Ray Thompson of Dallas, Texas, was involved with the formation of one of the earliest Apple User Groups. He has made a video telling his personal story, clips from historical interviews with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, and the formation and development of the club. He has a unique point of view, having purchased one of the earliest 4K Apple II computers that Apple sold, and so his personal knowledge extends back to the very beginning of the Apple Era. He also gives the classic example of people who had experience with using mainframe computers, and who, when first viewing the Apple II at a store, assumed that it was simply a terminal connected to a “real” computer in the back room.
“My Personal History of the Apple Corps of Dallas, Recalling the Early Days of Personal Computing” from Ray Thompson on Vimeo.
Today’s home computers seem to evolve more incrementally than computers of a few decades ago. When the Apple II was new, innovations abounded as technology was applied and created in ways never before imagined. There were more “firsts” back then, such as the first electronic spreadsheet, VisiCalc, which cemented the computer’s place in businesses nationwide.
The genius of those early pioneers is evident, but what is sometimes overlooked are the giants upon whose shoulders they stood. The Apple II adapted and borrowed from what had come before, and one of its most significant pieces of hardware was the mouse. This input device was popularized by the Macintosh in 1984 and introduced for the Apple II a year later, but it was not an invention of Apple Computer Inc. The mouse was designed decades earlier by Doug Engelbart, with assistance by Bill English, both of the Augmentation Research Center at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park.
It was in 1968 that Engelbart made his first public demonstration of the mouse. It was one part of a much longer presentation that included several other hardware and software innovations.
On December 9, 1968, Douglas C. Engelbart and the group of 17 researchers working with him in the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, CA, presented a 90-minute live public demonstration of the online system, NLS, they had been working on since 1962. The public presentation was a session in the of the Fall Joint Computer Conference held at the Convention Center in San Francisco, and it was attended by about 1,000 computer professionals. This was the public debut of the computer mouse. But the mouse was only one of many innovations demonstrated that day, including hypertext, object addressing and dynamic file linking, as well as shared-screen collaboration involving two persons at different sites communicating over a network with audio and video interface.
That occasion was preserved in audio and video and is available as this YouTube video.
Computers developed very quickly from that point, with many of the word processing, spreadsheet, database, and connectivity concepts Engelbart demonstrated soon becoming available and accessible to the average consumer. That revolution hasn’t stopped, with the expansion of the Internet becoming a truly global phenomenon. What would Engelbart, from his humble yet insightful beginnings, think if he could see today’s computers?
Fortunately, Engelbart is still alive and well, and writer and teacher Howard Rheingold recently hosted Engelbart and Ted Nelson, who coined the term “hypertext”, for dinner. Here is some of their discussion:
Just as using perspective in painting seems self-evident to us today but was groundbreaking upon its first application, our every-day input devices are often taken for granted. But we have a growing number of ways to interact with electronic devices, be QWERTY or DVORAK keyboards, mice, graphics tablets, inbuilt microphones, Web cameras. or touch screens. The Apple II familiarized many of us with these foreign concepts, but people like Doug Engelbart made it possible.
(Hat tip to Michael Nadeau)
[ Ken is the editor and publisher of Juiced.GS, the longest-running Apple II publication in print, as well as the marketing director for the annual Apple II convention known as KansasFest. He is the senior associate online editor at Computerworld.com and regularly blogs about retrocomputing at Apple II Bits. ]
I’m continuing to work on my project to scan advertisements that appeared in Softalk magazine during its four year run. I’ve re-organized the Museum a bit to make the number of pictures in each section more manageable. Thus, there are now (so far) six categories: Ads for software from 1981, 1982, and 1983, and ads for hardware for the same three years. More scanning will be coming; I am up to August of 1983, leaving exactly one year of issues left to scan.
I wanted to discuss just a little further the problem that took me offline for several days last week.
Typically I don’t like to point out negative things about people or companies; often I’d rather just ignore those failings than to broadcast them. However, I don’t plan on just criticizing without explanation; I want to point out what went wrong, to help others not make the same mistake that I had made.
Years ago, when I wanted to make more changes in the Apple II History web site that required the availability of services not available on the original host, I reluctantly left foreThought.net. I did not do a great deal of research of pros and cons of host services; I just looked to see what was inexpensive and offered the features I wanted. I settled on Lunarpages, and have hosted the Apple II History site utilizing that service for nearly seven years. During that time, I had no problems with their services. Over time, the capacity offered increased, and I continued to be satisfied.
