Microsoft (Indirectly) Killed The Apple IIe

In my History editing and revision I am up to the first chapter on Languages. In reviewing additional information about Applesoft that I found, I made two discoveries that I thought were pretty interesting.

First of all: The 6502 floating-point BASIC that Apple licensed from Microsoft in 1977 was, like many products that Microsoft made in those days, marked to put the company’s name within the code. And it was done in such a way as to make it non-obvious to anyone viewing the code with a hex and ASCII dump.

With this information, I wrote an Applesoft program that will take the encoded bytes and print them out. Here is the program:

 100 REM Applesoft Easter Egg Printer
 110 REM
 120 REM The original author of Applesoft put his company name
 130 REM into the ROM, encoded from $F094-$F09D, in reverse,
 140 REM and doing an EOR with $87 (10000111).
 150 REM
 160 DATA 173,9,3,73,135,141,9,3,96,0
 170 S = 768:E = 777: REM $300-$309
 180 A = 61588:B = 61597: REM $F094-$F09D
 182 REM
 190 REM Poke EOR routine into page 3
 192 REM
 202 REM
 210 REM Now get each byte from $F09D to $F094,
 220 REM EOR it, and print the CHR$ of each byte.
 222 REM
 230 FOR I = B TO A STEP - 1
 240 POKE E, PEEK (I): CALL 768: PRINT CHR$ ( PEEK (E));
 250 NEXT

If you want to just download this and run in your favorite emulator, here are disk images:

EasterEgg.po   EasterEggDOS.dsk

The second, and more interesting bit of trivia has to do with that fateful month, December 1993, when Apple removed the Apple IIe from the dealer price lists, effectively discontinuing the final surviving member of the Apple II family. Other than just spite on their part, finally killing the unloved elder brother in the Apple family, I never really considered the significance of that date. However, with my further reading on Applesoft, I believe I have a very good financial reason for Apple to have plugged the plug when they did.

I had originally believed the license contract with Microsoft for Applesoft was for ten years, and my History for years has stated such. I cannot find, however, any place that clearly identifies the contract length as ten years. However, in the chapter about MacBasic on Andy Hertzfeld’s excellent website, Hertzfeld says the original Applesoft license was for eight years, and was due to expire in September 1985. This is when Bill Gates of Microsoft could have asked for and demanded nearly anything that he wanted for a continuation of the Applesoft license. Apple still desperately needed this for the Apple IIe and IIc product lines, which were financially carrying the company, while the Macintosh was floundering. However, Gates did not demand money; what he wanted and got was MacBasic, which was a major disappointment to the Apple programmer for that product, Donn Denman.

My one supposition here (because I cannot find any absolute proof) is that the license for Applesoft that was renewed at this time was again for an eight year span. The consequences of this license were far-reaching. Had it not been for the relicensing of Applesoft, Apple could not have continued to sell the IIe and IIc as they were (since they had Applesoft in ROM), and retreating back to Wozniak’s Integer BASIC would have been extremely detrimental to the Apple II line, due to the large library of Applesoft-specific software available. Furthermore, there would have been no Apple IIGS if Applesoft had not been renewed.

Finally, if this second contract was indeed for eight years, that span of time ran from 1985 to … (drum roll, please) 1993. According to sales of computers documented on Jeremy Reimer’s blog on 11/2/09, the year 1993 was significant in that the sales of Apple II models was down to 30,000 for the year (it had been 100,000 the year before), and sales of the Macintosh were up to 3.3 million (2.5 million the year before), which was clearly up into the self-sustaining range.

A further renewal of Applesoft in 1993 would have likely been more expensive than the company would want to bother paying, and the decision to discontinue the IIe was an obvious business decision. Obvious now; a sad conclusion back then to an illustrious career for the Apple II.

(Beep!) *** iBooks ERROR

One glitch I’ve just discovered tonight about creating a book in Apple’s fancy iBooks Author program is that it doesn’t support footnotes. Seems kind of strange for a tool that is supposed to be for textbooks (footnotes, endnotes, bibliography, and index are important features of paper textbooks that I’ve owned or used in my life). So, until that problem is addressed by Apple, I’m going to just focus on a print book. I mean, my conversion from HTML to Microsoft Word is done through the chapter about Peripherals, and I’ve already got 298 footnotes. Until there is some way of displaying footnotes and easily converting them from Word, the iBooks version cannot happen.


