The Macintosh is a magnificent piece of work, but I have discovered numerous ways it could be better. My observations are listed here in the hope someone is reading this, someone who can do more than I can do, sitting here with nothing more penetrating than MacPaint and MacWrite (and now MacForth) to gouge at the software innards of this thing.
Abort key is not available globally. It is very easy to click on the wrong icon when opening a file, and then recovery is possible only after much time and disk finagling. A key to abort an unintended operation would be better. Command-period stops printing in MacWrite. Why not allow it to stop every operation in every application, like on the Lisa?
Caps lock is a mechanical push-on, push-off switch rather than being implemented with software as in almost all other contemporary microcomputers. If it were just a plain switch like all the other keys, there would be that much less to break!
Clock cannot be continuously displayed while working in an application. Also, there should be a way to enter the current date or time into a file with one keystroke in MacWrite.
Command? What is this "command" stuff? Why invent a new word when the old one (control) works fine? Command's cloverleaf symbol is unavailable from the keyboard. The only way I have been able to include it in any document is by creating it in MacPaint! All kinds of other symbols are available, but the examples I tried to type while writing this did not copy over to the note pad from the keycaps desk accessory.
Cut and paste from one disk to another has to go through an application. Trying to copy the clipboard file to another disk has not worked for me. It seems the only alternative is copying the scrapbook file, clobbering whatever was in the scrapbook of the destination disk. A cut and paste buffer in memory as well as on disk would be super.
FatBits entry shortcuts other than via the pencil should be available. Toggling from the pencil to the grabber with the option key is nice, but other tools in FatBits should also toggle to the grabber.
Grabber could be used as a selection tool in a way that adds to the power of the lasso: command-grabber could simply drag any lasso-able object without the need to first delimit it.
Halfsize output to allow small, higher resolution graphics would have been trivial to implement, since MacPaint draft mode outputs two (slightly overlapping) printer pin strikes for each screen pixel, thereby using ribbons faster, taking more time, and making lines too thick.
Housings for the Mac have room enough for two disk drives.
Idiotproofing of potentially disasterous actions like disk initialization should be accomplished with a command-mouseclick, not just a mouseclick.
Input of any ASCII character into a MacWrite file would be nice for controlling printers or down-loading files into other machines that have less friendly editors.
Keyboard buffering is sometimes ignored. If you want to close an application and eject the disk, you have to wait for the Mac to do a certain amount of namby-pambying with the disk before you can type command-e, same as on the old Apple II.
Memory is woefully inadequate, resulting in too many disk swaps and a resultant loss of productivity. OK, so Apple (justifiably) did not want to be in the RAM retailing business. Still, the machine should have been designed to be expanded to a megabyte of internal memory, even with 64K chips. Considering the price of memory these days, and the direction of the marketplace, the decision to limit a supposedly serious machine to 512K was unconscionable. Also, upgrading to 256K chips should have been easier, if not for the user, then at least for third party providers. There are such things as reliable chip sockets, and their inclusion in the Mac would have been nice.
Note pad should automatically take you onto the next page when a page is filled, instead of beeping at you!
Printed output on a lowly MX-80 using the CP/M-based Fancy Font program looks better than Mac's output on an Imagewriter. Since there is an Imagewriter driver, why not an MX-80, or other? The Prowriter would have been a fine printer for the Mac. Inexorably tying the Mac to the Imagewriter was a blunder.
Redirection, such as listing any file to the console or printer, and directing a file from any input device to any output device, should not be absent, but only hidden from the beginning user.
Saving the current document to disk every so often, automatically and transparently, so you would have to remember to do it only at the end of a session, would be great.
Scrapbook takes a lot of time to thumb through. It should have a pictorial index like Print Catalog in MacPaint. Then you could select a picture by clicking on its (greatly reduced) icon. If a scrapbook picture is large, sometimes part of the image shows, but sometimes "too large to show here" is all it offers. That seems inconsistent.