And then, I changed to WordPress as the backbone for my web site. And as a PHP-driven platform, it demanded more from my hosting service. I did not know that it would demand so much that it would cause problems. I was already hosting a different WordPress site on my same account (Great Great Joy), which had much less traffic than the History causes. Perhaps it was having two WordPress sites on the same account; perhaps it was a coordinated attack by spammers; I don’t know. But suddenly one afternoon I get a message when trying to go to my site to work on it stating that my account was suspended. And it affected, of course, not only the Apple II History site, but also the Great Great Joy site. Lunarpages had shut off not only HTTP access, but also FTP access.
I contacted them by phone, and the person I spoke to at Lunarpages technical support was, surprisingly, unable or unwilling to give me information about exactly what had happened. All he offered was for me to respond to the email that had been sent that “explained” what happened. All that email told me was that something on one of my sites was using excessive resources, and since I was on a shared server (more than one customer used the same server), they could not let my web sites take away performance from other web sites. Fair enough; after all, it’s their playground, not mine.
But in the context of all of this, I could not get a useful answer as to what was wrong or what had gone wrong. And, on top of that, I was still denied access to my web sites or my files. I could still get the database files from Lunarpages; they hadn’t cut that off (yet). Their only solution was to sell me a higher level of web hosting, on a non-shared server. It was like having the police close off the house you are renting because they found evidence that you were doing something illegal, but would not allow you inside the house or explain what you had done wrong. And, to complete the comparison, they would be perfectly willing to sell me the house, and then take down the crime-scene tape.
I took offense at this action by Lunarpages. After seven years of being a model customer, rarely asking for help, being very quiet, suddenly I had become a digital leper and should not be touched or assisted. I communicated my plans to move to a different web hosting service, and no one from Lunarpages attempted to talk me out of it or offer assistance to fix my problem. To their credit, the tech people I spoke to were polite and (eventually) willing to help me get my files. I did get the impression that they were being magnanimous in giving back to me FTP access (so I could get my files).
So, bottom line, I was able to get set up with Dreamhost, at the advice of Ken Gagne, who has much more experience in dealing with WordPress sites (he runs Showbits, Gamebits, Apl2bits, and others). He also has experience with the same Lunarpages disaster that I had; he had in fact signed up with Lunarpages at my advice a few years ago, and then had the same suspension of his accounts that I had. I was warned at the time, but chose to not take his advice, and so stayed where I was.
Now, I just have to empty my trash…
Ahh, much better. May others who depend on a shared hosting plan with Lunarpages take warning!
I am in the process of viewing the excellent documentary video by Jason Scott, GET LAMP (find out more at http://www.getlamp.com/). It is well worth the purchase price, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. In this two-DVD set, it features the main documentary (of the same name), as well as side features connected to the topic of text adventures.
As an Apple II user who started with the computer back in 1980, at the start of that platform’s “golden age”, I purchased the original “Zork: The Great Underground Empire” as sold by Personal Software. It took me a long time, but I was finally able to finish the game, after many maps and puzzle solving. Like many who purchased text adventures in this era, I found the richness of the descriptions enticing, and the puzzles challenging. And I wanted to get to the end of the game, to see what happened!
Scott’s documentary caught my attention completely while I watched his parade of people involved in this genre, not just with Infocom, but with all the other aspects of what became known as “interactive fiction”. As a history buff, I enjoyed the story of how it started, its transition from mainframes to the new technology of the personal computer, and how it developed and changed over time.
Like Scott’s previous DVD set, BBS: The Documentary (http://www.bbsdocumentary.com/) he uses his hours of taped interviews with people involved with text adventures, weaving together the different sections into a coherent story as told by many different people. My only disappointment with both DVDs is the same disappointment that my Apple II History gives: All three stories are those of the rise and fall of a particular technology. There is excitement during the years of ascent and peak, but then the discouragement associated with the story of the fall (the decline of BBSes, the decline of text adventures, and the decline of the Apple II).
Anyone who played and enjoyed this type of game back when they were popular, I would highly, highly recommend that you buy this DVD set. If you have at all enjoyed reading the stories here of the rise and fall of the Apple II, you will definitely enjoy the story of the birth of interactive fiction, and what it has developed into in the 21st century. It sells from Jason Scott’s web site for $40, plus $5 shipping.
Ken Gagne of Apl2bits.net reminded me of another parody involving the Apple II series that would be right for the Parodies section in the Appendix of the History. Written by Marty Knight, the “A Visit From Saint Woz” parody of Clement Moore’s famous Christmas poem often appears in December, as a reminder of days of yore. I did a little extra research, and found two versions of the poem, and have presented them both, with appropriate footnotes. Click here to take a look.
Sorry to have had the site down for the past three days; I’ve had to migrate to a new hosting service, due to problems caused by my old hosting service.