Techno on the Macintosh

Under Construction...DEAL! UNDER CONSTRUCTION (like any developing resource)

It became apparent that my Ranting and Raving page contained an excessive amount of Mac-related commentary, so such has been relocated to this new page. This is now my page devoted to the 'mainstream alternative' computing platform known as the Apple Macintosh, or Mac for short.

If you decide what processor to use based on a television commercial, you DESERVE nothing more than the Pentium.

Though I am not exactly a Mac advocate, the above sentiment does apply to the Mac as well as to my beloved Amiga computers. Of course, the Amiga is vastly superior to the lowly Wintel boxen which are stifling the entirety of computing. As I am continually encountering more instances of that superiority, watch that page for updates. Now for the Macintosh. I hear numerous claims of the Mac's superiority to the PeeCee; many of them are true. This is primarily due to the fact that the Wintel architecture is so pathetic. 64K segmentation of the entire memory map is nothing short of laughable!

The Mac is somewhat does have one of the earlier implementations of a GUI (no, neither Apple nor Micro$loth invented the GUI; Xerox did!). In fact, M$ Windoze is little more than an attempt at a copy of the Mac, on inferior hardware. Wisely, the Mac's designers chose the Motorola MC68000 CPU family. If not for this fact, the Mac would have very little going for it.

There are simply too many things missing from the Mac.

Apparently, someone at Apple underwent a lobotomy right about the time that the Mac was being designed. Their philosophy rotated very nearly 180 degrees between that of the Apple ][ series and that of the Mac. The Apple ][ offered a predominantly text-based user interface, with graphics as an option; the Mac has no text-based interface at all (with the exception of development packages and third-party hacks, which do not count). The Apple ][ contains a machine language monitor in ROM; the Mac, on the other hand, is specifically designed to keep the user's meddling fingers out of its internal operation. Whether this was done with the assumption that users were too stupid to be allowed access to the inner workings of the machine (even if such is an accurate assumption), or they were intended to cement into place a lucrative product support market for Apple, they are terribly undesirable characteristics.

The infamous 1984-derived television commercial introducing the Mac is actually quite ironic, considering that Apple designed the Mac to give the user less control over his computer's operation than was the case with any other platform in history. Indeed, the Mac is actually more Orwellian in its restriction of the user's creativity than the PC compatibles are.

One major drawback which the Mac shares with Wintel boxen is its total dependence upon a single microprocessor for all functions. As demonstrated by the Amiga, such functions as sound, animation, DMA, etc. are deserving of separate coprocessors. I have seen more impressive video animation on a 7 MHz 68000-based Amiga than I have ever seen on a Mac, PeeCee, or other platform. Such Amiga animation runs, incidentally, from RAM; NOT from a CD-ROM or hard disk (as virtually all PeeCee and Mac animations do). Of course, neither the Mac nor the PeeCee was even designed to generate color, let alone animation.

Another surprising deficiency of the Mac is its use of a SINGLE-BUTTON MOUSE. As I am accustomed to a GUI in which the left and right buttons are used for different purposes (and may be combined for additional functions as well), I find that to be a drastic oversight. On the other hand, the ever-present third button on PeeCee mice is of dubious value, at best.

The vast majority of Macs (all I've ever seen, except for one IIcx) seem to lack another feature of which I've become quite fond: a hard disk activity indicator. Every Amiga has included a hard drive LED since a hard drive became a common component in a personal computer. Glaring oversights appear to abound on the Macintosh platform...

Is RISC worth the risk?

There is an ever-increasing trend toward the use of RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) technology in the microcomputer world. The Power Macintosh, based on the PowerPC series of CPUs, is the implementation thereof in the Mac world. The theory of what makes RISC CPUs superior to CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computer, or normal) microprocessors goes something like this: Reducing the number of available machine language instructions within the CPU allows it to be constructed such that those instructions may be executed faster than by a comparable CISC CPU.

This sounds good, until one gives some thought to what it actually implies. With fewer available instructions, the programmer is forced to code large, awkward loops of RISC instructions to achieve the same results as those accomplished by single, more versatile CISC instructions. Additionally, these big, ugly loops must be executed in system RAM, rather than within the CPU itself. For this reason, RISC systems require considerably greater amounts of RAM to function similarly to comparable CISC systems. Of course, such extensive use of relatively slow RAM slows down overall system performance tremendously. As a result, a RISC system with a deceptively-high CPU clock speed is actually SLOWER than a well-implemented (read: non-Intel-based) CISC system!

