PowerMacs: two weeks away?
Author: Steve Kayner
Date: March, 1994
Keywords: PowerMac PowerPC preview
PowerMacs: two weeks away? By Steve Kayner, SMUG member The watershed day for Macintosh in the 90's is drawing near. Rumors have consistantly zeroed in on March 14 as the date when the new PowerPC based PowerMacs will be officially introduced. Those who remember the transistion from the Apple II to the Macintosh line of computers, will feel a sense of deja vu, as the venerable Apple II falls yet another generation into the past. The three first PowerMacs will all use the PowerPC 601 chip. They will all have 8MB of RAM as a standard configuration, and additional SIMMs must be added two at a time. They will all have 1.4MB floppy drives with DMA (direct memory access). These will be the first Macs that will really allow you to format a diskette in the background. The three new machines will carry the model numbers 6100/60, 7100/66, and 8100/80. The latter two will be Energy Star compliant, meaning they will have a standby low power mode. All the new machines will have video DRAM, high-speed asynch-ronous SCSI, 16 bit stereo in/out with DMA, on board Ethernet with DMA (and AAUI connector), and the usual complement of serial, ADB, and LocalTalk ports. CD-ROM drives will be optional. The 6100/60 model will have a processor speed of 60MHz, 2 SIMM slots, 1 NuBus slot for a 7" card, 160 to 250MB hard drives, and optional processor cache and CD-ROM drive. The 6100 will not have VRAM slots. The rumored price is around $2,000. The 7100/66 will have a 66MHz processor, 4 SIMM slots, 3 NuBus slots for full length cards, and 250 to 500MB hard drives. It will also have 1MB of VRAM, expandable to 2MB, and will support 2 monitors; priced around $3,000. The 8100/80 will have an 80MHz processor, 8 SIMM slots, a 256k processor cache, 3 NuBus slots, and dual SCSI channels. It will also have 2MB of VRAM, expandable to 4MB, and will support 2 monitors; priced around $4,000. The 6100/60 will be 2-4 times faster than a 33MHz '040 Mac when running native mode software, and will be about as fast as a 25MHz '040 when running unmodified Mac software. The 7100/66 will be about 25% faster than the 6100/60, and the 8100/80 will be about 2 times as fast as the 6100/60. Adding the optional processor cache to either the 6100/60 or the 7100/66 will significantly enhance performance for native mode software. Reliable sources indicate that Apple has a three to four week supply of the new machines on hand for the introduction (100,000 to 125,000 units). Will one of them belong to you? Can I come over and see it? There are many other interesting things coming, including AV PowerMacs, laptop models with AV features, and much faster chips and I/O capabilities. MacWEEK has written about the next generation PowerBook, code named BlackBird, with the processor on a daughter card pre-planned for a PPC replacement. It's supposedly due out later this year. In early 1995, expect to see SCSI change to what is now being called FireWire. Smaller connectors, thinner cables, and higher speed data throughput are the purpose for the change, which will also make possible multiple daisy chains off the CPU. With the PowerPC chip, Apple can compete with Intel on a price/performance basis at the high end of desktop computing. The PowerPC chips will be less expensive to produce because of the much smaller die size (120 sq. mm vs. 262 sq. mm for the Pentium), and they will use less power and generate less heat, making them more suitable for portable models. Intel claims that Apple's market share is up for grabs due to uncertainty during the conversion from Macintosh to PowerMacs. Even though Apple sold more desktop computers last year than any other maker, their recent corporate market share has slipped slightly. However, that slip probably represents buyers waiting for the PowerMac, rather than any conversion to Intel-based boxes. Apple is licensing its ROMs (read-only memory chips that are the core of the operting system), and operating system software to vendors who will build PowerMac clones and accelerators. A set of hardware specifications (PReP, or PowerPC Reference Platform) was developed in cooperation with IBM, to ensure the compatibility of the clones, and to help keep the cost of development down, and the incentive to do so, up. DayStar Digital, a licensee of the new Apple ROMs, has announced an upgrade option for current owners of '040 accelerators. They will also be making PowerPC accelerators for ''all the color Macs'' within the next year. Apple will also offer logic board upgrades for many of the recent '040 Macs, and has developed processor upgrade cards that can be plugged into the PDS slots of most '040 models. The processor upgrade cards will cost less than the logic board swaps. The upgrade cards will run their CPU's at twice the rated speed of the original Mac, and will allow the Mac to boot from the '040 chip on the logic board, if needed. Will I be buying one of these first generation PowerMacs? Probably not. Why not? 1. Inadequate native software support; 2. Out-moded NuBus slots; 3. Aging SCSI bus; 4. My '040 accelerated Mac II works nicely as it is. But I'll be in line when the 604 based PowerMacs with PCI and FireWire are ready. That will be more revolutionary than this evolutionary lineup of 601-based PowerMacs, I think.
Copyright © march, 1994 by Steve Kayner