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!


Oriental Apples

In part 13 of the History on this web site (and in Chapter 15 of Sophistication & Simplicity, available at fine booksellers everywhere), there is a short section discussing Apple’s first foray into sales targeting the Far East. The Apple II j-Plus was a slightly redesigned Apple II Plus, with a character ROM chip modified to display Japanese Katakana characters with the appropriate POKE to $C05C to activate them.

A reader of this web site who lives in Hong Kong, Wyatt Wong, recently sent me an email asking why I didn’t mention anything about a Chinese “language card” for the Apple II in this part of the History. I had not heard of it before, and so he helped educate me about this hack that let Chinese-speaking (and writing) individuals use an Apple II in years past. Further information came from Lim Thye Chean of Singapore.

While in school in the 1980s, Wong was exposed to a Far Eastern Apple II clone. Like those from Japan, the use of this Apple II required some knowledge of English to do programming or to use the large library of software available from the United States. Yet, there was desire to make it work for the numerous Chinese logograms used in that written language, and hackers in that part of the world worked to create a solution that would work for this computer. The result was referred to as the Chinese language card.

The Giantek Technology Corporation of Taiwan was founded in 1982, and produced English-Chinese terminals for Taiwan and mainland China. In 1983 the company came out with the Giantek Chinese Interface Card for the Apple II, officially called  the Zon Ding Chinese System, or simply Han Card (Han means “Chinese”). Despite the “Chinese language card” name used to refer to it, this was not a RAM card like the 16K Apple Language Card. It was much more complicated.

Giantek Chinese Interface Card, photo credit ubb.frostplace.com
Giantek Chinese Interface Card, photo credit ubb.frostplace.com

According to a discussion about it on comp.sys.apple2 back in 2002, at least one version of this system involved a pair of cards connected together by a 14-pin ribbon cable. One of the cards was equipped with its own Z80A CPU, and most commonly was installed in slot 3 or 4. This card held six EPROM chips labeled ROM-1 through ROM-6, and in the discussion, it was speculated that the card was actually its own computer (just as the Microsoft SoftCard was a computer on a card to run CP/M), and that the ROM chips were used to store the Chinese characters to be displayed. 

The card utilized the Apple II hi-res screen to display the Chinese characters. Wong recalls that it required either a modified version of Apple DOS, or another application that ran on top of DOS. This was necessary to make it possible to allow entry of the Chinese characters from the keyboard. This Giantek card used traditional Chinese, specifically either Cangjei or Simplified Cangjei (not to be confused with simplified Chinese, which was most commonly used in mainland China).

To enter a traditional Chinese character, the typical method was to type a QWERTY character, then type up to five additional characters from the keyboard to create the desired Chinese character. The twenty-four Roman letters A through W, plus Y on the keyboard were used in the Cangjei method. Z was not used at all, and X was reserved for entry of difficult Chinese characters.

Other non-US versions of the Apple II dealt with languages that had a limited alphabet, and so were more suitable to map to a standard US keyboard. It is not surprising that Apple did not at that time specifically service the Chinese market, as the language was considerably more complicated than other places in the world. I do find it interesting to see how Wozniak’s open design on the Apple II made it possible to work with the Chinese language long before there was any graphic-interface computers available to do the job.


