Bell & Howell Apple II update

From: Richard Erlacher <>
Date: Sun Jan 27 14:04:02 2002

It's not about fighiting or winning or losing, but rather about preventing
rewriting of history, intentional or inadvertent, by skewing the relative
timeline. This happens because people unwittingly take things out of context
as you've perhaps done here.

The discussion was about microcomputers and, specifically, the video connector
on the Apple ][. When the Apple ][ came out, cable TV was not yet a common
reality (That changed rapidly in the early '80's, but, in '77-'78, was not yet
the case.) Video in this context, did not include notions like the VCR and
set-top boxes, nor did it include other sorts of equipment that most folks
outside the TV production industry had not even yet seen, simply because it
was too costly for the microcomputing arena. Apple put the RCA jack on the
back of their computer because (a) it was cheap, and (b) the signal wouldn't
have to travel far. That way they ensured they could "get away" with that
choice. They, and others in their field had to make choices on the basis of
what things cost at the time.

In the TV production studio equipment market, where things cost in the 5- or
6-figure price range, the presence of a connector that would cost on the order
of $20 per connection point (remember what it cost to assemble the things!)
didn't matter so much. BNC had been around for a long time, and so had the
PL/SO-259. Both were capable of carrying wideband signals, and both cost
about the same. Someone had made the choice, probably in the '50's, to use
the latter in closed-circuit TV applications, and that's what one found on the
back of most of the production monitors priced suitably for microcomputer
applications in the '70's. As the term "video" came to mean what it does
today, i.e. something that you see via TV equipment, the 'F' connector became
the common connector of that market. I doubt the BNC is worse than the 'F'
but the 'F' is quite a bit cheaper and offers the fact that it directly uses
the center conductor of the cable as its medium rather than requiring a
crimped or soldered center pin. I don't know that it makes a big difference
in NTSC video, but in broadband transmission it probably does reduce
discontinuities in the transmisison line.

As far as reaching that "Aha!" to which you've referred, I'd have thought
you'd at least have taken a peek at the ads in an old BYTE or Kilobaud mag of
the '77 to '80 period, where you'd easily see what I meant. I've given away
my old mag's from back then, though I still find 'em lying about. However, I
have catalogs and other trade mags that I can look at. Looking at production
studio video equipment wouldn't shed light on the subject, but looking the
trade mag's for the microcomputer industry would do it.

Being right in the sense of winning an argument isn't as important as having
the facts straight when you get done. What bothers me about such remarks as
the one that was originally made, sort-of on the line of, "our video lab had
BNC connectors on all the equipment ..." might well have been quite correct,
but it distorted the context, i.e. microcomputer video equipment and TV studio
equipment were entirely different universes in the '70's. That it's changed
should surprise noone, but skewing the timeline leads to conclusions such as
how stupid it was to use one connector, when, in fact, the decision was made
strictly on the basis of price and availability, and the relative cleverness
of the underlying decision from an engineering standpoint was not a primary
concern. (It leads to tiresome and inane complaints about how dumb it was to
use a VAX when a Pentium III would have been so much better.) I seriously
doubt that Jobs and Wozniak considered the BNC for more than about 1
microsecond because of cost, and other factors played no role at all.

----- Original Message -----
From: "John Allain" <>
To: <>
Sent: Sunday, January 27, 2002 10:20 AM
Subject: Re: Bell & Howell Apple II update

> Sorry, I see you're a tough fighter, but to me things are about the
> truth, provable facts, etc. and not long winded explanations. I'll
> listen to long explanations on things that need to be explained,
> but to me right and wrong are sort of an intuitive thing. If a person
> can't reach an "Aha!" explanation in some reasonable time I have
> to just "Cut 'em loose". Some people just like to talk. I'll let them
> talk (this is America, after all) and when I listen and when I go about
> my own business is based on the relevance, and "lack of coersion"
> of the facts in the presentation. And I acknowledge that you know
> quite a few things in fields that I don't, or at least hope that you do,
> for the sake of your reputation.
> Here's your quote.
> > Actually, back in the Apple][ days, the BNC was not commonly
> > used for video and particularly not for NTSC video.
> No.
> John A.
Received on Sun Jan 27 2002 - 14:04:02 GMT

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