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July 9, 1987


By CBR Staff Writer

The Canon Cat, introduced yesterday in New York City by Canon USA Inc of Lake Success, New York (CI No 720), turns out to be a very interesting machine indeed – not least because it is the first product created by Jef Raskin since he left Apple Computer Inc, where he headed the original Macintosh development team. And, like the Macintosh, it is built around the Motorola 68000 – running at just 5MHz as befitting a machine that weighs in at a mere $1,500. Dubbed a work processor and billed as requiring users to learn no computing functions, it is an integrated 17 lb unit that according to Microbytes Daily takes about as much space as an Apple IIc. It has a 9 black-and-white monitor tilted back from the keyboard to provide a comfortable viewing angle. The screen is slightly to the left of centre and a single 3.5 floppy drive is mounted vertically to the right of the screen. The software for the Cat is all built into firmware, and the basic interface is a simple text editor so that uninitiated users can sit down at the keyboard and start typing. Initial defaults are even set for a standard business page, so a novice can begin producing letters and memos almost immediately. Scrolling through data is accomplished by holding down one of two keys located in front of the spacebar and typing a string of characters; the Cat leaps to the next occurrence of that string. The right-hand key initiates forward searches; the left-hand key moves backward. If the string cannot be matched, the cursor returns to the starting position. Highlighted text blocks can be deleted, copied or moved. If a highlighted block happens to be a formula, one keystroke will calculate a result. One keystroke will dial a highlighted phone number and initiate a session with a remote computer; incoming data flows in as a long text document. If the highlighted block happens to be a computer program written in either Forth or 68000 assembler, the Cat will execute the program. The motherboard comes with 256Kb memory on the 68000 CPU, and lies flat underneath the display. Outputs include Centronics parallel port, 25-pin RS-232C serial port, and two Telco RJ-11 jacks to connect the internal 300/1200 bps modem to an incoming phone line and an external telephone. It is difficult to assess the commercial prospects for the Cat, but if Toshiba can make it in the US with its lap-tops, and Epson can set the low-cost Personalike market alike, the same kind of Japanese muscle behind a product that sounds as attractive as the Cat should ensure some success.

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