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Bigger but smaller

EZ135 Drive. Compact removable 135-megabyte cartridge drive for Apple Macintosh and IBM and compatible computers. Pounds 179 external drive, or Pounds 149 for internal version (IDE), Pounds 12.50 for 3.5-inch removable cartridge. Available from computer peripheral suppliers. SyQuest Technology, Building 163, Cargo Terminal, Turn House Road, Edinburgh Airport, Edinburgh EH12 0A. Freephone: 0800 526559.

Bigger, better, cheaper but smaller too? Surely a contradiction? Not when it comes to the latest data storage devices for computers where bigger simply means more megabytes.

In the wide range of storage devices now available, SyQuest is known for its its so-called "removable cartridge machines". These are add-on boxes which plug into your computer and run special discs or cartridges that store large amounts of computer information, are quite mobile and extremely useful for backing up software, documents and data. A computer malfunction need never again wipe out your favourite programs and crucial work files.

Advances in technology and fierce competition among manufacturers have produced a new range of small, speedy models that give more megabytes-per-megabuck than ever before. Recent threats to SyQuest's market leadership have stung the firm which helped create the removable cartridge market into launching its own mini-product - the EZ135 drive.

The review model, about the size of a hefty paperback, was used with an Apple Macintosh computer and could hardly have been easier to set up. (An alternative, internal model can be fitted into a Mac or PC.) You simply connect the box to the Macintosh, turn it on and then turn on the computer. You see an icon for the EZ135 on the computer screen, just as you would for a floppy or hard disc. From there on you can drag programs and files from computer to EZ135 and vice versa.

The system software automatically loads itself from the supplied cartridge on to the Mac. About 40 megabytes of system software and free sampler programs are already loaded on the cartridge, and the unit arrives with the necessary software for connection to Dos and Windows computers too.

A few years ago, 135 megabytes would have been thought massive, but now it is probably already insufficient for serious multimedia work. For average use, however, it is ideal. Moving from computer to computer to back up files is relatively easy. And if you have an older computer with a small hard drive, the EZ135 is nippy enough to be used as an alternative external hard disc so you can run your programs directly from the cartridge. A machine like this is a software pirate's dream, so be wary of copyright issues as you blithly click-and-drag software from machine to machine.

The best news is that the 3.5-inch cartridges, which are just like overweight floppy discs are now much smaller and cheaper than the previous generation of 44 and 88-megabyte cartridges.

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