Notebook computing; Password Protect fix, gate crashers, and an amazing new entry from Japan. John J. Anderson.
Wait until you hear about the notebook computer we have for you this month. It has popped from out of the woodwork, and if given half a chance, may just clobber all the known quantities. It may just be innovative enough to change the topography of the portable industry. Then again, it may be too good to succeed. But before we get to the main event, I have a few boo-boos to redress. Dumbware
Why is it, you may ask, that the print-out of the December Password Protectin program managed to pack not one but two typos in it? Well (gulp), I'm not sure. One thing I am sure about, though, is that lots of you caught it. I am also reasonably satisfied that most of you were able to get the program running without waiting to see the fixes in this issue. To those of you who haven't, and to all, I apologize. Wasn't it a valuable learning experience, though? The fixes appear in Figure 1.
Other than that all is well. Those of you who downloaded the program from Compuserve got it right the first time.
I wish I could close the case right there, but that's the least of it. Mark Cridland stopped over at Creative Computing Online with the following message:
"John, I'm writing in regard to the Password Protection program, December issue, p. 190. I've crashed your locks! Nyah-ha! Of course, I had to . . . it seems that when inserting my own password into the program, I had forgotten to change the dummy string in line 30. I hadn't save my ADRS.DO or DESK.DO (miscellany) files in a good long time, and was not willing to lose them without a fight. While the program was running at the TRY AGAIN prompt, I punched the dedicated PRINT key, unshifted. Two seconds later I hit the dedicated BREAK key and that's all she wrote . . ."? I/O ERROR in 40" results. Typing MENU RETURN (not F8) from there puts you back into Mama's arms.
Much to my horror, I was able to reproduce Mark's results in my own experiments. Curses! Back to the drawing board. Ah well . . . Ampere APL Portable
I got a call from friend and fellow Model 100er Bob Covington the other day, and first heard about the Ampere portable. The more he told me, the lower my jaw dropped, and as result I decided to mount my own investigation of this magic machine. My thanks to you, Bob, for putting me onto it.
One look at it will intrigue you; it looks as if it had been carved out of the cross section of a small Fiberglass airfoil (see photos). The case was designed by Kumeo Tamura, who among other distinguished credits, designed the original Datsun 280Z coupe.
The flip-top reveals a full-size 80 x 25 character LCD, which like the Datavue 25, and unlike the Data General/One, is extremely easy to read, even in less than optimal lighting conditions. It sports 64K RAM expandable internally to 256K, a 70-key full-stroke keyboard, built-in parallel and serial ports, 300 baud autodial modem, clock/calendar, and three cartridge slots. An accessory bus slot allows the addition of floppy disk, hard disk, and memory expansion to 512K. In addition, a builtin 300K microcassette unit can be used to store data or to record and playback audio. It includes a built-in microphone and speaker, and can be used as a telephone answering machine, as well as a telephone call recorder.
But the real news is the fact that inside its 125K of system ROM is a language that can make real use of the 8 MHz 32-bit 68000 CPU that forms the Ampere's advanced brain--APL. APL is a high level programming language originally designed for IBM mainframes back in the late 1960's. In his book Computer Lib, Creative Computing contributing editor Ted Nelson said the following of the APL language:
"Some people call it a 'scientific' language. Some people call it a 'mathematical' language. Some people are most struck by its use for interactive systems, so to them it's an 'interactive' language. But most of us just think of it as 'the language with all the funny symbols' . . . Enthusiasts see it as a language of inconceivable power, with extraodinary uses. Cynics remark that it has all kinds of extraordinary powers for inconceivable uses--that is, a weird elegance, much of which has no use at all, and some of which gets in the way.
"This is probably wrong. APL is a terrific and beautiful triumph of the mind, and a very useful programming language. It is not for everybody, but neither is chess. It is for bright children, mathematicians, and companies that want to build interactive systems . . . APL is a language of arrays, with a fascinating notation . . . Let's just say the language works on things modified successively by operators. Their order and result is based upon those fiendish chicken scratches, Iverson notation."
APL has some rather bizarre symbols, many of which are missing in common ASCII notation, and they largely replace the English-like command sets we have all grown to know and love in Basic, Pascal, and Logo. Nelson calls APL "stark and clever," but goes on to note that the language is undeniably dense, and hard to debug. In Iverson notation the same symbol can mean two different things, dependent upon its context.
The Ampere runs Big.APL, a subset of APL 68000, which itself is an adaption of IBM APL.SV, under an operating system dubbed Big.DOS. This implementation has been enhanced to include a component file system, alpha report formatting, text handling, and full-screen editing capabilities. It supports foreground and background multitasking adn windowing.
An integrated software package will be packed into ROM as a standard feature of the Ampere. It will include a word processor, spreadsheet, telecommunications package, and database program. The three cartridge slots can be used to stow up to 1 Meg of ROM or 64K of CMOS RAM each. Ampere states that a $500 1 Meg 3.5" microfloppy drive will be offered to complement the Ampere portable.
When the unit was first announced, its startling price of $1500 was based on a 16-line display. With the jump to a full-screen display, the retail price will probably move to the vicinity of $2000. This still seems extremely reasonable for a 6.5 lb. machine measuring 12" x 12" x 3" and packing the punch of a 68000-based APL system. We hope to provide a full review of this remarkable machine as soon as it becomes available to us.
Ampere Inc., Asahi Building, 5-20, Nishi-Shinjuku, 7-Chome, Shinjuku-Ku, Tokyou, Japan, 03-365-0825