Well, hundreds of readers have asked me, nay, begged me for this, so I decided to go along with their request. If you have Minecraft (Java edition, or “real” Minecraft as us old-timers call it) and know how to use MCEdit to cut and paste things into world files, here is your opportunity to get your own copy of the Apple IIe (and ImageWriter printer and modem and disk drive, etc., etc.). Just click on the link on my download page, and it can all be yours!
I know that my posts here in the past few years are often just saying “Hey, I was at KansasFest” and not much else, but, hey, what can I say, there’s not much new in Apple II history these days.
That being said, I’m going to feature something written by someone else. My KFest roommate this year was Dave Rogers, a newcomer to the event. He writes a blog, “Nice Marmot”, and has a good, comprehensive discussion of his experiences at this year’s event. You can see what he thought about it here, and it is well worth a read.
Dave also made a discovery that passed me by completely. Way back when, Brooke Boering had a company called Vagabondo Enterprises, and created a visual programming language called CEEMAC. It allowed creation of hi-res graphics animations on the Apple II. Back around 1982 or so, he released a demo disk that highlighted the capabilities of CEEMAC, and called that demo “Fire Organ”. It was intended to be a self-running demo, with some ability to interact and change how it worked.
I had a copy of Fire Organ back in the day, but never spent the money to get the CEEMAC programming language disk.
What does this have to do with KFest? Well, for the Apple IIe that I brought along, I neglected to include any disks to boot it with. Or I thought I had not done so. When I plugged it in and turned it on, I discovered that it did boot up something, and found there was a copy (so I thought) of Fire Organ in the disk drive. Oh, cool, I thought; I’ll just run this as an interesting visual demo in my room here. (Okay, green-screen monitor, so less interesting than it could have been, but…)
Dave saw this at some point during the week, and took a closer look at the disk. He pointed out to me that this was not the Fire Organ demo, but was a copy of CEEMAC v1.61 (beta), meaning that this was actually the programming language used to create the Fire Organ demo! I literally have no idea where I got this, but he made sure it got into the hands of 4am, so it could be imaged for the Internet Archive, as it appeared to be different from the version that was already there.
So, thanks to Dave’s sharp eye, there is another version of CEEMAC available for the world to look at. I appreciate his enthusiasm, and also appreciate the work done by Brook Boering years ago to create an amazing graphical programming language for the Apple II.
And, although I don’t do much programming these days, and do not do any hardware hacking, I do still have a strange urge to create song parodies. Two years ago it was “KFest Funk“, last year it was “Week of the KFest“, and this year it was “Rockhurst”, a parody of Marty Robbins “El Paso”. The video stars Ken Gagne, editor of Juiced.GS, the longest running Apple II magazine still in print, and Chris Torrence, editor of Assembly Lines: The Complete Book.
Waaaay back in 2011, I got started playing this fascinating game, Minecraft. And it didn’t take long for me to decide to do a build that looked like a giant Apple II Plus (see the link at the end of this article).
With time, the game evolved and improved, and more diverse blocks were added. But for the longest time, I didn’t really do anything with my Apple II. Then in 2014 I decided to attack the project again, this time with a larger scale Apple IIe. I did the entire computer, an Apple Modem 1200, and a telephone, all built in Survival mode; for those who have not played the game, that’s where you have to obtain the blocks you build with manually, but mining them and crafting them. I set the project aside for another three years, and then earlier this year I went back to it, but decided to complete it by using Creative mode, where you can just give yourself all the blocks you want; it makes the process faster.
The result is the above video, which includes not just the computer, modem, and telephone, but also an ImageWriter I printer (producing a Print Shop-style banner), a joystick, a DuoDisk drive, and a Monitor II, with blocky lo-res-style graphics displayed. And to complete the project, I built my old favorite stereo system from college in the 1970s.
Why did I do it? I don’t know, except that it was satisfying to complete the project I’d started long ago, and do it better than the old one I did back in the early days of Minecraft. I may not be doing any programming on the Apple II these days, but this game gave me a chance to be creative in a different fashion.
BTW, here is the link to the original 2011 video. If you live in a part of the world that doesn’t allow the background music I picked back then, which was copyrighted music, you may not be allowed to view this.
