January 12th, 2016

Warren Ernst starts new ‘zine “Old Tech | New Tech” with apple II content

Click the graphic or click here to be redirected.

October 11th, 2015

Hands on with the A2Heaven Apple IIc VGA Adapter

Review written by Javier Rivera

The apple //c is a little marvel and it is a favorite among retro collectors for its beauty, versatility and size. Lately there has been a lot of development for the platform around storage and display, as media is harder to acquire and slow, and CRT displays are aging and failing. Also there’s the problem of color: a lot of old displays are green or monochrome, and the color options are sometimes hard to get. All these constraints have engaged creative minds around the world, like France, Bulgaria, Japan, Korea, Brazil and US just to name a few, to come with new and creative alternatives.

The video problem for the Apple //c has been a special one: the signal from the video port is not a typical standard, and very few attempts to use the connector have been made. The first was from Video7, who made a “video enhancer” that connected to RGB monitors. Later there was a home-brew from France called “Guimauve 2000” that connected the //c to a VGA monitor.

Lately, Nishida Radio came out with a beautiful adapter that not only worked very well, but was very small and connected to the back of the computer. The only drawback of the last two solutions is that they don’t include protective enclosures, the components are exposed.

Recently, Plamen Vasilyov from Bulgaria, a prolific Apple II hardware creator, came up with his version of a VGA adapter. I had the fortune of getting ahold of the device and it is a simple yet effective VGA converter. The device not only works flawlessly, but is also elegant and simple. Comes in a white plastic printed enclosure, with a rainbow cable that connects to the //c video port (very retro Apple II style) and provides on the output side a three-row 15-pin DB-15 VGA connector.


The feature that sets this adapter apart from the others is a small button next to the connector: by pushing it will provide 8 different video modes: Color, Green, Monochrome, Mono White, Color-scanline, Green-scanline, Monochrome-scanline and Mono White-scanline. The beauty of these modes is that you can emulate different monitors with one button: a color, green, monochrome and white monochrome monitors, and with the addition of scan lines it recreates the CRT look and feel, very popular in the console game scene.

photo 3

These modes also make working with 80 column and graphic desktop applications very easy, allowing readable and crisp clear text at the touch of a button.

Green | Green w/scan lines | Color | Color w/scan lines

The device sits on the back of the computer out of sight but easily accesible to the switch, is small, light and very well crafted. I’m not surprised as his other creations (//c dclock, Senior PROM, Audio cards and his famous Disk II floppy Emulator) are known for quality and reliability.

I greatly recommend this adapter, as not only does what it is intended very well, but provides extra options found only in high end gaming devices.

At the time of this review, the price of the Apple IIc VGA Adapter had not yet been announced. Separate NTSC and PAL versions will be available.

May 1st, 2015

Testing the UA2/RM TranswarpGS clone begins this weekend


A2Central has received its TranswarpGS v1.0 clone prototype and we are going to test it in our primary Apple IIGS starting this weekend.

IMG_20150427_113533_1 - Fixed For Handout

The first run of 10 PCBs are intended for testers and developers, with the remainder being sold to a lucky few who have offered to help fund the continuation of the project by graciously offering more than the retail asking price. If testing is successful, more PCBs will be ordered within a few weeks with full availability to be announced at a later date.

Our TranswarpGS test unit came with all the bells and whistles you’d expect on an upgraded TWGS except for an on-board fan. We’ve been asked to experiment using the card at 16MHz (and higher) without it, so the only cooling will come from our Kensington System Saver (which I consider essential equipment anyway). It will be interesting to find out if, or when, the card begins to get crashy without onboard active cooling. We know the old cards required cooling at higher speeds, but the new TWGS may not necessarily behave the same way or have identical requirements.

Our test rig is a ROM 3 Apple IIGS, with a ReactiveMicro 200W power supply. Currently installed are a typical assortment of cards:

4MB Sequential Systems RAM card (RAM slot)
R&D Automation CFFA3000 (slot 6)
Apple ‘Mustang’ SuperDrive controller (slot 5)
Drewbie Stereo card (slot 4)
A2RetroSystems Uthernet card (slot 2)

I usually have a 12MHz ZipGSX with 32K cache installed in this machine, so I’m expecting to see a noticeable difference in performance.

As we test the card, results will be posted here:


What did we get?