Updates Worth A Re-read

What I didn’t mention in my last post was what content has changed (and is then particularly in need of review):

Chapter 9 – Disk Evolution and The Apple IIc Plus – more information about mass storage was added. En masse.

Chapter 12 – The Apple II Abroad & Clones – more info, more pictures, more stuff!

Chapter 13 – Peripherals – whoo boy, is there more here now.

Chapter 15 – DOS 3.3, ProDOS & Beyond – more screen shots, a little more about GS/OS.

And thank you for your support!

RFC (Request For Comment)

I have been asked numerous times over the years to consider taking the Apple II History and to put out a print version of it. I’ve turned down the idea in the past (“It’s already online for free – why would anyone pay to have a print version of it?”), but in the past year I’ve been warming up to the idea. Over the couple of months I’ve been working on porting it from HTML to DOC, and I would like to announce today that, Lord willing, there will be a printed version of this History available for the first time ever. I expect to get involved in learning how to use iBooks Author and make this an iPad book as well.

What I’d like to ask for is help from the fans of the Apple II History site. I have a bit of updating to do with the History – there are parts of it that have not been touched in twenty years, despite the fact that things have happened with the Apple II since 1992. I am finding and updating the things that I can see need attention, but I know that there are important parts of the Apple II story that I don’t know, or don’t know well enough to make this the definitive story that it should be.

Here is what I could use:

  • Comments about content that is just wrong. If you know of anything I have put in this history that desparately needs correction, let me know.
  • Comments on things that need to be added. I don’t expect to be able to include every bit of trivia about the Apple II that I can scrape together, but if there is a company or product that you think I should discuss, let’s talk about it. To be able to tell a story about a product or company will require that someone TELL me about it (if I knew about it already, I would have already included it).
  • I would also be interested to collect stories from Apple II owners or users that tells your story, about how you got started with the Apple II, why you liked (or still like) the Apple II, etc. If you want to tell a story but don’t want to be mentioned in the book by name, just let me know and I’ll make it an anonymous entry.

Any product photos that you would iike to contribute would also be accepted, though I cannot commit to using all that might be donated, nor can I afford to purchase photos.

Any information that you might want to tell me about should be sent to here on this site. I will get back to you with additional questions if I have any.

I would really like to have my additional content and revision of old content completed in time to have a print book available for distribution by summer. So repost this, blog about it, and spread the word! I will post informtion later about how I’m going to work out funding for this project; I don’t yet know if a Kickstarter-type of funding will be necessary. I will also start posting comments in the blog here about progress on work to update existing or to add extra chapters to the story.

Pantone 453

Pantone 453, Color of Apple IINo, this is not a post about a post-apolyptic world in which all books are burned (like Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451), nor is it about a world in which everything is beige (which almost happened with computers in the 1990s, until Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997). It is about a great article on the web site for Seven Days, “Vermont’s Independent Voice”, from Burlington. It was cited in an article today on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) here. The article “here” is about Jerry Manock, who was hired by Apple in the early days to design the case for the Apple II computer. The exact beige color picked, which I’ve never had a name for, was #453 on the color list for Pantone‘s standard list of colors used in industry for standardization in products and paints. In terms of web colors, it appears to be #D5D5B4.

The article is an interesting read, as it gives some insight to one of the most important origins of the Apple II and its success: The case. Although it was Steve Jobs who approved the design and color of the case, it was Manock who created it (to fit Wozniak’s motherboard), included the ventilation slots (that were missing on some of the earliest cases that were shipped out). Manock is also credited with design on the appearance of the venerable Disk II.

Manock later was on the team that was involved in the design of the Apple III and the Macintosh.

If you want to know whether or not your Apple II is still the right color, use this check it out!

Open Apple #12

The latest edition of the Open Apple, the Apple II community’s only actively updated podcast (hint, hint, Mr. Vanston!) is now available for download. Ken and Mike speak with Michael Mahon, the creator of NadaNet, the AppleCrate parallel processing Apple II, and co-creator of the recently released DMS Drummer. They also discuss 8 Bit Weapon (also part of the DMS Drummer project) and chiptunes. Ken and Mike also discuss some classic Apple II games. Go to the Open Apple site to listen to the episode and check out the links, or find it in the iTunes store.

(By the way: Best. Intro. Ever.)