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The Jonathan Computer (2015) (storiesofapple.net)
86 points by erickhill on Feb 27, 2019 | hide | past | web | favorite | 18 comments

The Jonathan concept of modular slices was a copy of the Convergent Technologies NGEN family of computers. frogdesign sold Apple the same packaging they had done two years earlier for Convergent. See the product family here: http://bitsavers.informatik.uni-stuttgart.de/pdf/convergent/...

The concept isn't far removed from the S-100 [1]bus as seen in the Altair 8800, and you could probably find numerous other examples, weren't early IBM mainframes made up of standardised cards with a few nand gates on each?

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/S-100_bus

Yes, early IBM CPUs were made of standardized cards (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_Solid_Logic_Technology. It references http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/ibm/logic/SY22-2798-2_LogicBloc... which has lots of detail)

Also, early Sun/SGI were modular on Multibus.

The vertical expansion blocks reminded me of the TI-99 expansion box:



> Jonathan could look not only strikingly different but also more impressive as its performance increased.

I remember myself in the mid 90's joking about the internal expansion of PCs versus the multiple boxes around our Sun pizza-box workstations: the emotional return on investing on Sun hardware was greater because you could actually see the more disk space you had. Or, when we got to the Enterprise 4500's, you could even see the extra CPU and memory boards.

Huh. Design-wise that thing looks a lot like a NeXT machine.

Well, it was designed by Hartmut Esslinger of Frog Design, who would design the NeXT cube a few years later.

Looks really nice. It would be interesting to see the alternate timeline where Apple became an icon of the more boxy, greyscale, functional design.

And several Sun workstations.

Does anyone remember when computers were beautiful?

The first NeXT cube used.. The Motorola 68030.

I think the reverse-stealing trojan horse fear was real: I think the amount of "yea lets be more mac-like" would have drowned under the "but I can play more games" emerging force of DOS. DOS gave birth to something compelling for home use, mac was better, but not enough to attract the moment of change in young minds. I wanted neither of them but the CP/M upshift to a UNIX world was not going to happen (for a long, long time)

Seems a winning design. You can do both. And wining or not depends upon application and I do not think desktop publishing would use DOS.

The comment by the Product Development guy that they would have to "sell two or three Jonathans to equal the profit of a single Mac" came across as super myopic to me. This is one of those situations where you can make it up on volume, and accomplish a whole lot of greater goals along the way.

Amazon's explosive growth in cloud services, Linus' recent comments about how x86 has an advantage over ARM because developers want the server to optimally mirror the desktop environment, and the increasing need for datacenter-like hub functionality at the edge all suggest to me that this was possibly Apple's biggest missed chance to get a foothold on the server side.

Similar idea to VMEbus, perhaps VME was influenced by the Jonathan computer. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/VMEbus

You have the dates backwards; VME was 4-5 years earlier and AFAIK there were various backplane systems for years before VME.

I'm not convinced they could have made it cheap enough for the average home user in the 80s. Apple at the time was not gaining home market share because their computers were very expensive

One system to do it all usually ends up with a bunch of sub-optimal solutions combined into one.

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