Screen should blank out if there's no activity for a certain period of time (adjustable from the control panel), and come back on after a keypress. The Lisa and even the lowly DEC Rainbow do that. It's not like the Mac doesn't have an internal clock or anything...
Scroll bars are a necessary evil to select portions of text far away from the insertion point. But it seems that merely running the mouse against the border of a window (up, down, right, or left), with the option key held down, would more naturally scroll a window. Running the mouse all the way over to the elevator and back again seems tedious.
Shift-click, to extend selections, should be global, to allow operations such as copying multiple scrapbook entries to the clipboard. Admittedly, the clipboard is only intended to hold one item, but as a three or four item stack it would be terrific. Although the scrapbook holds multiple items, it is much more cumbersome to use.
Sound output is nice, but since the circuit is essentially an analog generator with a bipolar amplifier at the output, why does the bell sound end with a very definite digital clunk even though it decays? Why not make the sound port bidirectional so as to also be a sound (or general analog) input, on the same connector? Then programmers could try their hand at speech input programs or general one-channel (or with an external mux, multichannel) data acquisition programs, without (much) extra hardware. Also, the sound generation circuit takes up way too much space (badly needed for more memory) on the Mac's board.
Titles will display on the last MacWrite page if there is text on the last line of the previous page.
Toggles would be better for switching selected text from plain to fancy and vice versa. Instead of command-b for bold and command-p for plain, you would only have to hit command-b to toggle the selection.
Windows in MacPaint are immotile, and severely limit the size of graphics. Why the wide borders around the window? If the window has to be a fixed size, it should be bigger. We could live with only one tier of the most frequently used patterns, with others callable through Goodies.
Window positions should be remembered by applications. It's tedious to reset windows to favorite positions every time an application is opened.
Wrong disk insertions should beep rather than just spit disks back out. When using more than two disks, you can repeatedly insert the wrong one by failing to correctly read the dialog box prompts.
Editors' Notes: Your wish list definitely has the flavor of being compiled by someone who likes computers for their own sake, and who enjoys poking machines' "innards". Our own biggest wishes would be for an integral hard disk, a Finder with decent document capacity, and some good business data processing software.
We, too, thought the clock was too shy, until we found it hiding under MacWrite's window. Note that copying the clock allows the date and time to be pasted with just a command-v.
A 512K limit is unconscionable? Do you hear what you're saying? Wasn't it fairly recently that everyone was running quite successfully on 32K? We think the problem is not that vendors aren't putting in enough memory, but that they (and their customers) haven't discovered how nicely demand-paged operating systems using virtual memory can get by with miniscule amounts of RAM. Seems to us that Apple gets away with defining and controlling the product and its peripherals as it suits them because Mac is popular and unique, not just another DOS machine.
Doesn't your automatic save idea defeat the undo concept? We like your typestyle toggles, but command-p would still be handy for clearing up text that's bold, italic, and underlined all at once.
The Rest Of Our DataTower Findings
Our first installment in issue #16 about Priam's huge DataTower disk for the Lisa mentioned some of our initial findings about the product as we installed and tested it for the first time. (Before we forget, our thanks to Howard Pearlmutter for reminding us that the surprising DataTower icon we found probably originated from Priam's interface board, not Lisa's old ROMs.) Since that issue, we've made a few more discoveries.
In the minus column of our evaluation sheet goes the disappointing news that, unlike the support for Apple's own disks, Lisa's 7/7 operating system does not currently provide the option to partition the DataTower for MacWorks. In the plus column goes the good news that 7/7 supports an enormous number of files, so that the entire disk can easily be put to use. At one point in our testing, we loaded the DataTower with 4,735 documents and folders occupying almost 70 megabtyes of disk. Unlike Mac's Finder, which begins to thrash when even fewer than 100 files have accumulated, 7/7 (and even the 3.0 Workshop!) took the load in stride, performing opens and saves as quickly as when the disk is empty.