Out of the package, aside from the TWGS itself, we received a flyer congratulating us on our purchase that also briefly describes the benefits of the card and a set of stickers with a chart of the Scalable Oscillator settings printed on them. The stickers are for placing on the underside of your Apple IIGS lid, so you won’t lose the settings when you need them most. No manual was included, but does anyone really need one? The original Applied Engineering TWGS manual is available online from several sources, and it remains applicable to the clone TWGS board.

Our TWGS also arrived with version 6 of the 32K cache board. By the time the clone TWGS is in full distribution, the version 7 32K cache board will be shipping with it. The primary difference is the version 7 board has a flash ROM on board, with LOTS of space to tinker with the TWGS firmware in the future. I’m attaching a pic comparing the 2 cache boards side by side.

The top two cards are version 7 cache boards, the two bottom ones are version 6.
The new TranswarpGS v1.0 clone from UltimateApple2 and ReactiveMicro has a lot going for it. For one thing, all the components are brand new instead of being 25+ years old and benefit from modernization. New logic and manufacturing techniques should equate into power efficiencies and heat reduction for longer life and increased stability. Also, modifications that were previously considered hacks and upgrades are now standard features. There’s certainly more bang for the buck with the cloned TWGS.

The new TWGS includes:

High-speed WDC 65c816
32K cache board, with the current 1.8S firmware
Scalable Oscillator (preset to 16MHz) with .25MHz incremental tuning
High-speed GAL set
Enhanced “straight” CPU cable
On-board fan, for active cooling


The price for the TranswarpGS v1.0 clone is $550 USD plus shipping. That’s probably not the price point some people were hoping for, but at least an option now exists for the Apple II Community for a new, modernized and faster accelerator in addition to the older, used accelerators. It’s extremely difficult to achieve discount pricing from suppliers on such small, niche product runs, especially one with this much silicon on it.

I’m grateful Anthony Martino and Henry Courbis undertook this project and brought it to completion. They were able to succeed where others have not. Good job guys.

April 5th, 2015

Scalable Oscillator for TranswarpGS

We’re big fans of the Apple IIGS (well, duh) but for all its cool graphics and sound capabilities, it’s kinda pokey when running its native GSOS GUI and compatible applications. That’s why accelerators are always in demand. They replace the stock 2.8MHz processor with a faster 65c816 on a card, usually 7MHz or faster, and give the IIGS a much needed kick in the pants. Thankfully, accelerators are about to become more plentiful.

For some people though, 7MHz isn’t good enough. The TranswarpGS accelerator itself can be made better, stronger, faster. We have the technology in the form of improved 65c816 processor, newer cache RAM, active cooling and an overall better understanding of the TranswarpGS board layout and GAL logic. Through upgrades, the TranswarpGS can be reliably overclocked beyond its original specifications.

Now we get to the figurative heart of the matter, the oscillator crystal that determines the speed of the accelerator. Like most accelerators for the Apple IIGS, the speed of a TranswarpGS is derived by dividing the oscillator’s frequency by 4. So a 28MHz oscillator results in a 7MHz operation, 32MHz equals an 8MHz board and so on. But even with upgrades, we can only push our 80’s technology accelerator so far before it balks and begins to malfunction. Not all TranswarpGS boards are equal either. Some boards upgrade more easily and go faster than others. To find out, you’ll need to keep a variety of oscillators on hand. Maybe several.

If only there was a way to easily and conveniently overclock the oscillator’s frequency until the optimal speed for reliable operation could be determined.

Now there is. From UltimateApple2 and ReactiveMicro, we have the new Scalable Oscillator, a small augmented oscillator replacement that works with your TranswarpGS accelerator (and probably ZipGS).

photo 3
Scalable Oscillator front and back

The Scalable Oscillator (aka SO) replaces the fixed-frequency oscillator on your TranswarpGS. A series of DIP switches determines what speed the SO runs at, from 28MHz through to a maximum 80MHz in .25MHz increments — that’s 7MHz through 20MHz in system speed.

The DIP switches from top to bottom are labeled 1-8. Switches 1-7 control the oscillator frequency using binary code, while switch 8 enables/disables the SO. You can piggyback your original oscillator into the SO for normal operation (by setting DIP 8 to off) but… we’re here to GO FASTER! AM I RIGHT?

