What is full-size/mini/micro? The larger minicomputers now rival the small end of the full-size or mainframe computers, and microcomputers are beginning to edge into the area previously the preserve of lower size models of minicomputers.
A significant recent entrant into the "is it a micro or a mini?" maze is Altos Computer Systems of San Jose, which has announced its first venture into 16-bit microcomputers. (As detailed elsewhere in this issue, computers which process larger 16-bit words are usually faster than those which handle only 8-bit words.)
The ACS8600 family can be configured to provide up to 1MB of main memory and up to 80MB of secondary storage. The systems can serve up to eight users simultaneously, and can support end-user programs written in BASIC, COBOL, PASCAL and FORTRAN. The basic system which offers 512KB of main memory, a 10MB hard disk and floppy disk backup is listed at $12,990.
Altos movement into what its President, David Jackson, describes as "minicomputer capability at micro prices" is significant because Altos users have an unusually high opinion of the company's hardware. In a recent survey by DataPro, 100% of users contacted said that they would recommend Altos hardware to other potential users. Users' overall satisfaction was 3.8 on a scale of 4, the highest of any system for which there were more than 100 responses. Documentation was the only area in which Altos was considered inadequate. [Contact: Altos Computer Systems Inc., 2360 Bering Dr., San Jose, CA 95131. 408-946-6700].
Radio Shack has also entered the arena, with its TRS-80 Model 16, a 16- bit computer which can handle up to three concurrent users. The Model 16 is compatible with all software written for the older TPS-80 Model II, and is currently available with a COBOL generator. FORTRMJ and BASIC versions of the Model 16 will be made available later.
Listed at $4,999 the Model 16 comes with 128KB of main memory and 1.4MB of storage. Main memory is expandable to 512KB and the unit will also support an 8.4MB hard disk drive.
In the user survey quoted earlier, Radio Shack users were not as content as Altos clients, giving a "recommend" rating for the Model II system of 85% and an overall satisfaction rate of 3 on a scale of 4. Dissatisfaction was voiced primarily in relation to the reliability and speed of the computer. [Contact: Tandy Corporation, 1800 One Tandy Center, Fort Worth, TX 76102].