We were able to complete the save and restore tests we mentioned in the first installment, and ended up with both good news and bad news. A total backup of the disk (remember that the whole disk is copied to 1/4" tape cartridges, regardless of how much data is actually present) takes about 13 minutes for the first tape cartridge, and then another 9 minutes for the second, final cartridge. Unfortunately, 7/7 crashes at the end of a DataTower backup, and the Lisa must then be rebooted. However, the backup tapes are still good, as we verified by doing a restore, which begins with erasing and initializing the disk (14 minutes), then reading and loading the first tape cartridge in 11 minutes, and the second tape in 7 minutes. The movements of the tape imply that backups perform a read-after-write for verification, but we haven't seen any documentation to support that theory. One discovery was that a Lisa with the Priam interface card installed (but the DataTower unconnected) can't boot 2.0 off a Profile, though most DataTower users probably won't be interested anyway in keeping 2.0 around. (We happen to have one Lisa that needs to run both 2.0 and 3.0 at different times.)
If you're using 7/7 or the 3.0 Workshop, need a disk with a large capacity and fast backups, don't need MacWorks, and don't mind loud fans, we can recommend the DataTower. The unit we received has been fast, reliable, and convenient. We're giving it a Thumbs Up.
A Landlord's Tussle With Habadex
by G. Kurt Thompson
As most Habadex users know by now, Version 1.0 had quite a few problems and was subsequently replaced by Version 1.1, which was to have corrected those problems as well as add several new capabilities. For the most part, I will restrict my comments here to Version 1.1 and attempt to review its best and worst features.
I purchased Habadex 1.0 in June 1984, and dutifully copied the master disk. I then began the process of entering the names and addresses of nearly 400 mobile home lessees. About halfway through, with 185 records keyed in, a local power outage spiked the file. I tried to recover the data and lost the backup copy in a subsequent power outage. That afternoon I bought an uninterruptible power supply and the data entry process began again. Luckily, the Habadex master had not been in the drive and was unharmed.
Once I had my records in Habadex, I tried to print labels for a mandatory mailing that had to take place by the middle of July. I quickly found that Habadex would not print the labels except one on top of the other and with draft quality. I immediately contacted Haba Systems and was told that 1.1 was finished and a copy was promised to me by return mail. I am sure that it was mailed, but I had to request three shipments before I finally had the new version on hand. In the meantime, three more weeks had passed with the deadline closing in. I went back to work in earnest, knowing that I was running critically short of time.
Habadex was touted to hold up to 1,000 records and give immediate access to each and every one. It does, in fact, give very quick access to any record, but it is full to capacity at around the 400 record level. My disk contains about 386 individual records and has contained as many as 396. At that level, I was running out of disk space according to the running tally and had only 2K of empty space remaining. So, I removed a number of the records to regain working space. To my utter horror, after I had deleted ten full records, I regained no space whatsoever! It appeared that the counter could add but not subtract. I tested this theory on a disk with only 36 records and the same thing occurred.
To avoid running out of disk space, and it is critically important not to do so, refrain from deleting records when they are no longer needed. Instead, use the same old record and simply overtype your new information into its fields. This is not a proper approach, but it will certainly help. Version 1.1 occupies more disk space than 1.0, so when I transferred records from a disk having about 16K remaining, I was suddenly left with about 4K. I have ordered the Desk Accessory Mover from CE Systems in Des Moines in a last ditch attempt to free up more space.
I said it is critically important not to get the disk too full. Habadex 1.1 will support printing in standard quality (though the documentation says high), a vast improvement over 1.0, which would only print in draft quality. But if you unwisely get close to the 400K capacity of the disk, you will discover that Habadex will no longer print in standard quality. Since draft quality is unacceptable for any business correspondence, this effectively disables your mail merge capability. All other printing functions are also reduced to draft quality.
