Saturday, December 29, 2018

1990s Technology Flashback

SUMMARY: Macintoshes and software and megabytes, oh my!

I'm sorting through old papers again and found this one saved email from 1990 that is a complete keeper-- so many things I had completely forgotten about! And how very much things have changed!

I bought my first mac -- a 512K -- in 1984, and when the drives stopped working and I couldn't get repairs or replacements, I bought my next mac and sent this plea to the company I worked for. I've just had a blast reading through it.




Ellen’s original email asking for info, December, 1990


Original-msg:

I've just replaced my old 512K (Mac—Minus) with a IICX but I have a
problem: I bought most of my software 5 years ago and haven't upgraded
it or paid much attention to what's going on Out There since then. As a
result, I have a marvelous machine that none of my software runs on
and I need to (sigh) also spend $ on new software. I'm trying to narrow
down my initial search by asking friends for their recommendations
rather than having to go out and find demos and try everything.

1) Word processing software: The original MacWrite has more features than
I need for 98% of the writing I do--I do a lot of writing but it's mostly
fiction; all I need to do is type paragraphs in and print them out. Macwrite
II looks pretty fancy. . .and expensive. .. what are my other options & why
should I spend $ on which?

2) Desktop publishing: I print things in "newsletter" format 6-12 times a year,
which means I need some sort of page layout thing that also handles
text processing and can at least import graphics. I don't want to spend
more than a few dollars for something that I so seldom use (and in a
purely amateur sense), but about the least expensive thing that looks
reasonable is Publish It Easy (discounted around $110) . Anyone had any
experience with this (it's fairly new), or have other inexpensive
recommendations? I've always used MacDraw in the past, and other than
being pretty inflexible for text processing, it has otherwise met
my needs. (But I'm not sure my old version of Draw works, either.)

3) Database: I spent $50 for Reflex which Borland no longer supports, so
I've got thousands of records of things like household inventory and
savings accounts that I need a new database manager for. A lot of people
have been plugging FileMaker——I've worked 9 years in the Relational
Database Management System world, though, so a little complexity and
programing requirements don't bother me (like 4D or Helix)
as long as the thing is really flexible and cheap. Any suggestions?

4) Project Management: Anyone used MacProject lately? Or any other project
scheduling tools on the mac? Does anyone have a copy I could borrow to
try out?

5) I was forced to buy a system with only 1meg RAM; I’m pretty sure I need
more, but I don't yet have a good feel as to whether 2meg will be
sufficient for most things or whether I should go higher...

Thanks
-ellen





Date: Fri, ll Del: 90 15:33:13 PST
Date—Delivered: Fri, ll Dec 90 15:32:38 PST
From: pbk
To: elf
cc : macintosh_users : ;
Subject: Re: Assorted Mac questions
In—Reply-To: !our message of "Fri, ll Dec 90 15:21:58 PST"

To cover both aspects of 1) and 2), I have been using Word for many years,
upgrading to the latest version as they come. I may stop at version
4 since there is not much more thing I dream of that it does not
contain. If you used MacWrite, learning Word is easy. It also contains
fancy features like several columns, columns with strange shape because
you have planted figures in the middle of them, automatic TOC, Index,
a mode that allows "structure editing" (ie. working on the overall
structure of the program), spelling checker is OK (in English), not
so bad in French, It builds table, has a sort of sublanguage to write
nice looking math formulas, etc. ..

One interesting thing: This is probably one of the only program who never
blew in my face (you know the little sad looking guy or the little bomb)
and never destroyed or eaten up hours of typing.

Having owned a IICX I can tell you that pretty soon you’ll discover that
there is not much you can do with 1meq, especially if you want the comfort
of the multifinder, If you have a big screen, etc. ...

Philippe




Date: Fri, 14 Dec 90 15:12:28 PST
Dute—De1ivered: Fri, ll Dec 90 15:38:56 PST
From: ndw
To: elf
Cc: macintosh users:;
subject: Re: Assorted Mac questions
In-Reply-To: Your message of "Fri, 14 Dec 90 15:21:58 231"‘

1. Macwrite II . .expensive. .other options. . .

If you really don't need much beyond whet is pretty much common to
all Mac word processors, I’m sure I have some bulletin board stuff
that will work fine (for free or ShareWare) . If you have a friend
who is a student at Stanford, you can get Textures (TeX) for about
$125. It solves 1 & 2 if you don't need WSYWIG. It's among the best
TeX implementations I've seen.

