iMac Pro memory comparison

January 22nd, 2018 2:26 PM
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Last week was the beginning of the semester at Emerson College, where I teach a graduate course on electronic publishing. To give my students context, I start each semester with a history of computers, the Internet, and data storage. That last aspect includes a brief mathematics lesson about binary, bits, and bytes, as well as how they scale to kilo, mega, giga, tera, and beyond.

Sometimes, even I need a reminder of just how massive the difference is in the scale between the Apple II and modern computers. The latest model of iMac Pro debuted last month, and with 11 times more memory than an Apple II, said one Twitter user. That's not surprising: early models of Apple II shipped with 48K of RAM, so 11 times that would be only 528K, or a bit more than half a megabyte.

But what Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini, Apple employee #66, was referring to wasn't a comparison of a single Apple II to a single iMac Pro — but every Apple II ever, combined:

It's an impressive comparison — but is it true? Let's check the math. Six million Apple II computers at 48K each is 288,000,000 kilobytes of RAM, or 281,250 megabytes, or 274 gigabytes. Hmm… that's not quite right. Let's work backwards: 64 gigabytes is 67,108,864 kilobytes, divided by six million is 11 kilobytes each.

I don't have a precise number for the average amount of stock memory shipped over the lifespan of the Apple II and its various models, but I would guess it was more than 11K. Perhaps Tog is taking into account other factors, like SSD storage… but it still doesn't seem an Apples-to-Apples comparison.

But I appreciate Tog's intent, which may be more applicable to that hard drive. 4TB of storage is equal to 15,339,168 double-sided, 5.25;" 140K floppy disks. That's a lot of disks! I wonder how many floppy disks were ever made?

I'd love to get an unusual yet mathematically sound comparison of these two platforms' attributes that would help my students understand how far we've come. Please leave a comment with your suggestions!

(Hat tip to Luke Dormehl; featured image courtesy ReActiveMicro)

Apple IIe vs iMac throwdown

August 8th, 2016 9:22 AM
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In 2010, the Apple iPad was brand new, having just been released that past April. At the time, I was an editor at Computerworld, where I provided annual coverage of KansasFest, the world's premiere Apple II convention. Unlike Juiced.GS magazine, whose readers are retrocomputing enthusiasts, Computerworld's website had a more general audience, requiring I connect our favorite 8-bit machine to something more modern and relevant — such as the iPad.

Thanks to the loan of Loren Damewood's iPad and Tony Diaz's Apple Graphics Tablet, I produced the photo gallery "Face-off: 1979 Apple Graphics Tablet vs. 2010 Apple iPad". Comparing a drawing tablet to a tablet computer was, of course, ridiculous; a fairer comparison would've been to compare the Apple Graphics Tablet to a Wacom tablet. But where's the fun in a fair fight?

The esteemed WIRED magazine adopted a similar philosophy when they recently pit ancient technology against new. They took an Apple IIe and an iMac — coincidentally, my father's first and last computers — and compared their specs, dimensions, expansibility, and more. The resulting smackdown is this two-minute video:

When I bought my first Macintosh in 1997, I did so begrudgingly, to comply with the requirements of my university. At the time, I felt my Apple IIGS could still do everything I needed from a modern machine. Times have changed, of course, and an Apple II is no longer a viable primary computer for someone who wants to engage in mainstream multimedia, gaming, and social networking. But it's fun to see WIRED still acknowledge some of the foresight Apple had in designing their first machines, giving it strengths that modern computers lack.

Today's computers may be more powerful — but that doesn't necessarily make them "better".

(Hat tip to David Schmenk)

Retro-style iMac

May 9th, 2016 10:35 AM
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Apple makes it hard to associate their current products with their legacy products: from abandoning the rainbow logo to rewriting history in their press releases, Apple Inc. rarely wants to acknowledge the Apple II. But some new after-market modifications make it easier to draw a direct line from our favorite retrocomputer to its modern descendant.

Marketing and branding company ColorWare specializes in a variety of cosmetic alterations to consumer electronics, from iPhones to Xboxes to PlayStation controllers. But instead of sending your own hardware to be modified, you buy it originally from ColorWare. Following the success of their iPhone mods, they've now set their sights on Apple's desktop, introducing retro-themed Macintosh computers and peripherals. Each replaces the default aluminum color with beige, in the style of the original Apple IIe.