The binary code used for DIPs 1-7 is determined by taking the desired oscillator speed and subtracting 8 from it. For example, to run your SO-enabled TranswarpGS at 10MHz, you need a 40MHz oscillator frequency signal — subtract 8 from 40, you get 32. 32 in binary is 0100000 or off, on, off, off, off, off, off. Simple, right? Don’t worry, a handy chart will be included with all (53!) possible DIP settings for the binary challenged.

A2Central and Mike Maginnis of the Open Apple podcast were allowed a sneak peek to play with this new tweaker toy. We discussed some of our hands-on experiences in OA Episode #45 but I’ll also post some of my perceptions here.

First off, the SO works as advertised. It was relatively painless to set the SO output frequency per the included chart (which you will *not* want to lose). You might be one of those set it and forget it types, but for anyone who likes to tweak their hardware, printing the chart out and taping it to your power supply or the underside of your IIGS lid might be a good idea. That way, its always there when you need it. BTW, this is *that moment* your middle school teacher said you’d need to know binary for someday.

The SO is pretty small. I had to remove it from the TWGS whenever I set the DIPs but that’s because my TWGS also has a fan upgrade installed (another fine option from ReactiveMicro). It could be tricky removing and installing the SO (but not impossible) while under the fan… but with the fan left in place setting the DIPs with a toothpick was equally tricky. That might be attributable to my excessive (i.e. obsessive) care (i.e. paranoia) over electrostatic discharge during the handling of all the components. I’m kind of a klutz.

I have to say, I very much like the Scalable Oscillator. For me, it beats keeping a drawer full of miscellaneous oscillators around.

The anticipated price of the Scalable Oscillator is a reasonable $35 USD and will be available in quantity within a few weeks.

March 31st, 2015

UltimateApple2 and ReactiveMicro refine the No-Slot Clock

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.

photo 2
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.

photo 1

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.

January 20th, 2015

Brian Picchi reviews the Apple II, David Murray thinks the Macintosh may have been a mistake

Brian Picchi

David Murray

August 25th, 2014

ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation

I was recently given a copy of ‘ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation’ by Jonathan Zufi to review. I’ve spent the past week poring over it in my spare time. As I turned each page, I felt mesmerized and pleasantly surprised by the book’s high-quality photography of historical Apple products.

Which is odd. I’m not one for coffee table books. At least, that’s what I initially mistook ‘ICONIC’ for. I like to read books with stories that have something to say, or have something to do with science, engineering or history; in short, I prefer books that spark my imagination. Yet, that’s exactly where ‘ICONIC’ hooked me.


‘ICONIC’ is a giant, heavy slab of a hardcover divided into 6 chapters and 340 pages. Inside, you’ll find a phenomenal collection of photographs of Apple products beginning with the Apple 1 era and ending around the 2012 iMac. The six chapters are: Desktops, Portables, Peripherals, iDevices, Prototypes (my personal favorite) and Packaging. ‘ICONIC’ indeed turned out to be the ultimate coffee table book, but there’s substantially more to it than that. It’s a pictorial history of over 30 years of industrial design evolution and pursuit of technical excellence. As Richard Attenborough’s character John Hammond repeatedly states in Jurassic Park, the author and publisher appear to have ‘spared no expense’ to produce this homage to Apple Innovation. ‘ICONIC’ is every bit as impressive as the Apple products it explores.

Accompanying the pictures are quotes from the likes of Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Nolan Bushnell, Andy Hertzfeld and their contemporaries. The book doesn’t attempt to narrate the history of Apple Computer. Mr. Zufi has wisely left that tired road for others to trek and has instead found a Zen-like approach to presenting his vision in pictures. ‘ICONIC’ was four years and over 150,000 pictures in the making, and it shows. I imagine it was an excruciating task to settle on the final set of photos for the book.

My only complaint is trivial and hardly worth mentioning. I would like to have seen more pictures from the Apple II era placed within the book, but I admit I’m biased in that regard. Still, I completely enjoyed ‘ICONIC’ and recommend it highly.

Beyond Apple fanatics, ‘ICONIC’ will appeal to anyone with a love for elegant industrial design. So much attention to detail is captured, you may discover something new each time you open its pages.

You can order ‘ICONIC’ from the book’s website at http://iconicbook.com/purchase or from Amazon.

