Apple Lang Syne

The end of one year and the start of a next has traditionally made us think of the past, present, and future. Perhaps that was where Dickens got the idea to use ghosts of those persuasions in order to tell his Christmas Carol story. In any case, the inspiration for today’s post comes from Dan Fogelberg’s 1981 song, Same Old Lang Syne. The story told by his song is of meeting an old girlfriend unexpectedly at the grocery story, and their conversation together afterwards. It is about the present and past, and contains the bittersweet feelings of sadness as she leaves.

The phrase “Auld Lang Syne” is loosely translated as “for the sake of old times”. It implies a remembrance of days past. As I listened to Fogelberg’s song again this year, it occurred to me that it could be adapted to re-discovering that old Apple II, in the basement or a closet.

[Note: The audio track here is a karaoke MIDI created by rada AT in 1997 of Fogelberg’s song, with me singing these words. You have been warned.]


Apple Lang Syne
by Steven Weyhrich

(parody of Dan Fogelberg’s song, “Same Old Lang Syne“)

Was in the basement where I’ve stored my past
Looking for boxes Christmas Eve
Knocked over one containing floppy disks
When I caught it on my sleeve

Beneath there sat my trusty Apple II
So neatly boxed and packed away
I thought of all the fun I’d had with it
And the many games I’d played

(instrumental verse)

I pulled it out and plugged the wires in
Opened the software I had bagged
It made its “beep” as then it powered up
But the disk performance lagged

I started AppleWorks and VisiCalc
Ran Ultima[1] and RobotWar[2]
With my old joystick I ran Hard Hat Mack[3]
As I sat there on the floor

I coded some in Integer[4]
I played some Serpentine[5]
I browsed Softalk and GS+
And my other magazines

Yes, I had bought myself a MacBook Pro
That helps me work and game and buy
I’d like to say it was simplicity
But I wouldn’t want to lie

I saw the years had been a friend to this,
My Apple II I knew so well
I gazed with fondness at its faded beige
And its missing letter “L”

I saw the ads in all the magazines
Back when this friend was on the top
All the exciting things I’d hoped to buy
But my mother made me stop

I played a game of Snack Attack[6]
Lode Runner, Zork, and Drol[7],
Plus Wizardry[8] and Sourceror[9],
A.E.[10] and Apple Bowl[11]

I tried GraFORTH[12] and DoubleStuff[13]
Some Castle Wolfenstein[14]
Reliving early elegance
Another “auld lang syne” …

The box was empty and my hands were tired
Was running out of things to play
Unplugged the monitor and floppy drive
Picked up and put away

I saw an early ad for Macintosh –
And felt that old familiar pain … [15]
And as I turned to make my way upstairs
Heard echoes in my brain …

  1. [1]written by Richard Garriott (Lord British), was one of a series of fantasy and adventure games
  2. [2]game by Silas Warner and published by Muse in 1980, RobotWar allowed you to program robots to battle each other
  3. [3]game by Michael Abbot and Matthew Alexander, and published by Electronic Arts in 1983, it played much like Donkey Kong
  4. [4]Integer BASIC, of course
  5. [5]a snake-tail-chasing game published by Brøderbund and released in 1982
  6. [6]game by Dan Illowsky and published by Datamost in 1981, was one of many Pac-Man clones for microcomputers
  7. [7]game published by Brøderbund in 1983
  8. [8]game created by Andrew Greenberg and Robert Woodhead, published in 1981 by Sir-Tech
  9. [9]text adventure game written by Steve Meretzky, published in 1984 by Infocom
  10. [10]shoot-em-up game in space published by Brøderbund in 1983
  11. [11]old Integer BASIC game simulating bowling
  12. [12]graphic-based implementation of the FORTH language by Paul Lutus, published by Insoft in 1981
  13. [13]programming language made to work on double hi-res graphics on revision B Apple IIe with extended RAM
  14. [14]game by Silas Warner, published by Muse in 1981
  15. [15]this “old familiar pain” refers back to the days when, although the Apple II was carrying the company, Apple was virtually ignoring it while trying to get Macintosh sales to pick up and thrive. It was frustrating to be an Apple II user in those days, and for some, mention of the Mac evoked feelings of disgust and annoyance.

Apple II Forever, part 2

Back in 1988, Apple did a little PR for the Apple II line on The Computer Chronicles series. Here is that program, hosted by Stuart Chiefet and Gary Killdall, featuring the Apple IIc Plus and the new GS/OS for the Apple IIGS. It includes interviews with John Sculley, Laura Kurihara (Apple IIc Plus project manager), and Bill Cleary of Cleary Communications. It also discusses the new Macintosh IIx. Anne Bachtold, Apple IIGS product manager, demonstrating GS/OS 4.0 and its new FST for accessing other devices such as a CD-ROM, the Installer, and the Advanced Disk Utility. Also interviewed was Stuart Roberson, director of marketing at Activision, who talked about PaintWorks Gold.

Here is the movie, direct from

Veit Illustrates Apple II Power

I’ve enjoyed listening to the audiobook reading by David Greelish of the book “Stan Veit’s History Of The Personal Computer”. (Greelish is the proprietor of The Classic Computing Blog, and just recently started a new podcast, The Retrocomputing Roundtable). You can find both of these podcasts on the iTunes store as free podcasts, or listen to the material written by Stan Veit here on Greelish’s web site. What I’ve enjoyed about listening to the first three chapters of Veit’s book is that it truly illustrates for me just how revolutionary the Apple II was when it appeared on the market. Veit’s book talks about the difficulties in using the pre-Apple II machines that were available. They usually needed to have a teletype for convenient input/output; the “glass teletype” (video terminal) had a cost that was beyond the reach of most early hobbyists. Saving programs was not easy, either. If a user had one of those teletypes, they often had a papertape reader and puncher included, so they could “save” their programs to punched tape. There were some cassette interfaces available, but they were just as difficult to use as the one on the Apple II, possibly more so.

Being reminded of the difficulties in using the Altair, IMSAI, and other pioneering microcomputers just makes me appreciate the many built-in features offered by the Apple II. In a day when those “glass teletypes” were also prohibitively expensive, especially if it was color, the Apple II could use one if you could get it, or a regular color television if not. Cassette interface for saving and loading programs? Built-in. The ability to increase the RAM from 4K to a full 48K, when the cost of RAM dropped low enough? No problem. Keyboard? Included. Sound? Absolutely! (How many Altairs or IMSAIs could do sound back in 1977?)

So, thanks to David Greelish and his efforts to bring Stan Veit’s history to life as an audiobook! It has enhanced my appreciation of just how smart Woz was.