Ten years ago, I received an email from a gentleman named Moses Weitzman. He wanted to know if I was interested in some old Apple II manuals and other materials that he had, but wanted to get rid of. He preferred to not just throw them away, and wanted to pass them on to someone who would appreciate them. I replied that sure, I’d be glad to take them off his hands. He shipped out a box that was not very big, but had some nice items in it, including a copy of the Red Book reference manual, and also the Blue Book Applesoft Reference Manual from August 1978.
I kept this box safely on a shelf and then later in my basement, and other than being happy in my ownership of the Red Book and Blue Book, had not really paid detailed attention to the other materials in the box.
And then, during the past few months I found myself making additional edits to my History in preparation for publication (real soon now!) I went digging on the Asimov FTP site, and found a number of old manuals and other documents that had been uploaded in the past. One of them, called Apple The Personal Computer Magazine & Catalog, Volume 1, Number 2, from 1979, made mention of the Apple II Euromod and Apple II Europlus, which took me on an investigative tour of Apple’s early years in selling the Apple II outside of the United States. And I thought to myself, “I wonder what was in Volume 1, Number 1 of that magazine that Apple published back in 1979?”
In a recent email from Andreas Siegenthaler of Switzerland, he told me that Apple DOS 3.0 actually was released to the public, bugs and all, though it was promptly replaced by DOS 3.1. He mentioned to me that he had a copy of the preliminary manual that was released, as well as the printed one for DOS 3.1 that eventually came out. I replied that I thought I had one of the printed manuals in that box in the basement sent to me years ago by Mr. Weitzman. In the interim since I received his box of materials in 2003 I have learned a bit more about scanning and how to create a PDF (thanks to Preview in Mac OS X). It occurred to me that I should get my DOS manual scanned and posted.
And then, upon opening up that box again, I found that there was not a DOS 3.1 manual. Instead, it included the photocopied pages of the DOS 3 manual that shipped with the Disk II when it came out in June 1978, plus some tech notes about the Disk II and DOS that were released a month later.
Plus, there was all of this other great stuff (which can be found here):
  • Appalogue, Volume 1, June/July 1982 – a catalog of Apple II software and hardware, apparently part of a planned magazine that I do not believe went beyond that single issue. It looks like this catalog was created in anticipation of Applefest ’82, and was probably distributed at that event.
  • Apple II Plus registration materials – You just bought a new Apple II Plus? Here is your registration card and other miscellaneous papers.
  • Apple Orchard introductory brochure, 1982 – a trifold introducing Apple Orchard to potential subscribers.
  • Apple The Personal Computer Magazine & Catalog, Volume 1, Number 1, 1979 – Yes, here is that issue #1 that was not on the Asimov FTP site. This issue focused on Apples in education. It was released before the II Plus came out in mid 1979, as there is no mention of it in the list of products available from Apple. It makes mention of PAL/SECAM versions of the Apple II for the European market, essentially the Apple II Euromod before it was called a Euromod. Also featured is the Apple Graphics Tablet without its familiar color grid (the same as the original Bit Pad from Summagraphics, which Apple adapted and sold for its own use), and the Modem IIA bundle (an Apple Communications Card and a Novation CAT acoustic modem).
  • Apple The Personal Computer Magazine & Catalog, Volume 1, Number 2, 1979 – This is the same magazine that can be found on the Asimov FTP site, but I think my scan has better colors than the one found there. This issue focused on business use of the Apple II (yes, Apple actually did promote the Apple II for business once upon a time). In the catalog section the Apple II Plus is mentioned, as well as the Apple II Euromod and Apple II Europlus. The Modem IIA package was now renamed as Modem IIB, but seems to be the same product (no explanation as to what is the difference). One of the accessories offered was a clock/calendar card, although I do not recall Apple ever selling its own such product for the Apple II series.
  • Disk II Application Note, July 30, 1978 – As mentioned above, this is basically a list of bug fixes for the recently released Disk II and DOS 3.0/3.1.
  • DOS 3 Manual (preliminary), June 1978 – The very first “manual” for Apple DOS.
  • Parallel Printer Interface Card manual, 1978 – It was this manual that I had, not the book one for DOS. Includes source code for the firmware on the card.
  • Special Delivery Software catalog, Fall 1980 – Catalog of software written by third-party developers and offered via national distribution through Apple’s own software arm. Something like the Mac App store, but 33 years ago, and without downloadable automatic updates.
  • Special Delivery Software, Spring 1981 – An update to the previous catalog. Interestingly, it mentioned Apple III software also, but I don’t think I found anything in the catalog that was for the Apple III.
  • Super Disk Copy III manual – This was not a product from Apple, but rather from Sensible Software. Written by Charles Hartley, it was primarily a more robust set of disk utilities than those offered by Apple’s FID program, even to the point of being able to recover some information from damaged disks.
  • What Is Apple Pascal? brochure, 1979 – An introductory trifold brochure about Pascal and its benefits.

So, this past weekend I went nuts with the scanner, and got all of these scanned in (other than the Red Book and Blue Book, which had already been done in the past).  I have packaged them together into the Weiztman Collection, available in the Files section of this web site at this link. The “heaviest” files are the two magazines, each 100-120 MB in size, and the “lightest” is the Disk II Application Notes, at 3.7 MB.

(I’m open to suggestions on how to fix page one of the Parallel Printer Card manual; I had a version with the sticker that says “Mo” removed (digitally), but when I tried to put it back into the PDF with the tools I have to use (Preview on my Mac) it is a different size than all of the other pages.)

YouTube overload

I’ve combed YouTube looking for videos about the Apple II series, and have found additional movies to add to the Museum. There are now two categories for videos: A general category, for videos like the dealer video I mentioned in my last post, and one for commercials about the Apple II series.

Other videos in the general section are:[singlepic id=542 w=320 h=240 float=right]

The commercials I’ve found are:

With spokesman Dick Cavett:

Extolling the virtues of the new Apple IIc:

Apple IIs included in Apple’s “The Power To Be Your Best” ad campaign:

Commercials about the Apple IIGS:

DOS 3.2 and 3.3 Video

I’ve recorded and uploaded to YouTube several movies of classic Apple II programs from the old DOS 3.2 and 3.3 disks. You can view of movie of THE INFINITE NO. OF MONKEYS, APPLE-VISION, and COLOR DEMO in Chapter 14 (about DOS), and a movie of BRIAN’S THEME in Chapter 6 (about the Apple II Plus). Here is the movie of APPLE-VISION: