While at Macworld Expo, we found out more about two new products offered in the back of MacWEEK. Both products expand the compact Macintoshes in ways that Apple cannot do for you and Apple's spec sheets for general consumption say cannot be done. (Of course, that's never stopped people from trying!)
The first product, Aura Systems's ScuzzyGraph II, allows you to attach a color monitor to a 512KE, Plus, or SE. This cannot normally be done because the ROMs in these computers do not have color QuickDraw. The sales people in the booth didn't exactly know how the product works, but they did have it hooked up to a Plus and an SE. The SE had an accelerator card in it (we easily detected the card when we launched Word 4.0 and it came up almost instantly), so we couldn't tell whether or not the ScuzzyGraph was slowing down the SE. The Plus, however, seemed to be plugging along at its normal rate.
ScuzzyGraph is a box about the size of a hard drive, and can sit comfortably under a compact Mac. Inside the box, according to Aura, resides a special graphics processor which processes and accelerates QuickDraw commands. The spec sheet says that ScuzzyGraph gives you up to a 650% larger screen, eight "vivid" colors (they looked normal to us), 1280 by 1024 pixels (though this amount only applies to the most expensive version), instant installation, works with existing software (we should hope so!), and color printing (a good reason to buy Color MacCheese).
It looked to us like ScuzzyGraph might be a nice option for people who already have a compact Mac and want a color monitor, but that the price rules it out as something people would buy along with a new compact system in most cases. There are actually three versions of ScuzzyGraph, and the main differences are the resolutions they support. They cost, list price, $895, $1295, and $1995 respectively. You can also buy them with a monitor provided by Aura, and they offer four models, with prices ranging from $1595 to $3695, depending on the resolution and the monitor size. Since we still don't know how the device works, we would recommend more research on the part of anyone contemplating a purchase.
Another product line that expands on some compact Macs is a line of expansion chassis from Second Wave. Like the ScuzzyGraph, these products will, in most cases, only make sense when purchased for an older machine, not if purchased in conjunction with a new Mac. Second Wave makes a two-slot chassis for the Portable that takes SE cards, a four-slot chassis for Pluses and SEs that takes SE cards, and a four and an eight-slot NuBus chassis for the SE/30. (It also make them for Mac IIs, for people who want more slots than fingers.) The idea of the chassis was more exciting than actually looking at it, though in some cases the boxes were fairly large, which might be something (especially in the case of the Portable) that you would want to know before you bought.
It's nice to know that expansion products exist for the compact Macs although to be successful these products must be boring and blend in just as though the Mac had color capabilities or several slots built in. They seem to do just that, so if you are truly attached to your compact Mac and want a little more room to flex, check them out.
Aura Systems -- 800/365-AURA
Second Wave -- 512 343 9661
Tonya Byard -- TidBITS editor
Aura System propaganda
Second Wave propaganda