ARMageddon and ARMistice

Filed under: Hardware

Twenty five years ago, in May 1992, at the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Chicago, Apple CEO John Sculley previewed Newton, a groundbreaking pen-based “personal digital assistant” technology. Manager and Newton champion Michael Tchao declared it “so easy to use that it actually assists the user”.

But the black, videocassette-sized device, with a 3-by-5-inch screen shown to the CES attendees wasn’t really working. (more…)

Sunday 01 October 2017, 11:49 am
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Jaguar Vs Cognac

The two projects, which aimed to bring RISC technology to the Macintosh, had totally different approaches and resources. Here are some of the main points which put them at the antipodes.

Jaguar had dozens of engineers from the start and was a very ambitious project.
Cognac, at least initially, had a much smaller team. Work started as a stopgap solution to bridge 68k and RISC, later evolved into a “plan B” and then became the only way forward for the Macintosh.

Since the 88k architecture wasn’t compatible with the 68k one, Jaguar engineers chose to start with a clean slate, even tough this meant that there would be the need to recompile all previous software for the Macintosh. This was similar to the IA-64 debacle of Intel’s Itanium , which was humiliated by AMD’s evolutionary way to add 64-bit computing capabilities to the existing x86 architecture.
The Cognac team was much more pragmatic. (more…)

Wednesday 23 August 2017, 10:04 am
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The 88110 CPU and the RISC workstations that never were

At the beginning of the Nineties both Apple and NeXT were planning to unveil new RISC machines, powered by the Motorola 88110 CPU. At that point the Motorola 68000 family, also known as 68k or m68k, was clearly a dead end and it was time to move on.

The MC88110 was part of a new RISC architecture from Motorola, the 88000, dubbed m88k, and looked like the right solution for both businesses, though it arrived a bit late on the market.

Originally called the 78000, to stress its kinship with the 68000, the new architecture promised to outclass the performance of the processors used in top of the line Macintoshes and NeXT workstations. (more…)

Friday 28 July 2017, 11:56 am
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The Mac IIfx: Apple enters the workstation market

Developed to quickly process data heavy tasks, run UNIX and… to satisfy a government contract.

Released in March 1990, the Mac IIfx at the time was the fastest and most responsive Mac ever built. While Apple dubbed it “Wicked fast”, users interpreted the “fx” as an acronym for “Fucking eXpensive”, since the computer cost an enormous amount of money: 10000 to 12000 USD, depending on configuration..
The IIfx was Apple’s first real workstation and was supposed to rival offerings by brands such as Sun, Hewlett Packard and Apollo.

Illustrazione Mac IIWhile externally identical to a Mac II, internally the IIfx was quite different. It was powered by a Motorola 68030 CPU running at 40 MHz (almost twice the clock of the fastest Mac previously available, the IIci) and its 32 KB Level 2 Cache wasn’t optional but built in.
(more…)

Tuesday 16 February 2016, 12:00 pm
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The Apple III, Steve Jobs and Jerry Manock

Filed under: Hardware,People

Apple’s first computer designed for the enterprise market, the first not engineered by Steve Wozniak. And Infinite Loop’s first major failure

The Apple III went down as a costly and embarrassing failure. It tarnished Apple’s image and contributed to lose a good chunk of the precious market lead the Cupertino company had conquered with the Apple II.

Announced in May 1980, but made available only several months later, the Apple III was sold at prices ranging from 4000 to 7000 USD, depending on the configuration. It was a professional machine partially compatible with the Apple II, an 8 bit computer also powered by the same 6502 CPU, but with a higher clock. It also had more RAM, a higher screen resolution, built-in disk drives and a keyboard featuring upper and lowercase keys and a numeric keypad.

The often quoted story about the Apple III goes that it was a failure because of Steve Jobs’ unreasonable demands, most of all his dislike for fans, whose addition he forbade. This design choice supposedly caused such overheating and malfunctions that Apple was forced to replace 14000 units, even after having users perform odd procedures to try and fix the computer.

It’s undeniable that the Apple III hardware had some kind of serious problem, but in 2007 the original case co-designer, Jerry Manock, refuted the case design flaw charges and set the record straight, partially absolving Steve Jobs. (more…)

Tuesday 02 February 2016, 1:00 pm
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