The Motorola 68060 is likely the single most powerful microprocessor ever developed. It is capable of executing more than one instruction per clock cycle. A 50 MHz 68060 achieves roughly 80 MIPS. That's CISC MIPS, not the less meaningful RISC variety. No RISC chip is (or will ever be) capable of the same level of actual performance at the same clock speed as the '060. While Motorola already had that CPU running at 200+ MHz in 1993(!), they currently only offer it in 50 and 66 MHz versions. If they neglect to keep developing and marketing the MC68000 family, Motorola will be throwing away the real future of computing. What a terrible waste that would be. Is RISC worth the risk? No.

Incompatibility (The Curse of the Mac User)

The Mac is designed only to recognize hard drives, CD-ROM drives, and other peripherals which contain proprietary Apple ROMs. Other devices may usually be used, but only with additional difficulty and third-party software. Such behavior is absolutely inexcusable! Despite its own rampant inadequacies, even the PeeCee does not exhibit this level of brain damage.

Merely upgrading a Mac to a newer version of MacOS causes various features of hardware (such as programmable resolution switching on video cards) to become unusable. I have seen it myself on a Mac IIfx. Positively absurd. Of course, each new version of the OS becomes even larger, less efficient, and less stable as well. This trend has allegedly been reversed in the case of MacOS 8 on the Power Mac; we'll see.

One should not forget the various changes Apple made over the years to the Mac's video, serial, and other port pinouts, for no good reason.

What is up with the multiple forks in Macintosh files, anyway? The Mac's HFS filesystem is totally forked up. ;) There is no conceivable reason, other than forcing incompatibility with any other computer platform, to split files into data, resource, etc. forks. Extra software (such as BinHex) is required just to accomplish something as simple as transferring Mac files through a non-Mac network.

The Mac vs. The Amiga

Yes, I do have a Mac. It is a Macintosh Plus with 1 megabyte of RAM. True, it would be unfair to use that machine as a basis for comparison with later machines. Surely, however, it is not unfair to compare it to a nearly-identically-equipped Amiga of almost exactly the same vintage (an Amiga 500 with a 7 MHz MC68000, 1 meg of RAM, and one DSDD floppy drive). There is absolutely no comparison: the Amiga blows the Mac out of the water! BTW, does anyone know of an accelerator for the Mac Plus which upgrades it to the functionality of a IIfx? There ARE accelerators available for that 1987-era Amiga with 40 MHz 68030s, which make it outperform a stock 68030-based Amiga 3000. Of course, there are now 68060/PPC multiprocessor accelerators for at least 4 different Amiga models, which result in EXTREMELY powerful computers, but that is another story.

Another interesting point: in the era of the Mac Quadra (just before the introduction of the Power Mac), a test was done. Two machines were set up, side-by-side. One was a top-of-the-line Quadra, and the other was a high-end Amiga running Mac emulation software. The Amiga ran the very same Mac applications faster than the FASTEST AVAILABLE MAC!

UPDATE: I have recently acquired several more Macs. My Macintosh arsenal now includes a Mac II (5 MB RAM+40 MB HD), a Mac IIfx (8 MB RAM+160 MB HD), a Power Mac 6100/60 (40 MB RAM, 330 MB HD, and 4X SCSI CD), and several incomplete II-series machines. Having spent considerable time setting up and using these machines, I find nothing but confirmation of everything I've stated upon this page. Having experienced the raw power available from various Motorola 680x0 CPUs, I find MacOS to be quite wasteful of that power in a sluggish, sloppy, unstable way. My Power Mac 6100/60 performs decently, now that it has 40 megabytes of RAM (Netscrape crashes on it left and right, but that differs in no way from Netscrape on any other platform!). Certainly, it blows away Wintel machines with similar specs, but it can't even touch a comparably-equipped Amiga. In all fairness, I must make one positive comment about the 6100: its native sound hardware (16-bit stereo I/O) sounds far cleaner than sound cards on Wintel machines typically do.

Watch this space for additional Mac information. :)

Last updated: 19 December 1998

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Authored on Amiga!