list them as available. And the major software people at Microsoft, Lotus and Software Publishing are busily converting popular programs for Macintosh. , How easy is. Macintosh to operate? The key is the "mouse," and electronic pointer and the "icon" driven software. Point the mouse's arrow to the appropriate graphic icon, tap the mouse and the work is done. For example, to use the word processor, put the arrow on the graphic display "MacWrite" and tap the mouse. Word processing is loaded. With a screen-displayed ruler, you set whatever margins and tab settings you want via the mouse. You can order the display in point size, normally 12 point, which is one-sixth of an inch high. You will get approximately 80 characters to a line in the 20-line display. If you don't mind smaller 9 point, you can get 100 characters a line. . Then you write whatever you want. If you want to move a para graph around, you use the mouse to define the block of text, you "cut" it and it disappears. Put your mouse arrow where you want the text inserted and "paste" it back In the text Graphically, Macintosh is the" ultimate doodlepad. The non-artist can compose graphics with ease, via a catalog of boxes, circles, backgrounds and even an electronic pencil that allows you to sketch and an electronic eraser to tidy up the finished product It will even expand the smallest section into a fullscreen display for meticulous refinement. As a 32-bit machine, the Macintosh is not compatible to all the current Apple-compatible software. Work done on the Macintosh is, however, transportable to Apple's top-of-the-line Lisa series. In other words, if it works on Macintosh, it will not work on Apple II or Apple III. There are only two things that really bug me about Macintosh. The "i" should be capitalized and when the unit is working on something it displays a watch. The watch isn't digital. So who is the Macintosh designed for? The marketing thrust is to the professional who wants a desk-top, stand-alone unit the executive who needs to compose memos and maintain a spreadsheet report What about as a home computer? Dealers will tell you to consider the Apple He if you are looking for educational software, games and the like. The software already exists in abundance. Or the TRS-80 low-cost units. Or the IBM PC. Macintosh is a dynamite machine. But always remember when shopping for a personal computer for home or business, the most important thing is: Will what I buy do what I need to do? Initial reaction to Macintosh has been outstanding. In four days, a Coral Springs computer center received orders for more than half a dozen. Right now, Apple is producing Macintoshes at the rate of 500 each normal working day. That may not be fast enough. Glenn Kirchhoff is editorial projects coordinator for the News and Sun-Sentinel and the newsroom link to company computer systems. His column appears every Friday in Lifestyle. Write to him in care of Lifestyle, News and Sun-Sentinel, Box 14430, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 33302 or 3521 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton, Fla. 33431. Bits n places By Bill DiPaolo Video game co-champ ; Computers are nothing to be afraid of. With concentration and patience, working them can be as easy as driving a car. And with a little more practice, the machines can be profitable. ' That's what Bill Mitchell, an i 8-year-old Hollywood resident, has learned. The lanky, dark-haired Chaminade High graduate is U.S. co-champion in Ms. Pac-jnan and Donkey Kong. Mitchell land the other winner, Tim Collum, 20, from Texas, were presented their titles Jan. 15 in Qttumwa, Iowa, after several competitions thoughout 1983. Mitchell's air fare to the competition was paid by a local Video arcade and he won $250 for the title. ! Mitchell says he is most proud of his victory in Ms. Pacinian, which he says is the f Cadillac" of video games. When his machine gulped its final dot after eight hours during his best (certified game, he was on the 118th of a possible 134 boards and iiad 682,000 points. S "Mitchell and Collum were Jwth so good we couldn't decide who to give the award to. This is our first crowning and we expect to be organizing this (every year for the whole planet," said Walter Day, director of the Twin Galaxies International Scoreboard in the south-central Iowa city. i Mitchell's next goal? "This ' spring, there's a contest to see if Anybody can play a video game 100 hours straight. Four days and four hours.) U I don't walk out ihe winner, nobody will," says Mitchell. "I'm not good, I'm tb ; ' best They call me the master." Meeting of user minds The Atari Computer Club of the Palm Beaches is planning its next meeting for Tuesday at the Dreher Park Science Museum and Planetarium. The 100-member club discusses, trades and lends Atari programs. Membership is $1 per meeting or $10 per year. An additional $10 is charged to join the lending library. The museum is at 4801 Dreher Trail, West Palm Beach. The club deals with Atari software and hardware only. For more information, call 967-8895. Computer schooling Hands-on training is available to people seeking to learn about computers in courses that cost between $99 and $125. All courses are four two-hour sessions for two weeks and can be scheduled for day or night. Courses are followed with a two-bour lab and computers are available for use by students when a class is not in session. The course includes study in: hardware, software and terminology, word processing, budget planning, financial and statistical anayisis and using the computer to plan in business. Courses are available for -individuals and businesses and instructors will provide in house training. For more information, call Computer Schools of America at 433 7450. Buzz word of the week LCD Liquid crystal display. In calculators and computers, the viewing screen Surf UlntraUoa by RAY M ELLEN . I Beware the surly computer Lies of omission abound in industry, computer 'humanist' says By Gene Schroeder The AjMKilc4 Prat jg ot all computers are friendly, says Merl Miller, who warns potential buy-J ers they may be told a number of un truths when they go shopping for one of the machines. : , - "Many of them are user-surly or user-hostile,", says Miller. who has written eight hooks on computers, and is board chairman of Dilithium Press, "Everything in this business is absolutely exaggerated," Miller says. Miller's latest book, co-authored with Jerry Willis, is Computers for Everybody Buyers Guide, which lists a dozen common "lies" of computer salespeople and suggests what the shopper can do about them. I "I don't think sales clerks tell lies intentionally," Miller says. "They frequently lie by omission rather than commission." According to Miller, virtually every computer on the market today is advertised as user friendly, which generally means the program doesn't take