Whole Earth Review

Good cheap Mac stuff

Good cheap Mac stuff – Macintosh products; includes glossary and brief directory of resources

Andrew Dick

THE MAC IS a wonderful computer that can help create or manage: information, art, business, words, etc. Be warned, however: MacLust is a virulent and infectious disease. It’s not fatal, just maddening — prices can drop 100 percent in two years, but there’s always something sensational and expensive coming out. Advertising hoopla obscures the fact that Macs can be inexpensive. You could publish the Whole Earth Review or run a small business with low-priced equipment — it won’t be lightning-fast, but you’ll save thousands of dollars.

Prices quoted are Street (as opposed to Manufacturer’s Recommended). By the time you read this, hardware will probably be lower; software can go either way.


Buying used computers is not particularly dicy. If a computer is gonna fail, it usually does so in the first six months. Two caveats: the Plus’s power supply is weak; it needs an add-on fan. Monitors can “burn in” if left on all the time. However, the damage is easy to see and avoid.

Computer Apple dumped the Plus and SE, but they’re fine machines; unless you do color or sound, they can easily be upgraded to meet most needs. With upgrades, they’ll run System 7 and all but the higher high-end programs. Used Pluses go for $350, SEs for $450 (add $200 if they include 2.5 meg RAM and HDs). The Plus is slightly slower but will do 95 percent of what an SE or Classic will. However, the Plus is less expandable, and its power supply can blow. (Fixes cost $125.)

The Classic, Apple’s new low-end Mac ($925 new with 4 megs RAM/40-meg HD) is better than the Plus and SE it replaced, but not much. If you’ll need muscle, get a Classic II ($1,250 new with 4/40): it’s a lot more computer.

Memory You must have a hard drive. If you buy new, insist on an HD with external termination and external SCSI switching. New 40-meg HDs cost about $250. If (when) you run out of HD space, Super-Disk ($45 from Alysis: 800/825-9747) is an inexpensive and painless way to double the capacity of your HD. It’s great software.

You’ll also want at least 2.5 megs of RAM. The Plus and SE were shipped with 1 meg but can be upgraded to 2.5 or 4 megs. Do-it-yourself upgrades are easy, and cost $90 for 2.5 megs and $180 for 4 megs. Upgrades from Technology Works (800/879-9739) include a lifetime warranty and excellent support.

Printer(1) Used ImageWriter IIs go for $165, but unless you’re on a very tight budget or print multipart forms, don’t bother. Ink-jet printers give laserlike output at a fraction of the price. Apple’s StyleWriter ($325) and Hewlett-Packard’s DeskWriter ($350) are excellent.

If you print more than basic text, two pieces of software will make ink-jet output nearly indistinguishable from $2,500 lasers. Adobe Type Manager (ATM) eliminates “jaggies” on skewed or odd-size text. It comes free with some programs(2) or you can buy it for $60. Freedom of the Press Lite ($55 from Custom Applications: 508/667-8585) renders Postscript graphics (and text) on non-Postscript printers. It’s slow and requires 2 megs RAM, but it’s good.


If you track orders against inventory, profits, and salespeople, get Double Helix; if you keep statistics on global warming, get Excel; if you publish magazines, get Quark. High-end programs like these get all the attention, but for most people they’re like using a helicopter to go shopping. Modest programs don’t require the hardware and hassle of premier applications, but will do the jobs most people actually require. If you outgrow an inexpensive program, you can move up and take your data with you. Except as noted, the following run with 1 meg under System 6.0.5. With 2.5 megs, they’ll run under System 7.

Word Processing WriteNow ($155 from T/Maker: 415/962-0195) is software done right: clean, powerful, and fast. Taste ($85 from DeltaPoint: 800/367-4334) isn’t as elegant, but has a great price and lots of power: word processing, address book, and modest desktop publishing and graphics. (Requires 2 megs RAM.)

Database DAtabase ($65 from Baseline: 901/682-9676) is a desk accessory (DA).(3) Great for address books, but strong enough for bigger jobs. RecordHolder Plus ($80 from Software Discoveries: 213/644-9225) is an application — not as convenient as a DA, but very capable. MyAdvancedDatabase ($35 from MySoftware: 415/325-9372) lacks picture fields, but it’s a powerful application and a great value.

Spreadsheet Even at double the price, nothing comes close to Bi-Plane ($60 from Night Diamonds: 714/842-2492; includes chart and DA). If you don’t require a full-blown spreadsheet, One Shot Worksheet ($45 from Baseline; includes chart and DA) is convenient and useful, and doubles as a presentation tool.

Graphics For convenience, power, and price, you can’t beat the DAs DeskPaint & Draw ($110 from Zedcor: 602/881-8101). SuperPaint ($132 from Aldus: 206/622-5500) is the most powerful application you can get for under $250. (Requires 2 megs RAM.)

Accounting Quicken ($45 from Intuit: 800/624-8742), MacMoney ($55 from Survivor Software: 213/338-0155), and DacEasy Light ($35 from DacEasy: 800/877-8088) are good for personal and small-business use.