At another time, I ran into serious trouble with my Habadex. With 398K on the disk, I tried to delete a record that had inadvertently been entered twice. As soon as I did so, Habadex bombed. After trying everything I could think of to salvage the disk, I called Haba Systems. No one seemed to be able to explain what had happened, and I received the all too familiar "we'll send you a new master disk!" When you have nearly 400 records tied up in a piece of software that has bombed, the last thing you want is a new master disk.
This problem persisted for about four weeks before I happened to find an unlabeled copy of my disk that predated the bomb. I very carefully made a copy of the old disk and then deleted the duplicated record. No bomb appeared! I noted that I had 4K remaining available on the disk. After three days of work, I was able to update the four weeks of changes that had occurred since that copy had been made. I then tried to create more space, but was unable to get credit for any deletions of records. Over a period of time, my disk finally reached 400K (with no warning from Habadex) and I discovered that the print quality had reverted to draft only.
If you select the list printing function of Habadex, you will undoubtedly discover that it prints the lines of the list too close together to read easily. One way around this is to either indent or outdent the first field you include when selecting fields and designing the list.
Fields can now be renamed within Habadex. This was one of the most useful changes made in the new version. However, the 1.1 Addendum lists quite a few reasons why you should not rename approximately 14 of the 19 fields. Furthermore, there is no explanation whatsoever as to how to rename a field. I found by experimentation that I could get a total of 16 characters on two lines. If you want to use two lines, just space after the word you want on line one. Your next word will automatically be placed on line two. If line one is to be made up of more than one word, you have to place a period or some other barely noticeable character between the two words. Be careful not to try to place too many characters on each line, or more than 16 on the two lines.
If you have renamed your fields and have created two or more different disks (each with different fields), do not try to place one in the internal drive and the other in the external drive. I tried this and found that the Habadex disk in the internal drive worked fine. The one in the external drive will present you with its renamed fields and lead you to think that you are reading it, but in fact the data from the disk in the internal drive will fill its fields. There is a way to get the two disks to read properly. Before trying to extract data from the disk in the external drive, quit the application in the internal drive, close the windows, eject the internal disk, select the icon of the disk in the external drive, and open it. Now everything will read properly!
One of the fields I had renamed was entitled "Lease Anniversary". It is the basis of one of the most frequent sorts of my disk. I can call up all the leases expiring during a particular month and send renewal leases and statements to each tenant with an expiring lease. I found that dates which were in the month/day/year style (such as 11/01/84), would sort in order, but all were listed prior to the "A" in my index. By inserting a letter designator (A to L) for each month, I could get them to spread out over the whole first half of the index. I could then call each month up for viewing separately, instead of having to flip through 21 pages to find a tenant with a lease expiring on the 31st of December. That's especially important considering that when you make a change to a record and then close it, Habadex returns to the first page of the sort!
I continued adding letter prefixes and everything worked well until I had completed entering the prefixes on the first nine months of leases. All of a sudden, I discovered that Habadex would not select a lease with a "J" prefix. I could access the J's by calling up the I's and flipping a couple of pages. The K's worked fine. I tried a few things and found that the J's would sort if I used "J10/01/75" but not if I used "J 10/01/75". The first nine letters of the alphabet sort fine, but J cannot be followed by a blank space. Another fifteen hours of input was scrapped. I am aware that Habadex was not intended to be a database per se, but my file is little more than a mailing list with phone numbers, lease expirations and emergency data.
One of the great features of Macintosh is its ability to create letterheads, but that isn't allowed with the Habadex mail merge function. You also cannot justify both margins in your business letters. Habadex 1.1 prints the date in a different format than 1.0, but it is still in the wrong location for a standard business letter.
With a file of one record, Habadex only requires about 20 seconds to store your new entry. It takes a good typist only about a minute to input all the fields on the screen. However, with 300+ records, nearly three and a half minutes are necessary to store additional records. This time increase appears to be linear and will start showing up easily within the first twenty or thirty records. Once your records are in place and you have to update some of your data, a one character change to an existing record will again necessitate that same prolonged wait. My secretary spent only a fourth of her time typing in data and three fourths waiting for Habadex to store it.
