14 Jun 2012 Apple II Standard
 |  Category: General

In referring to the first Apple II released, the one before the Apple II Plus, it is common to call it the Apple II standard. The one thing I haves noticed as I’ve looked for pictures of the Apple II on the Internet is that I don’t believe there is a single one that shows what an actual Apple II system would have commonly looked like back in 1977, thirty-five years ago, when it was first released. Every picture I find shows either just the computer, or the computer with a monitor and a Disk II drive. But the Disk II did not appear until July of 1978, a full year later.

The earliest Apple II owners did what most of the microcomputer hobbyists of the day did – they used the lowly cassette to save the programs they wrote, or possibly to load software that was purchased. And even after the Disk II did appear in 1978, it was still $495. Although this was less costly than floppy disk drives for other micros of the the day[1], it was still about one third of the cost of the entry level Apple II ! For many who pioneered the use of the Apple II, it was simply not affordable to get that expensive (though highly desirable) Disk II drive, at least not for a couple of years. From 1977 until around 1982, there were a significant number of software titles that were sold on cassette, because it was the most affordable way to use the computer.

Antoine Vignau of Brutal Deluxe has created a cassette repository on his web site, documenting as many Apple II  (and Apple-1) software products that were released on cassette as he can find.

The point I wish to make is that the most accurate photo of an early Apple II system would be something like this:

Apple II, Panasonic RQ-2102 cassette, and TV

Apple II, Panasonic RQ-2102 cassette, and TV - Photo credit: Carl Knoblock, Phil Pfeiffer

Click on the picture for a larger view. Notice that we don’t have any of that fancy stuff – no disk, no monochrome monitor (certainly no color monitors were affordable in 1977!) We have an Apple II (not Plus), with the Panasonic RQ-2102 cassette tape player/recorder, and a standard television to view it all on. Now this is a proper Apple II system, circa 1977 through the early 1980s for many early owners.

Also notice that Apple apparently thought the Panasonic cassette was the best choice; they actually recommended this specific brand as best suited to use with an Apple II. Mike Willegal’s Apple Cassette Interface Notes page states that the RQ-2102 was the one Apple recommended. I find searching through the Red Book that the Panasonic RQ-309 DS is the one mentioned there. (A video on YouTube shows the 309 DS, and it is very similar in appearance to the 2102.) You can purchase a Panasonic RQ-2102 (as I did) from Amazon here, although I see the price has gone up since I bought mine a few months ago. Here is a closer up view of the player from the photo shoot of Carl Knoblock’s Apple II:

Panasonic RQ-2102

Panasonic RQ-2102 - Photo credit: personal

If you look closely, you’ll see that the tape drive contains a genuine Apple cassette – in this case, it is a tape of Applesoft IIa (not sure what the difference was between Applesoft II and IIa).

And as I’ve mentioned before, Apple still has a couple of pages that are buried deep on its web pages that deal with the obsolete Apple II, and even deal with the even more obsolete cassette tape storage format. You can see them here:

The Apple II Cassette Interface (1 of 2)

The Apple II Cassette Interface (2 of 2)

 

  1. [1] Competing floppy drives for S100 computers ranged from $599 for North Star’s Micro Disk System to as much as $1500 for the Altair Floppy Disk 88-DCDD with one drive and two cards to plug into one of the slots on an Altair. Hogg, Douglas, “Floppy Disks…What’s the Real Story?”, Kilobaud, March 1977, pp. 70-76, as found on <www.retrotechnology.com/dri/first_floppy.html>
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2 Responses

  1. 1
    Mike Willegal July 15th, 2012 at 6:48 am

    Hi Steven,

    I did a exhibit during VCF East this past May based on this theme. A couple of nits about your picture. The historic Panasonic tape deck was a little different cosmetically than the current model (I used a vintage Radio Shack tape recorder in my exhibit), the square power led came into use after the advent of the II Plus (and Disk ][) and you are missing the game paddles.

    I was so busy, I didn’t take a photo of my own, but there are others out there showing my exhibit. http://www.flickr.com/photos/ragooman/7155395812/in/set-72157629628827390

  2. 2
    Steven July 15th, 2012 at 9:45 am

    You make a good point about the game paddles – I didn’t take that into account in setting up my picture. I see from the Apple II “mini-manual” that was distributed in the early days that the Panasonic RQ-309 DS cassette recorder was recommended in those days.

    I like your setup from VCF East!

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