DeskTop Publishing If Publish-It! Easy ($145 from Timeworks: 800/323-7744) can’t do the job, you need a bigger computer and a promotion. Personal Press (Aldus, $120) is also very good — not as many features, but elegant and easy to use.

Integrated Packages

These have the basic applications (word processing, graphics, database, communications, spreadsheet, and chart). While they aren’t always as powerful as standalone programs, packages offer amazing bang for the buck. Probably all many people will need.

BeagleWorks ($185 from Beagle Bros.: 619/452-5500) has the basics. Every module is always available, and products from each can exist in the same document and be automatically updated by “hot links.” Good power, excellent integration. Superb!

ClarisWorks ($180 from Claris: 408/727-8227) has the basics and macros (which automate repetitive tasks). Beautiful interface, good integration, and discounted upgrades to standalone applications. (Communications requires 2 megs RAM.)

GreatWorks ($185 from Symantec: 800/441-7234.) has basics, plus outline. Not as tightly integrated, but a solid program from a good company. Frequently bundled with other useful programs.

Desk ($50-$180 from Zedcor: 800/482-4567) has basics, plus reminders. While not as powerful as the above, Desk has advantages. The modules are DAs, so you can install just what you need, saving RAM and HD space. As I write, Zedcor’s selling it direct for under $75: a tremendous value.


For virus protection, Disinfectant (freeware) is probably all you need. But if you’re nervous, get SAM ($65 from Symantec). Hard-disk backup is critical, and DiskFit Pro ($75 from Dantz: 510/849-0293) is my favorite.

Disk utilities make life easier and can save you from disaster. Norton Utilities ($85 from Symantec) and MacTools Deluxe ($80 from Central Point: 800/445-0412) are excellent and include hard-disk backup. Screen savers prevent burn-in; I use AutoBlack, but dozens of other free/shareware programs will do the job.

What and Where to Buy

What: If I was on a tight budget, I’d get a used SE or Plus — in that order. Otherwise, I’d get a Classic II. Whatever you buy, you need an HD and at least 2.5 megs of RAM.

For software, you should first get the safety programs. It’s hard to recommend other software without knowing your needs. (Buying used software is difficult — some programs won’t run under System 6.0.7 or 7.0. Before buying, make sure it runs under both.) But for general use it’s hard to beat integrated packages — if you need more power in one area, add a standalone program. However, if you’re working in only a couple of areas, it’s probably best to get individual programs.

Where: Careful shopping can save big bucks. For commercial software, mail order is cheapest; MacWarehouse (800/255-6227), MacZone (800/248-0800), and MacConnection (800/334-4444) are reputable firms with excellent service. Get the catalogs; if you don’t see something, ask. Also inquire about special offers and money-back guarantees before you order. For shareware, visit a user group (below) or bulletin-board system.

Apple and some other companies offer educational discounts; if you’re connected with a college or school district (or know someone who is), check this first. Mail order and “super stores” also offer good value. For used stuff, check the local classifieds, ads in Mac magazines, Boston Computer Exchange (800/262-6399), and user groups. (Call 800/538-9696, ext. 500, to locate a group near you.)

Resources: MacUser ($27/12 issues; 800/627-2247) and MacWorld ($30/12 issues; 800/234-1038) are available on newsstands. Check their ads and reviews. BMUG (415/549-2684), a national user group, is an extraordinary resource.

What They Do

Word Processing: Write, edit freely, check spelling, hyphenate, and use the thesaurus. Good-looking copy with minimum hassle.

Databases. Organize and manipulate data. Search on various criteria (e.g. List all contacts who are activists, live in NY or CA, and work in the arts), calculate purchase orders, do form letters; keep notes, mailing lists, inventory, etc.

Spreadsheets: Crunch numbers and do “what-if” analysis (e.g. We break even selling 9,000 widgets at $7. What if we reduce expenses 2 [cents]?). For finances and statistics. Charting turns the numbers into graphs.

Accounting: You enter the data; it does the rest of the work. Balance your books and produce budgets, tax, and financial reports. Helpful at home, necessary for business, a godsend at tax time.

Graphics: Create (or import) graphics, then reverse, skew, distort, re-size (etc.) the results.

Desktop Publishing: Produce posters, newsletters, presentations, and books.

Miscellaneous: With a modem, Communications let you “talk” with other computers. Outliners are writing/presentation aids. Reminders track and remind you of events. (1.) It’s inconvenient, but you can get by without a printer — copy shops offer do-it-yourself laser printing for about 50 [cents] a page. (2.) Apple might include it with system software; if so, you can get it from user groups and BBSes. TrueType (free from Apple) does the same thing, but I recommend ATM. (3.) DAs are always available. With applications, you must exit the one you’re in before you can open another. If you’ve got 2.5 megs of RAM, however, you can run Multifinder or System 7, where the distinction between applications and DAs essentially disappears.

COPYRIGHT 1992 Point Foundation

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group