Plink. Plunk. Kerplop. Click. CRASH! Vroom, Vrooooom. CaCHUG, CaCHUG. Wakacha-wakacha. Caw-caw-caw. Whap!
You're listening to Apple's new Macintosh LC, which was announced last fall but is just now coming on the market. It's the lowest-priced color model Macintosh has ever offered and has lots of sweet features in addition to price. But the feature that rings in the memory is the computer's use of sound.
Like the top-of-the-line Macintosh models, the new LC comes with three input devices: a keyboard, a mouse and a microphone. The system software built into the machine includes two standard commands, "Sound In" and "Sound Out," which are designed to serve as easy "handles" for software companies to latch onto when they write programs for the Mac.
Couple that sound-input facility with the high-quality stereo audio output built into most Macs these days, and it is obvious that Apple is planning for personal computers where aural information becomes as easy to deal with as words, numbers and pictures on a screen.
Apple is doing that largely for future purposes. When multi-media becomes important -- that is, the union of TV, video and CD sound, all manipulated by a personal computer -- Apple wants Macintosh to be the preferred multi-media vehicle. Strong built-in sound capability could help achieve that goal.
For now, multi-media applications still are rare. But the designers of the new Mac LC and some of its software are having fun with the sound capabilities anyway. The LC we tested recently came with a new version of the MacPaint drawing program that accompanies every command with sound effects.
You want to open a new file? "Pop!" says the computer. You want to pick a new shape for your graphic? The computer says "Plink!" when you pick it up and "Kerplop!" when you place it on the screen. When you erase a file, the computer greets this command with a bomb blast.
We have seen some software programs that put the sound output of the Macintosh to more serious use. There are terrific music composition and performance programs. There are games with eerie or entertaining sound effects. And language learning programs, particularly those like the ones from HyperGlot Inc. with digitized native pronunciation built in, are much more useful on a Mac than on computers that don't have high-quality sound output.
Of course, there's a lot more to the Mac LC than the plinks and plops. This petite machine, with surprisingly sharp color graphics, is the most important of the new, low-cost Macs that Apple announced last fall. The LC marks the first time that users can get a color Macintosh at a moderate price.
A Macintosh LC with 2 megabytes of RAM memory, a 40 megabyte hard disk, a good color monitor, keyboard, mouse and microphone, should be available less than $2,500 at most dealers. That's a cut of $1,000 or more from what you used to pay for color Macintosh capability. It makes Apple a realistic alternative for buyers who might otherwise be looking at the IBM PS-1 series or at a DOS clone.
The LC seems to run all types of Mac software. We have to fudge that statement a little, because it is not unheard of for new models of the Macintosh to have compatibility problems. But everything we've seen on the LC seemed to run flawlessly.
Potential buyers will probably want to make a couple of comparisons.
For about $1,000 less than the LC, you can get a Macintosh Classic, the cheapest of the "new Macs." This is a nice package, but it is a slow machine that doesn't have color. The Classic's display, black-and-white only, is about half the size of the LC's color display. That small monochrome screen can be a pain for us old coots who can't see so well any more. Anyway, color is much more fun.
For $500 or so less than the LC, you can buy a fast DOS machine with VGA color display and an 80386-SX microprocessor that gives you access to all DOS programs. For some users, it won't be worth another $500 to get a Macintosh. But if you want Mac software and a halfway decent platform to run it, the LC is the best value for the dollar Apple has come up with so far.
Speaking of Mac software, there are more resume-writing programs available for the Macintosh than noted recently in a column on that category of software. The column mentioned a DOS program called "ResumeMaker" (Individual Software, 1-800-874-2042; In Calif., 1-800-331-3313) but failed to mention that Individual Software also makes a ResumeMaker version for Macs. ResumeMaker's latest version also allows fancier printing options, an improvement over the rather limited set mentioned previously.