High quality printing is impossible with any function. Try mailing labels. If you select high quality, you are in for a long wait while the Macintosh starts spooling. At the end of all that spooling, Habadex will stop without printing any labels. Now try standard quality and your mailing labels will be printed, but watch out! Did your labels take more than one page to print? Or, did you select "continuous sheet"? If so, you probably lost the first row of labels on each succeeding page! Go back and select "cut sheet", and your labels will be printed. When Habadex reaches the end of each page, you can click "OK" when asked to insert another sheet of paper, and you will not lose any more rows.
Calendar appointments transferred from 1.0 to 1.1 must be "reaccepted" day by day after the transfer. If you used more than one line for each entry in 1.0, you will lose your additional lines of information when you choose "accept" in the new version. To prevent this loss, first enter a later time (even a minute later on each line below the initial appointment). This will save the line and keep it in sequence. Refer to the excellent article written by Cassie Stahl and published in the October 1st issue of InfoWorld. Any month that forces the calendar to have six rows of days (any month during which the first of the month occurs on a Friday or Saturday), creates another problem. Only the top of the sixth row can be seen, and any calendar information entered into days on that last row cannot be read when viewing the entire month. You must select the particular day to see any of your appointments. This occurs during September and December of 1984 and March and June of 1985.
Eventually I obtained a HabaDialer. I would finally get to "reach out and touch someone" with my Macintosh. I unpacked the HabaDialer, read the installation instructions, and promptly visited one of my local suppliers for a modular plug as described in the documentation. Having a six button phone system and noting the large number of phone wires under my desk, I decided to call my phone installer. Four hours and four phone calls from North Carolina to California later (not to mention the $140 labor bill from my installer), my HabaDialer was pronounced unfit for service by its designer (Ron Debry) who listened to its futile attempts to dial out during one of those long distance calls to California.
Maybe some good will come of my experience after all. Mr. Debry seemed genuinely interested in the troubles I was having with Habadex and the HabaDialer. Habadex could be made into a first rate product despite the low rating it has earned from me to date. After having invested the $199.95 plus tax purchase price and several hundred hours of time with this software, I have to reluctantly admit that I have been both spoiled and disappointed by Habadex. I have been searching for a database to replace Habadex, but have so far been unable to find anything on the market that even comes close to its ease of use and clarity. I would much prefer that Haba Systems worked out the bugs and allowed this particular piece of software to reach its true potential.
Editors' Notes: You say you've been partly spoiled, huh? We'd hate to have to use the software that totally disappoints you. You probably deserve a medal, because the other six or so Habadex users we've talked to all sounded like they quickly gave up out of frustration. Be sure to let us know when you find what you're looking for. We'd also like to thank Barbara Schreiber, a realtor in New Jersey, who wrote us to mention her problems with the undocumented 1.1 copy protection, and also Carol Runkel of Long Beach, California, who wrote us to describe her encounters with Habadex bugs while trying to print mailing labels.
Are You Advertising On A Shoestring?
Macintosh product developers can enjoy some valuable publicity with a free listing in the March 1985 Macintosh Buyer's Guide. To reserve your free listing, obtain the necessary form from Managing Editor Tom Kempf, Redgate Publishing Co., 3381 Ocean Dr., Vero Beach, FL 32963. Hurry, forms must be in by December 15th.
Macintosh Pascal Arrives At Signal
A released (not preliminary) version of Apple's Pascal programming environment for the Mac recently arrived here in conjunction with nationwide dealer deliveries, and we're very impressed with the product: it receives what is probably the most enthusiastic Thumbs Up we've given since we first laid eyes on the Lisa almost two years ago.
