Apple Pippin lowers cost of computing

By Richard Morochove

First published January 18, 1996

The 1996 crop of home computers should deliver the most interesting harvest in years. Of course, there will be the usual upgrades of faster and more powerful PCs. But I also see evidence of a contrary trend to specialized, much less expensive machines.

Prototype of Apple Computer's Pippin

One of the most intriguing is Apple Computer's Pippin, which should sell for less than $1,000. Although Pippin has many of the attributes of a computer, the company calls it a multimedia device because it lacks such essentials as a floppy drive and hard disk.

Apple designed Pippin for people who want to play back CDs and surf the Net, but don't need heavy-duty computing capabilities. At the heart of the unit lies a 66 megahertz PowerPC 603 processor, so it should be no slouch in performance.

Pippin boots off a quad-speed CD-ROM that handles standard audio CD, CD Plus and the Photo CD format, in addition to Pippin software. Sound quality is important so there will be stereo 16-bit CD quality audio inputs and outputs.

The device uses a cut-down version of the Macintosh operating system. All Pippin CD-ROM titles can be played on a standard Macintosh.

In some ways, Pippin seems like an updated version of the Commodore 64, the most popular home computer in the early 80's. For example, to keep it more affordable you can plug your TV set into Pippin. The device comes with both NTSC and S-Video outputs. Or you can plug in a standard VGA video monitor.

Pippin comes with 6 megabytes of combined system and video RAM and another 4 megabytes of ROM, enough for cruising the Net. You'll be able to buy memory expansion cards in up to 8 megabyte increments.

If Pippin seems rather bare-bones by today's standards, you'll be able to upgrade it using what Apple calls "PCI-like" expansion. Add-ons including a floppy drive, hard disk and graphics accelerator will be available in the future.

However, if you think you'll need all these features at the outset, you'd be better off buying a regular Macintosh. Based on what I've learned, buying these options piecemeal for Pippin will cost much more than buying them built-in to a Mac.

There's not a whole lot of profit manufacturing a computer that retails for under $1,000. Furthermore, Apple's latest financial statements, dripping with red ink, show that it's not the most efficient computer maker around.

Pippin will likely be a computer that Apple designs but does not sell. Apple has already licensed Pippin technology to Bandai Co. Ltd., the Japanese entertainment company behind the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Bandai will market and distribute the machine worldwide, while it will be manufactured by consumer electronics giant Mitsubishi.

Bandai will launch Pippin in Japan this spring and expects to make it available in North America later this year. Pippin could make computing more affordable to many budget-wise consumers.

Compaq Presario Scanner

Compaq Computer plans to introduce a couple of interesting features in new Presario home computers due late next month. Some models will include a recordable CD-ROM drive. There's also an interesting keyboard with a built-in scanner.

The black and white scanner will accept pages up to 8.5 inches wide and scans at a resolution of 400 DPI (dots per inch). You slip in the page at the back of the keyboard and the scanner automatically feeds it through. The keyboard will include both graphics and OCR (optical character recognition) software. There's even an adjustable latch that lets you scan business cards.

More powerful IBM Aptivas

IBM Canada has already started selling some of its 1996 Aptiva home PCs. New models feature faster Pentium processors operating at 150 and 166 megahertz and a 6x CD-ROM.

Re: CompuServe ban threatens Net freedom

I received many responses to this column, both pro and con. Although I read every message, I regret I can't reply to each of you individually. Here's one reaction, from

Deborah Knight, advertising supervisor, CompuServe.

"There is only one comment we'd like to correct, and that's that we capitulated to the German demands without a fight. We were faced with a difficult legal situation, and had to make a tough decision. Believe me, we don't take lightly any demand to restrict the information our members can access, and we are very active in the U.S. and internationally representing the rights of all our members.

"Right now, we are working diligently to restore full access to Usenet newsgroups to all our members outside of Germany. Our existing systems did not allow us immediately to restrict access to specific geographic groups, so we're in the midst of some very quick adjustments. We do hope that you, and our members, will bear with us as we tackle the problem. We plan to have it resolved very soon."

Following is a sampling of other opinions that didn't make it into the print version of the column.

Richard Morochove's column about CompuServe's suspension of Internet newsgroups asserts that "Germany ... wants to ban frank discussions among the disabled, gays and gay Jews" and suggests that "these actions are sad echoes of attitudes that prevailed in Germany some 60 years ago." According to Morochove, then, Germany is reverting to its Nazi past.

Except, of course, when it prohibits Nazi activities. Earlier in his column, Morochove complains that, some years ago, in response to the German law prohibiting the glorification of National Socialism, a pro-Nazi computer game was pulled from the Net. Would he rather that Germany ignore its past and tolerate Nazis? Or is he just arguing that the Net is above the law?

In this case,a Munich prosecutor was investigating possible offenses under the German criminal code section that prohibits the distribution of material protraying the sexual abuse of children. After he informed CompuServe's Munich office of his investigation, the American company blocked access to some 200 newsgroups worldwide. Whatever its motives, CompuServe clearly overreacted. Equally clearly, "Germany" as a country was not involved. When Morochove draws parallels to National Socialism and encourages readers to "attack the problem at the source" by protesting to German diplomatic offices, he puts himself in a league with CompuServe.

Germany is not immune to scrutiny and criticism, but these should be informed and fair. As a professor of German studies, and as a Jew mindful of the dangers of sweeping statements about entire countries or peoples, I can't accept Morochove's argument. The equation (CompuServe's suspension of access to newsgroups = the rise of fascism in Germany) just doesn't compute. Worse, such overreactions make it more difficult to raise the alarm if democracy should ever really be threatened in Germany, Canada or elsewhere.

Mark Webber, Interdisciplinary Program in German Studies, York University

I wish I were a CompuServe subscriber so I could cancel my subscription. I think I differ with you in regarding Germany as the source of the problem. Surely the real "source" is CompuServe, who should tell the Germans to enforce their own laws on their own citizens, who by tuning to the newsgroups concerned, deliberately break German law. Let's hope large numbers of CompuServe subscribers will comprehend the threat, and by threats of their own, force the Company to tell the Germans to solve their own problems.

Robert Brodie

I agree totally with your views towards Net Freedom.

The Internet is based on information that spans millions of topics, which should not be regulated. And can't be or the Internet doesn't function.

I'm not an adult, I'm a 15 year-old. I understand that there is information on the Internet that should not be accessed by children. This should be controlled by their parents, not by an online service or a government.

Mike Anastasakis