July 27th, 2012

CFFA3000 Demo

For anyone still waiting for your CFFA3000 to arrive in the mail, here’s something to help tide you over. Blake Patterson of the Byte Cellar has posted a nice write-up and demo video of the highly-regarded Apple II card in action.  Check it out here.

January 20th, 2010

Giving Darth Vader a mind probe (without resorting to using a probe droid)

This weekend, I had a conversation with an old friend of mine that I hadn’t talked to in quite some time. During the course of catching up I had mentioned to my computer-phobic pal that I had purchased an Apple IIe about a year ago, had become familiar with the old languages, methods, operating systems. I was even using it on-line, a newer capability for this veteran computer that I still find amazing. I forget that not everyone finds that mind blowing. His response was to inquire, “Are you broke?”

Over the past year I have been looking at Apple II software titles that I have come across via the many on-line repositories that exist. Mostly this was in a quest to fill in my knowledge gaps in using ProDOS effectively and creating compact flash software archives I can browse via ProDOS menu driven interfaces. During the course of searching through vast software archives, I came across a program that had nothing to do with either of these things, but is quite entertaining, none the less. The software is MIND PROBER (C) 1984 THE HUMAN EDGE.

When I first booted it up, I was greeted with a Mind Prober title screen in purple that did a horizontal bar transition to a second image of an eye peering at me through the hub of a 5.25″ floppy disk mystically levitating above a barren plain. I was hoping that Mind Prober was not making a symbolic jest at the mind it was about to probe. The graphic was in hi-Res and it was also the last of the snazzy graphics as the rest of the disk is text based.

After the initial titles, you are greeted with 4 choices: Instructions, Assessment, Result Reporting and Quit. The basic gist of the software is that you are asked an inventory of psychologically revealing questions about a subject and the results will show insight into a person’s personality based on the responses. The responses are entered by the arrow keys with left being “Agree”, right being “Disagree”, up/down being previous/next questions, respectively.

I was a little dubious about what seemed like pop culture software from the 80’s, but I began to perform psychological inventories on people I knew, or thought that I knew, sometimes having to guess about some questions.

Generally, the results of the inventories were revealing to me, although I wouldn’t say that the simple software nailed a personality that I tried all the way, I did discover new ways of seeing the people I am close to. I’m guessing that I had about 80-85% agreement with the assessment and the subject that I knew, although there has to be some fudge factor in there solely for my perception of the subject. Let’s give it a +/- 5%. So I’ll stand with a 75-90% range of accuracy, but I actually think that Mind Prober gave me better human understanding about those subjects in each case, at least in a small way.

Sample questions from the inventory to agree with or disagree with are basic in nature such as “He is meticulous” or “She cares about social status” and so forth. Just to test the result, I made a profile for Darth Vader based on what I knew from the Star Wars franchise. I thought the results were fairly close to his nature and would have made a great guide for an actor to follow who needed to flesh out some personality to a character. Admittedly though, I could have gone without delving into Darth Vader’s “Attitudes Towards Sex”.

An Analysis of Darth Vader by Mind Prober



Mr. D. V. is not known for his ability to adapt and roll with the punches. If his environment is altered in any way, he could view such change with suspicion and distrust. He would rather struggle to maintain old routines rather than face the stress of coping with change.

He will determinedly follow what he believes is best and be difficult to persuade otherwise. His preferred method for dealing with stress is to leave whatever or whoever is causing stress behind and go off by himself to other things.



Mr. D. V. is often interested in exciting, unusual or risky pursuits. He welcomes new ideas and enjoys a good challenge. You won’t see him caught up in the latest craze or fads. He dislikes the phony or pretentious and will be quick to expose such things as shams.

He tends to become involved in solitary pursuits which test his self-sufficiency through tough intellectual or physical demands. He typically dislikes parties or other such social events that he perceives as being superficial.



Sexual privacy will seem like a major issue with Mr. D. V. It is likely that he shuns any occasion to talk about sexual feelings. However, he also may expect you to just “understand” him, and he may become angry if you seem out of step with his desires.

He may have unusual views or attitudes about sex. For example, he may denounce current sexual mores while demanding that those close to him maintain these standards.


Mr. D. V. is one of those people who are happiest when left alone. He really doesn’t care to be around others. Whether he is suspicious of people or just does not get along with them, he would rather do without their presence. He does have a tendency to seek excitement, but he usually finds ways to do so without involving others.