2. Desktop publishing. . .

You might want to see what fancy features are in the BBB stuff. I
haven't used any of the new cheap programs. I use FullWrite mainly,
Microsoft Word when I have to.

3 Database. . .

I haven't tried Oracle yet, but 4D is the biggest and bestest database
program besides that I've tried or heard of. If you don’t need all
the add on modules that other developers give away on the BBSes, the
high end scripting capabilities, DB fields that are sub databases,
graphical layouts that can be included in other graphical layouts, etc.,
FileMaker is probably your next best bet. (I haven't used Helix)

4. Project Management. . .

I haven't used MacProject in the last year or so. There are a couple of
PM tools on the BBSes, as I recall. Mostly low end, one or both may
have been DemoWare.

5. Ram…

At under $5 /MB, I would buy at least another 4MB. If you are a heavy
user and use Finder a lot, 8MB is nice.



Date: Fri, 14 Dec 90 15:46:00 PST
Date-Delivered: Fri, 14 Dec 90 15:ll:01 PST
Fran: vnv
To: elf
Cc: macintosh_users : ;
subject: Re: Assorted Mac questions
In-Reply-To: Your message of "Fri, ll Dec 90 15:21:58 PST

I don't know the answers to your questions; but you might find the
following useful if you don't get answers to them from anyone else:

*  Computerware at El Camino and California Ave in Palo Alto is
a great place to buy (good prices) and try out software. They
specialize in MacIntosh software and have a large selection,
knowledgeable staff, and you can try out any of it. ..

* Another great opportunity to see software is coming up in
January at the MacWorld Expo in SF. This is one of the
biggest Mac shows of the year. It runs Wed Jan 9 thru
Sun Jan 13, 1991. The price is a steep $25 to attend
the exhibits. Often times their are booths selling software
at a steep discount there. I plan to attend; if there is
some literature about a product you would like me to pick
up l will try to do so.

Good  Luck, Victor


Date: Fri, ll Dec 90 l5:lB:2l PS1‘
Dete—De1ivered.: Fri, ll Des 90 15:47:37 PST
From: jds
To: elf
Cc: macintosh_users : ;
subject: Re: Assorted Mac questions
In-Rep1y—To: Your message of "Fri, 14 Dec 90 15:33:13 PST


The only thing I can add to what’s already been stated is to avoid
WriteNow at all costs, even though various desktop publishing programs
recommend (or require) it -- it is unusually inflexible, and gives you
few of the options mentioned by PBK. You'll hate your Mac if you are
forced to use that program.



Date: Fri, 14 Dec 90 15:55:03 PST
Date-Delivered: Fri, ll Dec 90 15:52:01 PST
From: mdw
Tu: jds
Cc : ma¢:intosh__users : ;
Subject: Re: Assorted Mac questions
In—Reply—Tc: Your message of "Fri, ll Dec 90 15:18:24 PST”


WriteNow is supposed to be about the fastest for flat out mass changing
stuff. Nisus, which I occasionally use, is also pretty fast. Nisus also
has a lot of confusing features. It tries to be everything to everybody
and  so is a bit down on my list.




From: bobbach@mai1_pc
Subject: Assorted Mao questions
Date: Fri, 14 Dec 90 16:03:00 PST
Date—Delivered: Fri, ll Dec 90 16:04:54 PST

For Word Processing - I recommend using MS Word, mostly because
everyone else uses it, and it might be able to cover your low-end DTP
needs as well. I still use Macwrite 5.01 a lot myself - it should work
fine on your CX. Other good programs are Nisus, WriteNow, and MacWrite II.

For Database SW - I recommend FileMaker Pro (the new version of II and 4) .
It is a flat file manager, but unless you specifically need relational
capacities and features, Filemaker will serve your needs nicely. I also
used to use Reflex myself.

Definitely plan on getting more RAM. I recommend 4 megs  - and for about
$100 you can get Virtual, the virtual memory init that will give you 14
functional megs of RAM with almost no degradation of speed (w/4 megs;
some slowdown w/ 1 or 2 megs). You will probably need an 80 meg HD — 40
will work if you don't fill it up. It is definitely nice to be able to
comfortably use Multifinder.