It has been a long time since I made a post here (hello, August 2015!!), but life has been busy, and I have other things that draw my attention besides my old stalwart Apple II fun.
What brings me back to the blog again to mention the annual Apple II convention, KansasFest, which was held July 19-23, 2016, in Kansas City, Missouri at Rockhurst University. It was, I feel, another excellent gathering of the best and brightest in the Apple II world, and shows continued growth of the numbers of fans who find out what fun it is to get together with others who love this computer, to teach each other and learn from each other, and to press back the frontiers of what this old machine can do. While the following is not comprehensive, here are some things that stood out to me:
- We were treated to updates to Lawless Legends, the new graphic role-playing game undergoing development, and a release of a smaller game, Ancient Legends, that runs using the same game engine as Lawless Legends (see the Legends web site for details on how to get that).
- PERCOL-8, a networkable Apple II emulator that not only runs old Apple II software, but uses special graphics software to manipulate the old screens to you can get a 3D type of effect, or even have two different people help play the same game at the same time.
- How the Internet Archive is making it even easier to run old Apple II software right in your web browser.
- How Apple II software deprotector 4am (a great contributor to the Internet Archive collection) came up with a program to allow you to automatically remove copy protection from most old software (if you have any old uncopyable disks).
- More and more about emulators than I’ve heard at KFest for years
and much more than I have time to discuss here. You can look for videos of many of the sessions on YouTube; here is the talk I gave about the history of online services here:
We had the privilege of a visit this year by David Pierini of Cult of Mac, who wrote five stories about the event:
- Apple II fans find themselves in hog heaven at KansasFest
- This guy makes badly aged Apple computers sparkle again
- KansasFest solder session proves there’s fun in melting metal
- KansasFest is a second-chance childhood for one programmer
- KansasFest: Final notes from ‘Nerdvana’
And I was able to complete another parody video about the event, this year with lots of video from the event:
Not only this, but we will be having it again next year, July 18-23, 2017. Come next year, and celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Apple II !
A few years ago I saw posted info on Geek Culture/Joy of Tech on how to make a cake that looked like the Smithsonian Apple-1 computer:
I like the look of it, but wish they included info on how it was made. What a dessert at KFest 2016 this would make!
This entire web site is focused on preserving and telling the story of microcomputers, focused with insane depth on the Apple II. I’ve been telling it for 20 plus years, and have a book about it. So I know what I know quite well, and if any of you who have taken the time to either read the story on this web site or in the book also know what I know.
But I always enjoy learning more about the era of the Apple II and its competition and getting new information or new points of view. The Open Apple podcast, which focuses on news and interviews about the Apple II is often a source of stories that expand my knowledge, and episode #49 for July 2015 is a particularly fascinating listen. They have an extended conversation with Laine Nooney, a person who is way too young to have been involved with the Apple II when it was new and exciting. Her research for a dissertation brought her to look into Online Systems / Sierra Online, as well as with other software companies of the day, and the conversation they have drifts over into the impact of the computer on homes and families, and what she has learned about it.
When I think I know so much that there is not much more to learn, a gem like this interview comes along, and I realize levels of computer history that go beyond my extremely specific area of knowledge. It is well worth a listen.
Addendum: Here is a link to Nooney’s research on Sierra Online, as much as she has made publicly available at this time. Read it.
While at KansasFest this year, we had two new people show up, for the purpose of doing a news story about the event. I had not heard of their publication, Motherboard, prior to this, and I will admit I was a little skeptical about how this would turn out. I have seen interviews and stories before that were done with a particular purpose in mind, and sometimes the final result is not flattering.
I must applaud the writer of the piece, Jason Koebler, for a job well done. He did capture the essence of the event, and did it as someone who has not been there before, and in fact someone who does not really know anything about the Apple II.
You can read the article here. The style reminds me of the audio stories I hear on NPR’s weekly program, This American Life, which I mean as a compliment, as I feel that most of those stories as well done, and good listens.
The Apple II History web site is undergoing some changes in the near future, not only a change in appearance, but also a change as far as how to get these posts when I put them up.
If you are using an RSS reader to get these posts, change the feed address from “feeds.feedburner.com/apple2history” to “https://apple2history.org/feed/”. If you do not make the change, you will not see further updates in messages.
Thank you for your continued interest in this web site!
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!
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.