Mr. D. V. is the sort of person who experiences a good deal of discomfort when there is uncertainty in his life. Disorganization may cause him to feel out of control. While he prefers things that are new and different, he dislikes ambiguity. Expect him to want definite knowledge on most everything he discovers.

All in all, despite the hi-Res promise and lo-Res delivery, Mind Prober, is one of those pieces of software that’s worth a look at — if only at a personal level because there is a potential here to learn something about yourself or others that perhaps was overlooked before. Based on that I would still consider this useful software that still can provide an undated assessment of a subject’s personality. It is by no means earth-shattering, but it’s zen like nature allows an opportunity to expand the perimeter of your awareness in regards to yourself and others. Ohmmm.

[Dan McLaughlin is a Apple II enthusiast and blogger. You can read more of Dan’s articles on his web site at http://www.appleslices.info]

February 1st, 2001

Review: Dungeon Master for Apple IIgs

Back in the late 1980’s, I was an avid Apple II gamer. I had a IIe and my best friend had an Apple IIGS. Having seen very little IIGS specific software, I came to the conclusion that the IIGS was just a glorified IIe with the ability to change color of the text, background and border, while running all my IIe programs at several times their normal speed. It wasn’t until my friend picked up the game Dungeon Master that I saw the what the 16 bit machine could do. It brought to life a menacing dungeon filled with cunning traps and horrifying monsters.

Reviewed by: Dain Neater��
Written by FTL Games

Published by FTL Games
Price varies, available used only

Gameplay 4/5
Sound 4/5
Graphics 4/5
Music n/a n/a
Overall 4/5

The initial screen; click Enter to start a game,
Resume to load a saved game.

The Story

As the story unfolds, your master, the Grey Lord, was seeking the Power Gem. Through dark experiments he finally gained what he saught, or so he believed. What he wasn’t prepared for was the incredible power of the Magicks involved; he rends himself in two and tears the world apart. The Grey Lord now exists as two distinct entities. One of these forces, Lord Chaos, has taken it upon himself to bring the world under his iron grip, while the opposing life force Lord Librasulus has come to you to help restore order.

Various attempts have been made to bring down Lord Chaos; all have failed. The doomed heroes who attempted this task were have been within the “Hall of Champions.” In a last ditch effort your master has awakened your life force to rescue four heroes and lead them against the Darkness. It is up to you to enter the Hall, revive four champions and lead them into the depths of the dungeon, to find the Firestaff, the one object with the power to defeat Chaos and restore order.

A character in the Hall of Champions.

The Basics: Health/Stamina/Mana

At the beginning, after you have chosen your heroes and are ready to decend into the dungeon, you must first understand and take care of the basics. Food and water are necessary for life. Ignore this rule and death will follow in short order. Each character has three main attributes that you must closely monitor: health, stamina, and mana. Health is the gauge of life. A naturally stong character will begin with a decent amount of health, while your puny weak spell casters will have very little in the way of health.

Stamina is how fatigued your character is; it’s a good idea to watch this one as well. Carrying too much equipment can really take a toll on a character. Keep in mind that a tired fighter won’t be very useful when push comes to shove. Mana is the measure of how much raw Magick power that your character can attempt to use. Some characters you find in the Hall of Champions have a natural affinity to Magick. They have a high amount of mana to practice with, while others have little or no mana. Various items can be found in the game to give your normally Manaless characters a chance at pulling off a spell.

Skill/System – Practice Makes Perfect

Most role playing games (RPGs) in those days had a very simple concept of level advancement. For every creature you defeated in combat you got a certain number of experience points, and once you reached a certain number of experience points you advanced to the next level. Dungeon Master takes this to another level, in a more real world approach. Instead of limiting your character to levels in a specific class, any character can gain experience in four different professions Fighter, Wizard, Priest and Ninja.

A character, therefore, can be a Neophyte Fighter (level one) and a Novice Wizard (level two) dependent all on how much use your character gets out of his innate talents, as certain characters are easier to advance in certain skills than others. Just about everything you do in the game has an effect on your levels. Taking a hit from a creature for instance actually gains you experience in the fighting . You end up practicing on low level magic torch spells to try to gain your main fighter some experience in the Magick arts, while you can save your Real Wizard for the heat of battle.