— BobB


Date: Mon, 17 Dec 90 10:56:51 PST
Date—De1ivered.: Tue, 18 Dec 90 12:52:51 PST
From: egb
: T0: jla
Cc:
macintnsh_users : ;
Subject: Re: Assorted Mac questions
In-Reply-E0: Your message of "Mon, 17 Dec 90 15:16:36 +0100"

re word processing, I'm a fan of word. I wrote my OOD book entirely on word,
and was able to produce camera ready copy from it (we did the illustrations
in adobe illustrator).

re databases, I  use omnis 5 for all my household files. it takes some
programming, but is pretty flexible.

egb


Date: Mon, 17 Dec 90 13:29:56 +0100
Date-Delivered: Mon, 17 Dec 90 01:25:10 PST
Prom: jla
To: elf
Cc: jla
Subject: Re: Assorted Mac questions
In—Rnp1y—'!'02 Your message of "Fri, ll Dec 90 15:21:55 PST"

Hello Ellen,

I was a user of the Macintosh in my previous job, and I have at home a
Mac SE/30 bought in feb 90. Therefore I can answer some of your
questions. I did not understand for sure if this is for your job or if
you have to buy software on your own money.

WORD PROCESSING
I have used both Macwrite II and (Microsoft) Word 4.
Macwrite II is much better than the initial Macwrite, while having the
same user—friendliness. For most documents this is my favorite. It can
export and import files to/from other word processing software (with in
general some loss of formatting information however)

I have used also Word 4, when I needed an automatic summary, or to be
able to modify the formatting of many paragraphs at once. This is
necessary when the document contains more than a few pages. You should
be able to transfer files to Word PC format without any loss of information (I
never checked it on complex documents), and probably from Word PC to any
other PC word processing system, since Word is a de facto standard.

I don't think you need both Macwrite II and Word. I can send you a
disquette with these software, not to pirate them, but to try before buying

DESKTOP PUBLISHING
I have no personal experience. I think the standards are Paqemaker and
Xpress. In my previous job they chose Xpress for brochures, etc.

DATABASE
I have no personal experience, but this was chosen in my previous job.
If you have no compatibility requirement with PCs, 4D is the standard,
which allows you to build complex applications IF you write programs in
the internal language (not so complex if you have some experience in
programming) . There is also another product, made by the same editor as
4D, which is cheaper because it does not have all the 4D features
(though relying upon the same "engine") . I could find the name of this
product if you wish.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT
No experience .

MEMORY
You should have 4 Mb. The reason is the following : if you want to cut
and paste between 2 applications (say for instance word and Excel), you
must have in memory : Multifinder, Word, Excel, Word document, Excel
document. With multifinder and one application of the size of Word, 2 Mb
are not sufficient. I know Apple memories are not cheap, but you can
find elsewhere 1 Mb chip for around 100$. Check the access time (I think
70 ns is required for a IIcx, but not sure).

However you can start with 2 Mb, if you use the Finder and only one
application. But it depends on the number of fonts you have, of DAs,
etc. I personally could not work any more with the Finder, I am used to
the Multifinder.

Hope this will help you

Jean-Luc







Couple of follow-on notes:
  • Memory: My new current Macbook Pro has 16 GB of RAM.  That's 16,000 times more memory than the default 1 meg that came on that new machine!
  • "DAs" - desk accessories, sort of like plug-ins that helped you to do common little things. I think clocks and such were DAs at one point. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desk_accessory#Apple_Macintosh
  • Finder vs MultiFinder: Used to be that you were either viewing a list of files on your computer (Finder) OR some application. One at a time. No windows!  Multifinder came out and allowed you to have more than one thing open at a time! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MultiFinder 
  • Word processing software-- I can't believe how blase I was about anything other than plain text! My whole life revolves around text formatting!
  • Notice no mention by me or anyone about photo editing.
  • By "import graphics" I meant little clip art things, which is how most of us got graphics into a  lot of docs--I bought huge collections of thousands of wonderful little bitmapped images and avidly looked through them all to see what lovely creativity they could inspire.
  • Number of fonts--  used to spend hours perusing  what was available and installing and uninstalling them in carefully curated sets because memory could handle only a few at a time. Now--  I have no idea, might have hundreds or thousands of typefaces and their variants and I never do any management of them at all.
  • $110 seeming like a lot for a word processing tool?  hahahahaha!
  • $25 seeming steep for admission to a big trade show?   hahahahah!
  • coworker's comment "have been using Word for many years,upgrading to the latest version as they come. I may stop at version 4 since there is not much more thing I dream of that it does not contain. " -- hahahaha! "Everything has been invented that anyone could ever want for a personal computer, why expect anything more?"



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