Despite my affection for the Mac, I've got a new travelling companion

Written by David Tebbutt, MacUser 02/91 item 02 - scanned

If I were a young man, I'd probably be falling in and out of love with young women. As it is, I'm an old married man and I'm not allowed to do that sort of thing. What I can get away with, though, is falling in and out of love with computers. And I do, frequently.

Loving a computer has nothing to do with whether I use it or not. After all, I use an AT, an XT and an Amstrad PCW 8256 on a regular basis. Each is good at its job, but they don't do anything for my soul.

The Mac, which I use as much as all the others put together, gives me real pleasure, even though it is only an SE. Even with their colour screens, the XT and AT have failed to lure me away from the Mac. It is still my machine of choice, apart from one thing: I can't use it anywhere but at my desk.

I feel guilty about admitting this, but I've started having an affair with another computer. It's my constant companion. It fits into one half of my briefcase, leaving plenty of room for paperwork, notebooks, diary, wallet, pens and suchlike on the other side and in the lid.

I use it at home when I'm pretending to be with the family - you'll often find me tapping away while they're watching Neighbours or Home and Away. I use it on the train when I'm travelling outside the rush hour. I use it at the Strategy offices where I sometimes work.

This machine, a Toshiba T1OOOXE, poses a serious threat to my relationship with the SE. But why am I raving on about a machine which has nothing to do with the Mac? It's because I keep hearing rumours that Apple is teaming up with Sony to produce a notebook computer.

I hope the rumours are true - portable machines make a phenomenal difference to your personal productivity and flexibility. With a notebook computer to hand, it doesn't matter if the points fail outside Harrow-on-the-Hill. In fact, you can get much more work done away from the interruptions of office life.

I hope the machine that Apple is planning is a Mac. If it's a compact Apple II, then there's no market for it in the UK. Assuming it is a Mac, what do you need in it? I believe that Apple could do a lot worse than study the Toshiba machine. In particular, mine or that of some of my friends. We all use the same model, but we run a program called DESQview which enables us to have as many programs on tap as we like.

Touch a couple of keys and you're in your chosen application, exactly where you left it the last time you used it. This even works after the machine has been switched off and on again. Toshiba's autosave feature remembers the precise status of the machine at the time it is switched off and restores it to this state when switched on again.

OK, sometimes it doesn't work and you get a 'resume failure' but, providing you save important data before switching off, you are protected. DESQview works by either keeping the current status of all open applications in the memory or, if memory is limited, by spooling the information to the hard disk. Switching programs is either instant or subject to a second or two delay while it is hauled in from disk. Toshiba's hard disk is almost silent and very, very fast.

Apple should seriously consider giving its notebook users the benefits of application switching and autosave. If I were specifying the machine, I'd go for a fast, quiet, 40M hard disk and 4M of memory.

The Toshiba screen is one of the best I've seen it's a blue on white, backlit device. I wouldn't object if my Mac notebook used a similar display, especially if it kept the price down. The most tricky thing for Apple would be to decide on a substitute for the mouse. I believe it has some rights on Outbound's isopoint, but I'd avoid that if I could because it's a bit clunky. Why not go for a stylus? The only problem is how to click and double click.

Perhaps the best thing is to have really tough glass on the screen and a spring-loaded retractable tip on the stylus. The analogy with the mouse is perfect. It also has the advantage of direct interaction with the displayed objects. If the machine does not turn out to be a Mac, then Apple will have shot itself in the foot by producing one irrelevant machine to protect the sales of another. I would think that the massive popularity of a decently-priced Mac notebook would more than make up for any decrease in sales of the Mac Portable.

They say that love is blind and I'm sure you'll agree when you hear that some of my 'loves' include the NCR 500, the ABS Multibus, the ICL (nee Singer) System 10, the Commodore PET, the Sinclair ZX80 and Spectrum, the SuperBrain, the Cambridge Computer Z88 and the Toshiba T1OOOXE.