The first fonts of the Macintosh

Filed under: People,Software

During the summer of 1983, after spending more than six months creating symbols and icons for Macintosh files and menus, designer Susan Kare‘s attention turned to an issue she very much cared about: fonts.

Apple Macintosh Commercial - Susan Kare

At the time, on most personal computers, each letter was allotted the same space regardless of its shape. Thanks to its bitmap high resolution display (and Steve Jobs’ obsession with calligraphy) the Macintosh was capable of rendering proportional fonts, “leaving behind the tyranny of monospace alphabets with their narrow m’s and wide i’s” as Kare recalls.

The tireless engineer Bill Atkinson had already given two fonts to the Macintosh, a calligraphic one and a placeholder one, the latter converted from Xerox’s Smalltalk systems that inspired Apple.

xeroxfonts-byte081981pag120

Free from the requirement of making digital versions of print, scalable or already existing fonts, Kare focused on optimizing screen readability creating new bitmap fonts in specific sizes, controlling every single pixel as she was wont to do. (more…)

Tuesday 24 February 2015, 2:30 pm
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Marvel Villains and Apple Technology

Filed under: Did you know that...

In issue 18 of Marvel‘s comicbook Secret Avengers the writer, Warren Ellis, makes a bit of fun of mobile computing and Apple software.

Secret Avengers 18 - pag 01 dett

The story, wonderfully illustrated by David Aja and Raul Allen, tells about a secret mission by a trio of heroes: supersoldier Steve Rogers, agent Sharon Carter and martial artist Shang-Chi. Among their enemies is a “damaged” copy of supervillain Arnim Zola, able to transmit his consciousness into grotesque robotic bodies. (more…)

Friday 13 February 2015, 2:15 pm
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The PPC 603e: from Macs to outer space

Performa 5200The second generation of PowerPC processors made its debut in april 1995 with the launch of the all-in-one Power Macintosh 5200 LC (also known under the Performa moniker). The computer sported a brand new PPC 603 chip with a 75 MHz clock frequency, an 8 KB first level cache and a 37,5 MHz bus.

The 5200 – together with the more powerful 6200, launched in May 1995 – was one of the few Macintosh models powered by the PowerPC 603 in its original version. In fact, it became soon evident that the reduced cache in the processor didn’t get along with the Mac’s operative system at all. The Mac OS at the time was mostly made up of code for 68000 processors, and it was being emulated. With not enough cache, the performance was abysmal earning a bad reputation to the first Macs with the 603 processor.

The problem was solved creating a variant of the processor, the PPC 603e. It had a larger, 16 KB cache (just like the PPC 601 had) and it was made to run faster, speeding it up from the original 120 MHz to 200 and later even to 300 MHzs. Such features made possible a much longer and broader use of the processor, including in laptops.

At the Macworld Expo in Boston in August 1995 Apple presented, among other things, the PowerBook 5300 and the PowerBook Duo 2300, two computers with opposing philosophies and target audiences, but sharing an almost identical core hardware. (more…)

Thursday 29 January 2015, 2:00 pm
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The Macs of “Death Note”

Filed under: Did you know that...

Published by Shueisha in Japan (and by Viz Media in the US) “Death Note” is a thriller manga about a high school student who discovers a supernatural notebook granting the ability to kill anyone, knowing his/her name and face.

deathnote-logo

Written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, “Death Note” was first serialized in Shueisha’s japanese manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump from December 2003 to May 2006 and then the 108 chapters were collected into 12 tankōbon volumes between May 2004 and October 2006.

deathnote-chapter1-appledisplay

Why are you reading about a manga on Stories of Apple? Because the illustrator, Obata, has chosen to prominently feature a number of Apple products throughout the [comic] book. Many of the characters, among which are the genius detectives known as “L” and “N”, use Macintosh computers* in their research, monitoring and communication work.

Here’s a list of Apple products appearing in “Death Note”, chapter by chapter, with technical notes and (edited and enhanced) pictures.

Chapter 1: Boredom

At the end of chapter 1 we see “L” for the first time. He is sitting on the floor of an unfurnished room, in front of a Power Macintosh G4 and a matching Apple Studio/Cinema Display, probably a 20″ or 23″, plus one of the Harman/Kardon-designed round external Apple Pro Speakers.

deathnote-chapter1-powermacg4wdisplayandprospeaker
(more…)

Wednesday 21 January 2015, 3:00 pm
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Mac OS 9: still alive and kicking after 15 years

Filed under: Did you know that...

Apple introduced Mac OS 9, the last edition of the “classic” Mac OS line, in 1999 and buried it less than three years after in May 2002, at its WWDC (WorldWide Developer Conference).

During the WWDC keynote, Steve Jobs officiated a mock ceremony where he actually buried a giant box of Mac OS 9 in a coffin after a humorous and a bit irriverent funeral oration, complete with organ accompaniment.

And yet, despite its official sendoff, the “old” OS has refused to rest “in the great bit bucket in the sky” where the iCEO so hastily put it.

Mac OS 9 has not only been the main OS for quite a few years during the early and immature phase of Mac OS X’ existence, but there are users stubbornly and happily using it right now, in 2014. They are still making the most of it on supported Macs and some have even successfully hacked unsupported models harnessing all of the power of the PowerPC chips.

You see, at the time of Mac OS 9’s “death” Apple not only put all of its resources behind the newer OS, but also made it impossible to natively run the OS on its new Macintoshes, relegating it to the emulated Classic environment. Starting from 2003 Apple introduced new Mac which could only boot in Mac OS X. In 2004 this forced “transition” was a reality, also thanks to the fourth major release of OS X, Panther, which cut support for older Macs such as beige G3s and the “Wall Street” PowerBook G3s. (more…)

Thursday 15 January 2015, 4:00 pm
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