SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Apple Computer Inc., returning its attention to the desktop publishing market that made the Macintosh computer so popular, has introduced two new laser printers and a remarkable new scanner system.
The scanner software, in particular, is a breakthrough product that promises to make it much simpler for average users to incorporate pictures into their laser-printed documents.
Three new technologies are employed in Apple's products. One is called Fineprint, which is built into both of the new printers and which appears to be very similar to the Resolution Enhancement Technology pioneered by the Hewlett-Packard Co.
Fineprint alters the placement of the little dots that make up text and drawings, reducing or eliminating jagged lines.
More intriguing is Photograde, a technique that greatly improves the appearance of graphic images in a document. Photograde allows the new Laserwriter IIg to reproduce black-and-white images in 65 shades of gray, which Apple says is seven times as many as competing laser printers use.
It does so by altering the shape of the dots that make up a halftone image, the kind used for photographs in this and other newspapers. The result is that what comes out of the laser looks much more like the original image.
The most intriguing of all, though, is Ofoto, a new software application that comes with the Apple One Scanner. A scanner is essentially a printer in reverse.
It converts photographs or other printed images into digital bits that can be stored in a computer file. The scanned image can then be modified and resized and placed in another document, like a newsletter, report or memo.
Ofoto was created by a company called Light Source Inc. of Greenbrae, Calif. It reduces the main parts of the scanning process to a single click of the mouse, replacing long sequences of commands that required no small amount of technical skill and patience.
Ofoto automatically finds the image on the scanning bed, determines whether it is a photograph or a drawing, straightens it if it was placed crookedly in the scanner, crops away unnecessary white space, determines the optimum settings for contrast and brightness, compensates for visual anomalies called moire patterns and fine-tunes the image to match the peculiar characteristics of the user's printer.
If the printer being used is the Laserwriter IIg with Photograde (or the IIf with extra memory chips), the resulting image will be pleasingly sharp and clear, even on existing 300-dot-per-inch laser printers. Apple says the resolution, or sharpness, of the printing with Photograde is the equivalent of 800 dots per inch.
The Apple One Scanner has a list price of $1,299, letting it beat out the original Apple scanner that it replaces by more than $500.
The new scanner looks just like the old one, but all the inner components have been changed.
The main difference is a special microchip that allows images to be stored in 256 shades of gray, as against 16 in the original. The more levels of gray there are, the closer the scanned image will be to true photographic quality.
The Laserwriter IIf is based on a 20-megahertz version of the Motorola 68030 microprocessor and comes with two megabytes of memory. To take advantage of Photograde, one must add a two-megabyte memory option. The list price for the IIf is $3,499.
The Laserwriter IIg uses the faster 25-megahertz 68030 chip and comes with five megabytes of memory, and it also has a built-in Ethernet network adapter, which will appeal to anyone working on a local area network.
The new laser printers are housed in the same cases that hold the Laserwriter II and IINTX printers they replace, and Apple will offer an upgrade kit that converts the older Laserwriter II family to the new technology.