Author Archive

16 Jun 2015 KFest 2015 is coming!

That annual Apple II conference is only a month away, and yes, I’ve got another music parody for it:

Come down and help me make it better with live action!

17 Apr 2015 Elsewhere on the web…
 |  Category: General  | Leave a Comment

Two podcasts caught my attention and enjoyment recently. There are a number of podcasts I enjoy, but these two were particularly interesting, from an Apple II history point of view.

First of all, Welcome to Macintosh (yes, I know, whaaaaaat?) done by Mark Bramhill is a podcast primarily about more modern Mac issues. But episode #3 “Trip to alphaSyntauri” from April 2, 2015, is all about the famous synthesizer made to work with the Mountain Hardware Sound Card for the original Apple II. The episode gives the history of how a keyboard synthesizer was built to use with this card, and became one of the first inexpensive synthesizers available to the public.

The podcast is well done, and actually sounds like something I would hear as a segment on a National Public Radio program.

The second podcast is from ANTIC, The Atari 8-Bit Podcast. I never had an Atari computer to play with, but this podcast makes me feel like I should have. The hosts do an amazing job of getting interviews with luminaries in the Atari world, and what I hear is usually interesting, despite the lack of Apple II connection. Episode 29 features David Cramer of the Western Design Center, which is still to this day manufacturing and selling the venerable 6502, 65c02, and 65816 microprocessors. The discussion does involve the Apple II and IIGS to some extent, and well worth a listen.

06 Jul 2014 BASIC is Golden
 |  Category: Apple II, General  | Tags: , ,  | One Comment

One of the first things I did when I first had access to an Apple II Plus back in 1981 was to enter programs in Applesoft BASIC, typed from a listing in Nibble magazine. With time and the help of technical info I learned from All About Applesoft from Call-A.P.P.L.E. I learned how to play with this programming language on a deeper level. I was eventually able to redo a program for printing labels for IV meds at the hospital where I was training, and used that wonderful “&” extension to add assembly language routines to simplify parts of the program.

Though I had originally learned FORTRAN in college, I was able to extend this knowledge to BASIC, and had a lot of fun doing so. And it is all thanks to the original creation of this language fifty years ago (as of June of this year), I and all of the others who dove headlong into the microcomputer revolution had a way of creating programs.

When I heard of this golden anniversary, I was inspired to come up again with a parody song. Sorry that these songs are based on such an old pop tune, but hey, it was what I heard when I was in high school. Thanks Microsoft (for what became Applesoft), Apple (for selling the Apple II), and Steve Wozniak (for designing the Apple II, and incorporating his own BASIC into it)!

How many of these keywords did you use when you wrote programs in Applesoft??

Me and You and Our Apple II
by Steven Weyhrich

(parody of Lobo’s, “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo“, from 1971)

I remember to this day
DIMensioning an array
And how it worked through the loop
Using FOR and NEXT
Dynamic RAM made that hardware go
The Woz design ensured that’s so
Oh how I wish I was
Back at the prompt again

Me and you and our Apple II
Me and you and our Apple II
How I wished I could find some FRE mem …

I managed variables and all
And created hi-res shapes
For a game that would win
That contract job, it gave me work
And then they paid me for what it was worth
Another box of disks and
Back at the prompt again

Me and you and our Apple II
Me and you and our Apple II
How I’d love to replay that great game

I’ll never forget that day
I saw that Mac with its cute display
The clicks and its icons
Were fascinatin’ to my brain
And though its been thirty years or so
That old II’s bugging me to go
I’ve gotta boot it up and get
Back to the prompt again

Me and you and our Apple II
Me and you and our Apple II
How I wished I could find some FRE mem …

Me and you and our Apple II
Me and you and our Apple II
How I’d love to replay that great game

Me and you and our Apple II
Me and you and our Apple II
How I wished I could find some FRE mem …

11 Jun 2014 When The Apple II Was New
 |  Category: Apple II  | Tags: , ,  | 3 Comments

I’ve been so busy recovering from birthing my book (the stitches have come out, thank you) that I have not paid attention to anniversaries. I was reminded by the post on Cult of Mac yesterday (here) that it was on June 10, 1977 that the full Apple II system with case was first shipped.

Apple II, Panasonic RQ-2102 cassette, and TV

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

This computer was nearly twice as expensive as the competitors that would be available for purchase later in the year (the Commodore PET 2001 in August, and the TRS-80 Model I in November), but offered expandability right out of the box that neither of those competitors could provide without a retrofit or redesign.

Okay, if you’ve read this blog in the past, you know of my opinion about the significance of this computer, but let me reiterate: It established Apple as a company, and turned on a fire-hose of cash that funded the next several years of stumbles with other products (the Apple III, Lisa, and original 128K Macintosh). It was such a significant player that the company had to intentionally hobble it in its later years, so it would not pull customers away from the Mac.

The Apple II also set the stage for the appearance of computers on desktops for years to come. The popularity of the beige color was copied endlessly by other competing products that were released, well into the 1990s, when the term “boring beige box” came into its own. Yes, the Apple II was indeed beige — but it was the first to be beige.

Wozniak’s design was also unique in being the ideal hacker’s platform. Here I do not mean “hacker” in the sense of one who maliciously breaks into other computer systems with the intent of stealing or vandalizing. Rather, this refers to “hacker” in its original sense, that of one who could create new things, be it software or hardware, that brought functionality to the Apple II that went beyond what Woz originally envisioned. The eight slots allowed hardware expandability that other platforms did not as easily offer, and many of those add-ons were accessible by amateur programmers through its built-in BASIC and powerful 6502 assembly language.

All said, the release of this computer was a significant event in computing history. Happy 37th birthday, Apple II !