Speed one factor affecting performance

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 March, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 March, 1994, 12:00am

PLEASE describe 16-bit and 32-bit systems, how they affect performance and what they mean to the user? Also, why is there more positive talk about OS/2 and what does it mean to the user? RANDALL KING Hong Kong Imagine you have to transport a large number of people from point A to point B in your car. The speed at which your car can travel is only one factor affecting performance. Just as important is how many people can fit in your car per trip. The more people your car can carry, the more efficient your car is at doing the job.

The same logic can be applied to computer systems. Given that two systems are both rated at the same speed - 33MHz for example - the system which can move data around 32 bits at a time will clearly perform better than the system which can only move data around 16 bits at a time.

Where the issue gets a little more confusing, however, is when a computer is a ''true'' 32-bit system, such as an IBM compatible computer based on an Intel 80486DX CPU, but where the operating system, which the hardware is running, is written for a 16-bit system.

Operating systems are often a generation, or even two generations, behind the latest hardware because they have to be compatible with the older computers that make up most of the installed user base.

As for your OS/2 question, one could be cynical and attribute all the positive talk about the operating system to the fortune IBM must have spent on advertising and marketing. To be fair, however, the main reason is that OS/2 is really the only viable 32-bit operating system that will run on an average IBM compatible personal computer.

Some of the other systems will not run DOS and Windows applications, while OS/2 will do so while running applications designed specifically for it, too.

The second reason for the increasing popularity of OS/2 is that Windows NT was not the commercial success that it might have been. Some users who might have moved from Windows 3.1 to Windows NT have moved over to OS/2 instead. With more than four million OS/2 users, expect this trend to continue.

There are even independent computer magazines which deal only with OS/2.

For users, the bottom line is that they have a viable, non-Microsoft, 32-bit system they can buy today.

WITH the introduction of the PowerPC chip, I am thinking of using a Power Macintosh to set up a home office. Besides the usual word processing and personal information management applications and games, I would like to use my Power Mac to: Receive faxes via a fax/modem and output them to a laser printer; Subscribe to various Mac networks in Hong Kong and/or North America; Subscribe to a a real-time forex/news service for my forex investment charting; Be able to video conference with my parents in Canada with the help of a video camcorder.

How can I do all this? ALAN LI Hong Kong Start by buying a fax/modem (9,600 bits per second or above recommended) and a communications software package (MicroPhone Pro for Mac, Double Talk, Blast for Mac and the like.) Call Kenfil Distribution on 529 2059 for details.

Then subscribe to the on-line bulletin board services (BBSs) you want to get on. Two which you could look into are the Hong Kong Mac User Group BBS (fax 343 3569 for details) and the Chain BBS (telephone 510 8067).

You can also use your Power Mac to subscribe to other on-line services all the way from CompuServe to the Internet. Check with a KPS Megastore for a publication on these services.

You can subscribe to real-time financial services such as those offered by Telerate, Telequote and others. You will not be able to use them with a Mac-like graphical user interface, but you can get the data in text form, nevertheless. After all, a Power Mac can run IBM compatible PC software as well as Mac applications, albeit in slightly slower emulation mode.

You can video conference with someone in Canada if you both have the right equipment. Nuts Technologies of Hong Kong sells an add-on board and software that can work with most camcorders and standard telephone lines (although digital networks are recommended for faster video data transmission). Over normal phone lines, video images are sent at the rate of seven frames per second, or about four times slower than a television image. The board and software cost about US$3,500. For details, telephone Nuts on 881 6360.

Look to such monitor makers as Radius, SuperMac and NEC for the large screen you will probably need to do all of this simultaneously with your Power Mac.