Real Time

Before I played this game, every Role Playing Game I had played before was your standard Turn Based Combat, where every character had to wait their turn and you as a player had every chance to sit there and think about what you wanted to do, much in the same way you do in Chess. With Dungeon Master everything changed. Suddenly time became a factor and you were racing against the clock.

Torches burn and eventually die out, and stay too long in the dungeon and your characters could starve to death or die of thirst. Not paying too close attention and a monster could come along and send you to an early grave. Battles now had to be planned out on the fly, more by instinct than anything else. Time is a constant factor and it isn’t on your side. Instead of getting one attack per round, you now get specific attacking techniques that take a different amount of time to recover from. You don’t get to sit and plan, you have to fight or die.

The Art of Weaponry

As in most games of this genre, the fighting men/women/creatures are an integral part of of your success, especially in the early stages when your spellcasters are weak. They have to be the strongest physically and be able to take the most damage. Dungeon Master takes place with the assumption that your four characters are placed in a two by two alignment. The two characters in the front are the only ones who can attack with short range weapons such as swords and clubs, so it is a good idea to keep your better fighters up front so as to protect your usually wimpy Wizards and Priests. The two fighting classes, Ninja and Fighter benefit from two different fighting styles. Each weapon you find in the depths of the dungeon has its own different kinds of attacks, that can benefit both classes, and each kind of attack takes a different amount of time to recover from, so it is imperative that you choose wisely.

Magick System – Mana and Symbols

Another great aspect of this classic game is its deceptively simple magic system that at first seems to be quite complex. Basically each spell consists of two to four symbols: a power symbol (how strong a spell is going to be, and consequently how much Mana the spell will require), an element symbol (fire, water, spirt, etc) and an action symbol (what you want done with the element.

Mana is the essence of Magick, and it is required for the spellcaster to unleash his or her spells. You can attempt as difficult a spell as you have Mana, but trying spells way above your skill level will most likely get you nothing but a “need more practice” message which in the heat of battle can be the difference between life and death. Finding the characters’ limits is important, as practicing spells along the threshold of success and failure gains you valuable experience in that particular dicipline. For instance, one of your main fighters can gain experience by attempting the lowest level magic torch spell and failing over and over. Eventually he will be able to cast it, and with more practice he will gain a much needed advance in a Wizard level and as an added bonus more Mana with which to practive even more spells.

While wizards are the flashy ones that do a lot of damage to the ranks of the enemy, just as important to life and death are the Priests. Their spells of healing and protection often make the difference between a gloomy death and victory at the bottom of the dungeon. The Magick system of Dungeon Master is one of its highlights. It keeps things simple without just having you select a spell from a drop down box, thus retaining a little of the fantasy of the Magick system.


What brings this whole game together is that, with all these complex elements, everything is brought together in a simple, easy to use, mouse driven interface. Keyboard input is not required at all in Dungeon Master. Everything can be done from two screens, the main view screen and your inventory screen.

A mummy approaches. This is the main game
interface screen.

In the Main view you have complete control over your environment. It’s up to you to click on buttons find secret doors and pick up the various items you find. As a nice touch, when you pick up an item the main cursor becomes that item until you put it down. The right quarter of the screen contains your action menus. Above, you have full access to the spell casting interface and the weaponry attack buttons. Learn these well as they are the key to survival in battle.

The inventory screen. You can easily
see what weapons the character is currently
using, and what they have in their pack.

Fun and Scary

Dungeon Master is one of those games that is meant to be played in the dark. Preferably in a basement and at night, so that all you can hear is the slight crackle of your torch as it burns and the hissing of the mummy that has snuck up behind you and attacked while you weren’t looking, or if you are unlucky the scream of your party as it falls through that trap door. While the game is challenging, it isn’t too difficult and even if you find it a little tough, feel free to load up the kiddie dungeon that comes with the game. Just hold down the “Option” key while pressing the “New Game” button at the opening screen.

Final Word

Dungeon Master from FTL games is a great game. It takes a simple to use interface and a great skills system and merges it with great magical items and some incredibly evil monsters for you to do battle with. If you are a gamer and even have the slightest interest in dungeon crawlers, then you need to find yourself a used copy. It’s quite worth the trouble. If you happen to come across a copy, check it out, it is well worth your time.

System Requirements

Rom 01 or Rom 3 Apple IIGS. – Rom 00s need not apply.
1 MB of memory.