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Most Interesting Hardware: SmartStack

Given that I don't specialize in any particular area, I don't get excited about advances in printer or modem or whatever technology. However, one thing other than the Apple Adjustable Keyboard (more on that in a bit) did catch my attention. Envisio, now owned by Mirror, introduced the SmartStack, a device that allows you to vertically stack up to seven SCSI devices in a single unit. Drives in the SmartStack do not connect to each other using cables, instead, the drives actually plug into each other. Envisio hopes that this new way of connecting drives will reduce cable clutter, interference, and SCSI errors. For $249, you buy a SmartSource base for the bottom of your stack, which includes SCSI connectors and a fan, and a top unit that offers another cooling fan and a SCSI loopback connector so you can chain additional existing SCSI devices. The SmartModules that contain the actual SCSI devices stack neatly between the SmartSource and the cover module.

Envisio has ten SmartModules available now, including hard drives ranging from 127 MB to 1 GB, a 128 MB removable optical drive, and a 2 GB DAT drive. You are limited to modules produced by Envisio or specifically engineered for the SmartStack, but Envisio is negotiating with other manufacturers and working on additional modules to accommodate network interface modules, CD-ROM players, modems, disk arrays, and possibly even SyQuest drives turned on their sides. SyQuest should also have a 105 MB 3.5" removable drive out sometime this spring, according to various rumors I heard, and that drive will fit within the horizontal size of the SmartStack. Although some additional engineering is required, the lack of a power supply or additional connectors on each module should help keep the prices competitive, if not specifically low. The SmartStack is worth a look, especially if you are buying a new system and don't already have a number of external SCSI storage devices.

Envisio -- 612/628-6288 -- 612/633-1083 (fax)
envisio@applelink.apple.com