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.


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‘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.

January 24th, 2014

Happy 30th Birthday Macintosh


The Apple II is still better than you’ll ever be.

January 24th, 2009

Macintosh turns 25

You’ve probably seen or heard it somewhere in the media recently, Macintosh turned 25 years old today. They’re saying the Mac is the computer that revolutionized microcomputing… but I would argue otherwise. I think we all know it was really the Apple II that kicked off the microcomputer revolution.

Still, the Mac quickly replaced the venerable Apple II as Apple Computer’s flagship product. It didn’t happen quite overnight; during the ’80′s, the Apple II series was a dominating player in the education and home computing markets and it remained the company’s cash cow for years even after the Mac’s introduction. At first, both platforms seemed to be on equal footing. The Mac was being pitched at business and creative professionals, and the Apple II in home and education.

It wasn’t long though, that a change in direction was felt. As the Macintosh platform gained traction, many Apple II enthusiasts began to feel Apple Computer wasn’t living up to their Apple II Forever hyperbole. All of Apple’s attention seemed to be focused solely on the Macintosh. And so it was, and the rest is history.

Today, I am a Mac user and I’m not really bitter about the past. On behalf of A2Central, I want to wish the Macintosh a Happy 25th Birthday, and many more to come. After all, it’s one of the best peripherals I’ve ever bought for my Apple II.

October 16th, 2008

Random Access (10-16-08)

With the help of my friend and fellow Apple II user James Littlejohn, I’ve finally been going through my collection of Apple II and Macintosh gear. I knew I had a lot of stuff — too much stuff actually. It’s often been a source of friction at times with my Wife. I’ve had gear strewn all over our house from years of collecting, donations, etc. and it was high time to do something about it.

My goal is to NEATLY squeeze most of the retro-gear I want to tinker with into my basement office and use no more than 3 (maybe 4) storage racks in the garage for the spare parts I have. Oh, and still have room to work on the newer tech that keeps me employed.

Last weekend we started the initial sorting and purging. There were several times when we discovered something new I didn’t realize I had, or we found an item that I thought was lost for good. I was also able to finally get a slightly better grip on inventory. One of the best examples of how “off” I’ve been on what I thought I had in storage is Unidisk 3.5 drives. I was pretty sure I had 3 or 4 drives, but in actuality I have 13 and there might be more. Wow. They were all over the place!

James has been a big, BIG help doing a lot of the sorting, stacking and heavy lifting for me. He says he’s doing it for fun, and because he’d heard about my “legendary” collection over the years and wanted to see it for himself. In past years, I’d open the garage up to KansasFest attendees to freely pick over the extra gear and machines I had. Apparently the collection has a reputation in the Apple II community… but don’t expect roadside billboards proclaiming “Come see The Biggest Pile of Apple II Junk in the Midwest” any time soon. There are other collections bigger and more impressive than mine — Tony Diaz certainly has more interesting things (prototypes galore) and Jamie Steffens and others have tons o’ software I’d love to play with.

Purging the stuff is the hard part. Deciding on what to keep, give away and sometimes throw away takes effort, discipline and determination. I’ve been giving James the option of hauling off anything I didn’t want to keep… Well, that’s not quite right, I’d probably keep everything and be right back in the mess I’m in now. It’s more like “things I’d have kept, but realized I don’t have the room or time to deal with it anymore” type of situation. Woof! Giving the stuff away to James helps me feel better, since he won’t accept money or anything for the hard work he’s put into helping me.

I’ve dumped extra machines, premium parts, hard drives, CD-ROM drives, tape drives, Woz GS lids, misc. gear, software, manuals and much, much more that James has loaded into his 1972 Chevy bus. Yeah – he drove his bus up, and for good reason. We filled it up with stuff I didn’t want anymore. No pickup, mini-van or car would have held all the gear I gave him. I wanted to get rid of more but the bus was overflowing, and he wouldn’t load anything else on it this trip. He’s just going to have to come back for the rest.

Yah, I know I could have put some of this stuff on eBay (some of it will end up there eventually) but you know, that’s a hassle I didn’t want to deal with right now. Maybe during the next sort and purge I’ll do that. That’s THIS weekend by the way… Woof!

Updated: 10/20/08

James came up again this past weekend to help me wrap up where we left off. My home office is now cleaned out, and awaiting the new furniture I ordered. I’ll be able to move my day to day Apple II gear back in within a few weeks.

