04 Nov 2013 The Presses Are Rolling!
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Sophistication & SimplicityNot a dream! Not an alternate reality! Not a hoax!

Yes, the book is finally and truly available on Amazon for pre-order (see link below), and should be available for delivery after December 1, 2013.

The book was submitted to the printer during the past week, and the book cover design was finalized yesterday.

I am pleased with the final results, and expect that readers will like it also. As I was listening to the latest episode of the Open Apple podcast, in which Bill Martens and Brian Wiser discuss the newly released Wozpak Special Edition (another book I would strongly recommend), one of the comments made struck me.

Martens and Wiser were asked if the Wozpak was going to be available as a PDF, and they said that they felt the material was much more valuable as a print book that can be held in your hand. And I agree that the Wozpak is really better as a paper book. As a PDF, it can just go into a folder on my computer hard drive, and be forgotten. But in print form, it is simultaneously more real and more retro. It is something like the difference between running an emulated classic computer and running the real hardware. Personally, I more highly esteem physical hardware than some files on my computer, regardless of how much simpler it may be to operate.

In the same way, the release of Sophistication & Simplicity adds value to the Apple II History beyond what has classically been presented here in its online form. It is easier to read as a book that can held in the hand, rather sitting in front of your computer (or tablet) and go through all of the chapters and appendices.

Sophistication back cover

Back cover

At this time I will also announce that the Apple II History content on this web site will be removed for the foreseeable future at some time in the next month. Now, if you REALLY want to read the traditionally free version of this history, you can still download the old files from the Asimov FTP site, and you can probably find an archived version of this web site in its current form at Archive.org (just enter “apple2history.org” in the search window for the Wayback machine.

However, I will say that although the core of the material in the History has not changed much, there is additional information in nearly every section, as well as a more interesting presentation of that material. In other words, the $29.95 price of the book (before Amazon’s discount) is not a deal-breaker if you need the info in the history for research purposes.

Click here to pre-order!

25 Oct 2013 Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain!
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wizard of ozI myself have placed an order for the Sophistication and Simplicity book, so I would get announcements from Amazon about it. Tonight I got the email that says the order has been cancelled, and Amazon apologizes for the inconvenience.

Don’t listen to them!! It is within a week or two of being sent to the printer and will then finally be available! And I can’t wait to see it myself.

14 Oct 2013 Micro-design Can Give Mega-results
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I’ve had the opportunity in the past couple of weeks to listen to two podcasts in which game designers were interviewed. (I recommend you listen, also – ANTIC, The Atari 8-Bit Podcast #4 has an interview with Chris Crawford, who wrote games for the Atari 2600, Commodore PET, and Atari 400/800; No Quarter classic arcade podcast #52 has an interview with Brian Collin, who helped create the arcade game Rampage.) It brought back to mind similar stories like the making of Wolfenstein 3D for the Apple IIGS. In all of these situations the programmers had a limited space in which to do their work. They were limited in graphics abilities or limited in memory, or both, and yet they managed to create (or duplicate) games that were considered to be state-of-the-art in their day.

It brings to mind the problem on modern computers with what has been called “bloatware” – code that is large, takes up a lot of space in memory or storage or both, and often does only a little more than its predecessors.

The advantage of the small memory footprint and simpler processors in the micros of the 1970s and 1980s is that it was necessary to write compact, efficient code. The graphics had specific limitations that had to be honored. These programmers had to come up with tricks to get around those limitations, to push the boundaries to achieve the desired effect.

The programmers mentioned in the above three examples sometimes had to buck the accepted knowledge that said what they wanted to do was not possible. Brian Collin overcame memory limitations on Rampage by re-using the graphics layout for one of his monsters to create another one. Eric Shepherd had to almost re-invent how the graphics of Wolfenstein 3D were implemented in the Apple IIGS, in order to make it work. And Chris Crawford, like all who made games for the Atari 2600, had a tiny memory footprint in which to put the game itself as well as its graphics.

This limitation did not only apply to games. AppleWorks’ creator Rupert Lissner created memory management techniques that made a 64K or 128K computer and made it look like a much larger computer.

With modern computers, the programmer has exponentially more power available in which to implement his vision. The advantage is the ability to create things that could not happen in a classic microcomputer or game system. The disadvantage can be wasted resources and processor cycles. The programmer does not necessarily have to be efficient; he has a lot of space in which to work, and the operating system can take up the slack.

I have always maintained that Apple’s neglect of the Apple II platform actually resulted in the hardware being pushed to its full limits in ways that would not have been possible if they had taken the proper approach and evolved it, rather than continuing to invent successors. I admire and applaud the programmers who found their way around the limitations of the Apple II and were able to bend it to their will.

24 Sep 2013 Almost There
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It has taken almost two years of travel to get to this point. I left my starting point in my packed up wagon of info about the Apple II, and slowly made my way west towards the new land of print media. Along the way, I spoke to some of the natives, who gave me additional information to add to my manuscript. I had to stop frequently and rest, sometimes hunting for food (clarification of facts) when my supplies ran low. Although sometimes there was little game available, sometimes I’d find a bison’s-worth of information. And, unlike others on the trail, I often found a way to drag back all 932 pounds of the carcass to supplement my writings.

After I reached the half-way point, I thought it would be all downhill from there. Oh, silly me. I was just entering the mountains, and some of the most treacherous ground was yet to be crossed. The weather had turned a bit more chilly than I had anticipated. Challenges like exhaustion, snake-bite, and yes, even dysentery had to be overcome. But yet, I persevered. The hunting now involved some dry spots where I could only catch squirrels, and sometimes crossed paths with bears. Thankfully, my ammunition did not run out.

Despite the difficulty of the trail, I still was able to speak to some of the others who were on or near the trail. They often were able to provide me with other stories that clarified what I already knew. Some of them were old, and sometimes their memory of events was fading. Still, most of them added to my supply of provisions to help me complete the journey. And although I frequently disagreed with my guide as to the correct path to take, we finally came out of the mountains and onto safer ground.

Oregon Trail 50 miles 2

And now, the Willamette Valley in Oregon is so close I can almost smell it. The final destination is within my grasp, and expect to arrive within the new 3-4 weeks.

Possibly sooner if I don’t get dysentery again.