Macintosh Pascal is primarily an educational tool, and not really a program development system for creating commercial, standalone software products, but it's still a fantastic product. If you know any students wanting to learn programming, tell them Macintosh Pascal is definitely the way to go. This is the first programming environment we've seen where it's actually fun to make mistakes, because fixing bugs and rewriting and rerunning code is so effortless. True, the programs won't execute with blazing speed, but at least all you need is a lowly 128K Mac with one disk (the software is $125 suggested retail), and it's amazing how much you can do with only that minimum configuration. Plus, "inline" procedures provide access to all the ROM routines, so programs with standard Mac-style interfaces can be written.
In the few weeks we've had so far to use Macintosh Pascal, we've only come up with three complaints. First, the modem file opens at 300 baud with no apparent mechanism to set it to 1200 or 9600 (although only the documentation, and not actual testing, has been our guide on this point). Second, the printer file (port) can only be opened for output, not input, even though we know it's really bidirectional. (Poor I/O procedures have always been the bane of Pascal implementations, haven't they?) Third, we sure wish the product had been released a year ago so that Apple could have bundled it like MacPaint and MacWrite, shipped one with every machine, and thereby avoided the blasted copy protection that burdens this product like so much other Mac software.
Iowa Certainly Needs Software
I am looking for a printer driver to allow the Lisa to take full advantage of
the additional width of the wide carriage Imagewriter. I am also in need of a
billing program that supports the following steps for invoicing sales in a
print shop: create table of material prices, create table of labor prices,
enter number of units, automatically access table of prices and calculate
invoice, post to accounts receivable.
--- Joseph Daley, Creston, IA
I'm looking for a terminal emulation program to run on a Lisa under 3.0 or
MacWorks. I need the program to emulate either a Tec 500, Soroc IQ 120, IBM
3101-10, Televideo 950-C or Beehive DM1A. Please call me at 515-224-1992 if
you know where I can find such a package or if you'd be interested in sharing
--- Trelen Wilson, Des Moines, IA
The new 3.0 Quickport facility in the Pascal Workshop provides a "standard", a VT52/100, and a Soroc terminal emulator along with documentation for writing your own custom version, any of which can exist as a desktop icon. -Editors
Have You Indexed Your Clip Art Lately?
I am enclosing a clip art index I created. It lists images from three clip art programs I have purchased: Clip 1 from Frazier, Peper & Assoc., ClickArt:Publications from T/Maker Co., and McPic! Volume 1 from Magnum Software. The object of the index is to make it easy to find an image when you need it. Obviously, this would be a better index and directory if it included all of the available clip art disks for Macintosh.
So, my plea to vendors: please make disks containing clip art (only those disks which other Macintosh owners can purchase) available to me on a loan basis. I will integrate an index for each of those disks into my master index and return your disk of clip art along with a clean copy of the master list.
The reason why I believe vendors might want to do this for free is because I will supply the master index for free, with no restrictions on its use. Clip art programmers, retail computer stores, clubs and individual Macintosh owners will all profit, since I will freely make copies available to all comers. I would expect that stores and clubs would in turn make the index available to customers and members. At most, I would charge requestors the cost of photocopying the index, or ask for a clean disk if the index is desired in that mode, plus postage as required.
I am retired and thus have the time to fool around with this project, in case
you are suspicious that there is a catch somewhere.
--- Philip C. Russell, 430 SW Crest Circle, Waldport, OR 97394
We think your index is great! It's bound to be popular among users, so vendors will be wise to participate. How about giving it a formal name, like the "Russell Index"? We hope you get a good response. -Editors
Received, But Not Yet Reviewed
DaVinci Buildings, Interiors, and Landscapes, three MacPaint image disks for architects and designers, from Hayden Software Co. Inc., 600 Suffolk St., Lowell, MA 01853.
ThinkTank, an outline processor for the Mac, from Living Videotext Inc., 2432 Charleston Rd., Mountain View, CA 94043.
Keystroke, a data base and report generator for Lisa, from Brock Software Products, Box 799, Crystal Lake, IL 60014.