3.321 MIPSy multitasking workstations, cont. (140)

Thu, 3 Aug 89 18:54:08 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 321. Thursday, 3 Aug 1989.

(1) Date: Thu, 3 Aug 89 13:00:38 EDT (34 lines)
From: "Eric Johnson DSU, Madison, SD 57042" <ERIC@SDNET.bitnet>
Subject: Multitasking

(2) Date: Thu, 3 Aug 89 13:48:59 EDT (56 lines)
From: Charles Ess <DRU001D@SMSVMA.bitnet>
Subject: Re: 3.317 MIPSy workstations; multitasking (153)

(3) Date: Thu, 3 Aug 89 15:46:13 EDT (25 lines)
From: Geoff Rockwell <rockwell@utorgpu>
Subject: Re: 3.317 MIPSy workstations; multitasking (153)

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Thu, 3 Aug 89 13:00:38 EDT
From: "Eric Johnson DSU, Madison, SD 57042" <ERIC@SDNET.bitnet>
Subject: Multitasking

My thanks to David Graham for making me think more about
multitasking in the ideal humanist computing lab.

It seems to me that before I used computers I worked with a
mass of materials at more or less the same time: I consulted
various books, articles, indexes, concordances; I took notes,
marked passages, and wrote drafts. I recall that I sat surrounded
by books and notes and moved from one to another quickly and

That seemed to change when I started to use computers. Although
most of the tasks I wanted to perform could be done (better) on
a computer, I had to do them sequentially. With a few exceptions
(such as printing one document while editing another), it was
most convenient to finish one task before starting another.

In recent years, it has been possible to use a microcomputer
to snap back and forth easily among more-or-less simultaneous
tasks and to run applications in the background while working
on other things. Thus, it is now possible for me to work in
about the same way on a computer as I did without it, and that
is what users of the ideal humanist computer lab should be able
to do.

True multitasking with concurrent processing and preemptive
power should be available so that text searching, indexing, sorting,
and similar tasks can be performed in the background while another
program is used. The ideal computer lab should offer a wide range of
programs that can be run simultaneously.
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------64----
Date: Thu, 3 Aug 89 13:48:59 EDT
From: Charles Ess <DRU001D@SMSVMA.bitnet>
Subject: Re: 3.317 MIPSy workstations; multitasking (153)

The current debate over whether a 12.5 MIPs Sun workstation is a good
choice for humanist computing hits nicely on a central problem -- hot
hardware that is lightyears ahead of available software.

The comments by Scott Myers make this conflict clear. He rightly praises
the high screen resolution of the Sun, and its relative speed vis-a-vis
the Macintosh -- and strikes a chord with one of my major complaints with
the Macintosh: the screen is just too small to exploit the possibilities
of hypermedia display. For that, he points out, while the software for
all this is not available, it *could* be developed.

Certainly it could. It only took some five years and a few million dollars
to develop Intermedia for the Macintosh. And now that Intermedia has
entered its commercial release phase, anyone who can afford the (admittedly
expensive) hardware can make use of an extraordinary hypertext authoring
system that is far more powerful than, say, Hypercard -- and its ease of
use makes scripting in Hypertalk look like writing dissertations in UNIX
(possible, but probably not the route most of us would take). And all
this for $125.00...

Perhaps in a few years, some brave soul will have developed equivalent
software for the SUN -- i.e., powerful, user-friendly, and relatively
affordable -- which will thus open up the SUN to humanities faculty who
can (a) afford the equipment, and (b) do not care to become power users
to exploit its 12.5 MIPS. Until that time, despite my aggravation with
the current size limitations on the Macintosh display, -- if a choice
must be made between available software and powerful hardware, I would
prefer to have the software in hand and get to work, rather than become
embroiled with the dubious joys of trying to create my own programs.

Note: I do not hold stock in either IRIS (the source of Intermedia) or
Apple Computer, Inc. I _am_ interested in software applications which
bend technology to the traditional goals and functions of humanities
scholarship and teaching.

Finally, speed is, as has been commented on several times, highly relative.
Compared to the Sun, yes the Mac is slow. Compared to my beloved PC --
which is perfectly adequate for most of my tasks -- the Mac is astonishingly
fast. I suggest that the term "slow" belongs to the family of terms which
includes "obsolete." In the face of the rapidly changing technology of
computers, the term "obsolete" is obsolete: it has, at best, a highly
relative meaning, and in general conveys something of the sense of
a given user's aesthetic habits and preferences. While this may be
useful information, it is hardly a term of damnation from a more general

Hope all this is taken in the spirit it is sent -- i.e., just a friendly
comment from from a humanities professor at a small college.

Charles Ess
Philosophy and Religion
Drury College
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------30----
Date: Thu, 3 Aug 89 15:46:13 EDT
From: Geoff Rockwell <rockwell@utorgpu>
Subject: Re: 3.317 MIPSy workstations; multitasking (153)

I am confused by some of the comments on the Mac II. I thought it was
possible to buy two page screens so that you can see two pages of text
side by side. I also thought that with 24 bit color one could have
16 million different colors on screen with the appropriate video card
and monitor. The problem is storage and speed. Color graphics without
compression take amazing amounts of space. This is where a Sun would
probably prove superior to the present generation of Mac IIs. But, that
is not to say one cannot get high quality color graphics.

The added power of machines like the Sun and NeXT could be used to
compress and decompress high quality images in real time. This would
allow one to store "moving pictures" and to play them back. Your computer
and VCR could work together. Apple purportedly has a board that they are
developing to do the compression and decompression, off and on to an
optical disk. This would fit into the Mac II line. Do we need it? I suspect
when we have it we will wonder how we ever lived without it. In the meantime
I dream of the perfect word processor.

Geoffrey Rockwlel