Expect to pay more for these devices than you would an unmodified original. The keyboard and mouse combo go for $399, or get them with a 27-inch iMac (3.3GHz processor, 8GB 1867MHz DDR3 SDRAM, 2TB Fusion Drive, AMD Radeon R9 M395 with 2GB) for $3,799. That may sound like a lot of money — and it is: the same iMac direct from Apple is $2,299, representing a $1,500 markup, or 65% more than the MSRP. Further, it looks like there'll be only a limited run of 25 of these retro machines, with both the price and the quantity marking it as exclusive.

When we have our original Apple II computers prominently displayed and regularly used, it's hard to justify spending this much money on a faux Apple II.

Still, it is pretty.

ColorWare iMac

(Hat tip to Julie Lasky via Tim Locke)

Steve Wozniak delivers an iMac

April 21st, 2014 12:37 PM
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Steve Wozniak is a man of the people. Whereas many celebrities elevate themselves above the consumers upon which they built their empires — or, unsure how to handle their unexpected fame, become recluses — Woz has never shied from his fans and friends. Whether it's insisting he pay to attend KansasFest 2013, or waiting in line with everyone else for the new iPhone, he's the most down-to-earth living legend you could ever meet.

A good example of Woz's nature can be seen in a video recorded a few years ago but published just recently. Emma, an Australian pre-teen whose parents were buying her a new iMac, was astonished to find the Apple representative who made the home delivery was none other than Steve Wozniak himself! Despite being younger than the Apple II, Emma had the good sense to recognize whose presence she was in, yet the wherewithal to not completely freak out.

I don't know how her father arranged this delivery, but he opens the video with the observation, "This is like having your lightbulbs delivered by Thomas Edison." It reminds me of something I believe Eric Shepherd said in 2003, when Woz was announced as the KansasFest keynote speaker: "It's like having Jesus Christ come to Easter dinner."

Who knows where Woz will pop up next?

(Hat tip to Jesus Diaz)

Steve Jobs' greatest hits

January 24th, 2011 1:04 PM
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Steve Jobs, a survivor of pancreatic cancer who in 2009 underwent a successful liver transplant, is currently on medical leave from Apple Inc.

Many would argue that Apple's health is directly tied to that of its co-founder and CEO, as evidenced by the company's floundering without his leadership from 1985 to 1997. To commemorate that perspective, Computerworld recently published a gallery that highlights 12 noteworthy innovations rolled out under Jobs' leadership at Apple. Though Jobs' role in the design of many Apple products is questionable, we circumvented the issue by simply saying that these were products launched while he was CEO — a rather inarguable fact.

I was assigned this story by the publication's chief news editor, Ken Mingis, who selected the contents of the gallery. It was originally proposed to cover only those products launched since Jobs' return to the company in 1997 and not any of the releases from his first tour of duty, from the company's founding in 1977 to when he was ousted in 1985. I had no issue with that — an article has to be focused, lest it try to cover all of existence — but we were challenged to explain to the readers how or why we could omit such milestones as the Apple II and the Macintosh. We compromised by adding those two products to the original ten, resulting in this final, chronological lineup:

  1. Apple II (1977)
  2. Macintosh (1984)
  3. iMac (1997)
  4. Power Mac G4 Cube (2000)
  5. Mac OS X (2001)
  6. iPod (2001)
  1. iMac G4 (2002)
  2. Mac mini (2005)
  3. iPhone (2007)
  4. MacBook Air (2008)
  5. iPad (2010)
  6. iPhone 4 (2010)

Had it been up to me, I would've omitted different models of the same product, such as the iMac G4 and the iPhone 4, and maybe included more failures, like the Apple III and Apple Lisa (the latter especially being notable for its pre-Mac GUI). But even without those changes, it's a pretty thorough gallery. Still, I still expected Apple fans to be more contentious in the selection, yet the article has thus far produced little discussion and feedback. What about you — what products would you have added or removed?

I was encouraged to be "witty" with each product's headline, so I relied heavily on this list of Apple advertising slogans. Although it might've been clearer to use the product name and release date instead, editor Mike Barton, who also selected the photos, instead bolded the product name in its brief description, allowing us to be both witty and clear.

I hope everyone enjoys this brief review of Apple's history. Whether or not you like Jobs, he and his company deserve to be in good health.

(Hat tip to Arnold Kim)