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January 93 - WAMADA News

WAMADA News

John MacVeigh

The October WAMADA meeting was host to Jon Grover of Apple Computer, who introduced us to the latest Macintosh products. Most of you have by now already seen the new machines (if not actually purchased them!) so I will forego a listing of the technical details. But this meeting did present the chance to consider how trends in hardware affect the direction of software development.

Just as we developers are maximizing the amount of memory in our Quadras, switching to 16" or 19" full-color monitors and ordering new hard disks, the good folks who buy our software have decided they want to carry their entire computer system in one hand. Silly people! Don't they realize that color is now de rigueur ? That 16MB of RAM and 240MB of disk space is the norm?

This is not to say that the PowerBooks are under-powered. My first glimpse of the preternaturally thin Duo was with it propped open in a lap, running Photoshop™. On the other hand, these machines are battery-powered. Without the deus ex machina of cold-fusion, short-lived batteries will be the Achilles heel of portable machines for quite awhile. This is a problem for programs which rely heavily on disk access. Multi-segment MacApp programs come to mind at this point. As do programs which rely on multiple shared libraries managed by the Shared Library Manager. And, in the extreme case, a system based entirely on shared persistent objects would seem to require constant disk access, or enormous static memory banks. What's a programmer to do?

Rely on hardware, I guess. Yes, I know, heresy coming from a programmer. But face it, the 68882 in an fx outperforms the software emulation on a 68040. And running the circuitry at 3.3 volts instead of 5 volts can save more power than any carefully planned code segmentation strategy. The good news here is that Apple's control of their own hardware gives them the ability to solve some of these problems. The CPU chosen for the Newton is such an example. The November issue of Byte contains an article discussing the ARM610 chip, which contains an Apple designed (and patented) Memory Management Unit. The MMU is particularly suited to managing a persistent object store and allowing background garbage collection. While these features may not appear on Macintoshes in the near future, it's nice to know that someone's given some thought to how hardware can directly assist the programmer.

Well, I've run out of things to italicize, so I'll bring this note to a close. If you're in the D.C. area, and interested in object oriented programming, give us a visit. WAMADA meets every third Wednesday at McDonnell Douglas in Tyson's Corner, Virginia, beginning around 7:15 p.m. For a map, send a message to JEFFRIES.L on AppleLink, or call Leslie at (301) 340-5126 during business hours (EST).

 
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