[continued from part III]

So, here I was back in Brazil with my brand-new Mac 128. Of course, the first thing I did was to disassemble it — a tradition I kept up for almost three decades, until Apple’s increasing use of glue and special tooling began to make it too risky for some Macs (especially laptops and the latest iMacs).

The hardware team at Quartzil was as interested in the machine as I was, and we learned a lot from it. Remember that this was for our upcoming QI900 8-bit microcomputer. At that time (mid-1984) PAL chips, injection-molding and four-layer boards were new and too expensive for all but very large-scale production runs, and we had to postpone adoption on all those. Similarly, when we looked at the Mac’s video circuits, we found that it used a horizontal flyback transformer that worked at higher frequencies than any commercially available in Brazil. That, and the fact that (because of the lack of PALs) we had to fall back to the MC6845 video controller chip, meant that we had to keep close to the 24×80 character display standard; the final display resolution was 27×90, with the first two lines reserved for a menu:

the menus were opened by the corresponding function keys, with shortcuts accessible by the special “QI” key. Notice the special “Edit” menu with “Undo”, “Copy”, “Paste” and “Delete” equivalents — sound familiar? 🙂

My Mac was used extensively for the QI900 design. All of the documentation was done in MacWrite/MacPaint (later, in WriteNow). I used a quite primitive C compiler (from Aztec) to write utility programs; one to optimize the MC6845 parameters to stay within certain constraints, another one to design the QI900 character set, which used an extended MacRoman encoding to allow accents and frame/window/menu-drawing characters. The “extended” part was also necessary because Apple’s original encoding didn’t include capital accented characters. The character set was then sent over one of the serial interfaces to an EPROM burner, and a copy was saved on the Mac itself as a FONT resource file. Unfortunately, all of these old files are still in my backups, but no longer readable — at a later time, they were encoded with DiskDoubler and, beyond that, were originally in long-obsolete file formats.

Subsequently I met other Mac users at a huge computer industry event in São Paulo; most important for my immediate future, the team from Unitron were there with their successful line of Apple II clones, and we talked about their plans for doing a Brazilian Mac clone. More about this (hopefully) in the next chapter.