If you’ve listened to the latest Open-Apple podcast (#45), you’ll know that Mike Maginnis and I have recently had the opportunity to test a few new products from UltimateApple2 and ReactiveMicro.
First up is an improved clone of the No-Slot Clock (NSC), aka the Dallas Smartwatch DS1216E. Well, it’s more than a clone, really. It’s more of a refinement.
The original NSC was a bit of a breakthrough — no Apple II (prior to the IIGS) had a built-in clock. So if you wanted your Apple II to keep track of the time and date, timestamp documents, etc. you had to use a clock card which used up a valuable slot. For example, the Thunderware ThunderClock Plus was a popular product but it was just one of dozens of similar but incompatible competing products. The NSC on the other hand was a chip and lithium battery within a 28-pin socket. You could install the NSC into just about any other 28-pin ROM socket, piggyback the ROM into the NSC, patch your ProDOS and viola’ — your Apple II could tell the time. Compared to many of the clock cards of the day, the NSC was an inexpensive (and ultimately disposable) alternative. It’s expected 10 year lifespan seemed more than adequate… at least at the time.
The NSC wasn’t perfect for everyone though. For Apple //c users in particular, the NSC with a ROM piggybacked on it was just too thick and often interfered with some of the RAM expansion products inside the //c’s cramped interior. Even in the Apple //e, there were occasional clearance issues with thick ‘double wide’ cards.
That brings to the here and now. The NSC has been discontinued but is still available from various sources. New, old stock units with indeterminate batteries are for sale on eBay, but like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, “you never know what you’re gonna get.”
Happily, something new and better has now been produced. UA2/RM has developed an NSC successor that is slimmer and features a user replaceable coin cell battery. Why didn’t Dallas Semiconductor think of this? They probably did but wanted to sell their expendable Smartwatches as cheaply as possible.
Compared to an original NSC, the new one is much more svelte.
We were given a couple of prototypes to examine, the original v1.0 and a revised v1.1 unit. While both function perfectly, neither represents the final product. During initial assembly of the first prototype, Henry Courbis determined a few changes were necessary to make future assembly easier (circuit routing apparently) and during our testing, we made a few suggestions of our own. There will be a v1.2 and that *should* be the final production unit.
So how well do these new NSC units work? Flawlessly. The legacy Smartwatch software we use now works with the new NSC adapters just fine — of course you only use it to set the time and date initially, and patch ProDOS. I’m hoping UA2/RM distributes a Y2K-compliant version of the software with this product.
More good news, this new NSC fits into Apple //c computers with memory expansion ports just fine. It’s still a tight fit, but you can now have your clock and RAM at the same time.
As of this writing, pricing hadn’t yet been determined. I expect that if it sells for the same or even a little higher than the old-fashioned NSC, it will be a good value. The user-replaceable coin cell battery alone insures this will be the last clock you’ll ever need to buy for your Apple II.
UPDATE: The anticipated price will be USD $40.