a long time to learn, is uncomplicated and has built-in protections against mistakes such as pressing a key that erases your work when you really mean to get a printed copy. "The main problem is that many computer models and programs are not easy to use, no matter what the ads claim," he says. "Many programs are considered fine examples of user-friendly programs by experienced computer operators who use their machines daily. "But these same programs are damned as some of the most unfriendly programs ever created by novices and part-time computer operators." Few programs are truly friendly to anyone, and those that are friendly to some may not be considered friendly by other users, Miller says, adding: "Saying a program is friendly really doesn't tell a potential buyer much. You need to know i how the program operates to decide whether or not you'll be comfortable using it. : "I'm a maverick in the sense that I believe i there's a simple way of explaining everything, from computers to nuclear physics," says Miller, a Wyoming native who launched his publishing firm in 1977 to explain computers in ways the consumer can understand. Miller says he doesn't like to be called a computer "expert" or "specialist," preferring the term "humanist" Among other dubious claims made by computer salesmen, says Miller, is that "there is a lot of software available for this computer." But definitions of "lots" vary from fewer than 20 , programs to thousands of them, he points out. "A few computers really do have thousands of programs available for them," Miller says. "Even among the front-runners, however, there, are gaps. . .Lots of software isn't enough. How much software is available in the areas that interest you? How good is the software? Will it run on your machine or do you have to spend another $1,000 on accessories before most of it will work?" Computer shoppers are also frequently told that certain features are available now when they are actually several months away from delivery to dealers. Another evasion encountered by potential customer who want to know about service. Miller says, is, "Call our 800 number any time you need help." "Some companies put the least experienced people on the phone lines," Miller says. "Others seem to give the job to the most surly employees. : Others use toll-free numbers to tell you the location of the dealer nearest you but give no tech-; nical support or help at all. "A fof l-frp nnmhpr rinm nnt npruiri?v mean anything. We actually have let the phone ring 30 minutes during working hours at some companies and received no answer." Frequently, sales people lie that "everything you need is included," says Miller. "If cars were sold the same way computers are, you would get a body and an engine. The steering wheel, tires, windows and everything else would all be options. "When you buy a printer, you have to have some method to connect it to your computer. Often neither the computer nor the printer comes with a cable, so you have to buy it separately. "Sometimes you get a great buy on the printer and then pay through the nose for the cable." In their book. Miller and Willis say the best rule for the potential buyer is to know what you are buying before you buy it They insist: "A computer is just another consumer product like a dishwasher, a typewriter or a video recorder. Don't look at it as a mysterious device that can only be understood by high-tech gurus. "You can understand it and you can get one that will do marvelous things for you." Computers lor Everybody Buyers Guide, is published by Dilithium Press, Beaverton, Ore. Trade show exhibits just following pack fuidioVit!so Stf( ky JOE WILLIS BUI Mitchell is co-champion in Donkey Kong and Ms. Pac-man. is made out of two pieces of glass with a plasmalike liquid in between. When an electric charge is sent through the liquid, the desired numbers, letters or symbols appear on the screen. Write to Bill DiPaolo in care of Lifestyle, News and Sun-Sentinel, Bos 14430. Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 333Ci or 3521 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton, Fla. 33431. Please inclmie your phone number. By Steven Levy ' Rolling Stoae he show at the Las Vegas jj Convention Center was U billed as the biggest computer trade show in the world. But by and large, there wasn't much to see. There were alcoves full of IBM-compatible portable computers, minishowrooms with projection screens running prerelease versions of new software packages, and space-age structures assembled by big companies offering small improvements on old products. But, it was a waste of time to haunt the 11 miles of aisles at Comdex: There were few real innovations to be found. There were a few interesting new products and some corporate announcements of minor significance But it soon became clear that the latest industry buzz word is "Me-too-ism." That describes the lemminglike mentality of most companies in the business. You can't really blame some of these companies for being afraid to take chances, because looming over the industry is the specter of the Coming Shakeout The only guaranteed survivor, many feel, will be IBM, and so most everyone else at Comdex was either hitching his wagon to that company's products or hedging his bets. One of this year's buzz words was "integrated software." This means you can use one computer program to do several tasks, each of which previously required a separate computer program on a separate floppy disk. One of last year's success r stories was a company that scored big with an integrated product called 1-2-3, which allowed a user to do financial "spreadsheet" calculations, graphics and data-base functions all at once. This year, everywhere you looked at Comdex, there were integrated packages, often costing more than $400.- The problem is, it has yet to be proven that people even want to do up to eight things at once. But no matter. The current wisdom is that people want this stuff, and the pack has accepted that wisdom. Most of the software and everything else at Comdex was geared to run on the LBM-PC. IBM has become as dominant in. microcomputerdom as it has in the mainframe world. At Comdex, IBM rented out a whole wing of the Convention Center. The most amusing thing in this wing was a classroomlike situation in which IBM, for the first time, allowed people to have a hands-on session wuh their much touted new "home" product, the PCjr. Typical comments I everheard were "It's impossible to type on this machine." That's an accurate assessment of the inexplicably toylike keyboard, which is lethal to touch-typists. Almost everyone in the computer industry has reached the conclusion that the IBM PCjr is an overpriced, unimaginative machine, but few admit that publicly. But it has those three big In ' :!s, they say, so people t- - ;

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