Practically every little bit of Apple II gear I own has now been “seen” by me. I now have an improved awareness of what I have (too much), and of what I need to get rid of (a lot). I gave more gear to James (we didn’t fill the bus this time), while other bits and parts are going out to Tony Diaz and other people in the community I’ve made promises to. The rest will either be posted to eBay, or saved for KansasFest attendees.

September 11th, 2008

Retro road trip followup

I left the house around 7:00am on Saturday the 6th. I noted that it was cloudy and cool, and felt a moments regret that I hadn’t checked the weather report. No matter, I was on my way to Oklahoma to see James Littlejohn. My Apple //e and IIc Plus motherboards were in the car and I was ready to do some hacking.

It wasn’t too long before I ran into heavy rain, and I had to slow way down to avoid hydroplaning. Even at reduced speed, I had several white-knuckle moments as I tried to maintain control. Luckily, I made it to Chelsea only an hour later than I had planned. My map wasn’t that great, so I had to call James to guide me in the last few blocks. Chelsea is so small, I half-expected to spot the Big Green Monster from the highway.

I walked into the house and immediately I was amazed, surprised and a little envious — there were several H.E.R.O. robots, many Apple II (and III) computers, shelves of techie gear, books, software, peripherals and various gadgetry EVERYWHERE. Oh, yeah… some Timex Sinclairs too. James has a nice collection, no doubt about it.

After a bit of small talk, we got busy upgrading the IIc Plus motherboards. Some of the needed parts were misplaced, so James spent time verifying the boards instead. Since we couldn’t do the upgrades while I was there, I agreed to leave the boards for JL to work on later. As it turned out, that was a good thing — he managed to get them running stable at 10MHz (and in the process made an interesting discovery), now he’s going after 12.5MHz!

After lunch, it was time to assemble the LittleExpanderPlus (LEP). The rest of the parts needed for the project had just arrived the day before. I was going to be the lucky recipient of the very first unit.

James started by asking where I wanted the rotary switch located. I chose to have it mounted on the left top of the case, directly opposite of the square Apple logo (it’s a platinum //e). He then measured out the case and wires to make sure everything would be neatly tucked away. Next it was time to solder the wiring between the switch and the board, and a solder on a few more components. That took awhile, but it was worth it.




…and here’s the LEP installed in my workhorse Apple //e. Check out all that extra room! Can you identify all the cards in there?



As you can see, I haven’t installed my Pico PSU yet. I had to order a new AC adapter for it because the one I had didn’t have sufficient amperage.

Well, after James finished with the LEP, I had to hit the road. I didn’t want to get caught driving through rural Oklahoma and Kansas late at night. The last thing I wanted was a deer through the windshield.

The hacking continues…

September 1st, 2008

Retro road trip

I’m heading out to visit James Littlejohn next Saturday (09/06). He lives south of me in Chelsea, Oklahoma; approximately 175 miles away, or around two and half hours drive time. I’m delivering some Apple II and robotic gear to him plus we’re going to do a little hardware hacking. It should be a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to it.

James is going to help me overclock a couple of my IIc Plus motherboards. He’s confident we can achieve 10MHz but I’ll be happy if they make it to 8MHz. He may also give me a sneak-peek at the internal battery pack and LCD panel he’s working with to make his IIc Plus TRULY portable.

I’m hoping Glenn Jones can pull off the //cmxp project, and then we can combine it with all the nifty upgrades Littlejohn is working on. Just imagine what an awesome Apple IIc Plus that would make. A fast 10MHz CPU, 1MB RAM, ProDOS clock, compact flash storage, color LCD, battery (maybe even a network adapter)… it would be 8-bit Apple II nerdvana.

We’re also installing the new Little Expander Plus (LEP) into my workhorse Apple //e. I’m planning to evaluate it and post a review on A2Central. Of course, I’ll take pictures of the whole process.

The LEP is something I’ve personally been looking forward to for a long time. One of the reasons why I love the Apple II so much is due in no small part to it’s legendary expansion slots. Occasionally, that love turns to frustration because I have several cards I like to use frequently, but never enough slots to install them in at the same time.

Anyone else in this predicament probably does one of the following; swap-out cards as needed (causing wear and tear on slots and card connectors) or keep specialized machines (which take up a lot of space) that are optimized for certain functions. I do the latter — I have separate machines that have peripheral cards installed for gaming, music, productivity and utility work.

Take slot 4 for example. In some of my Apple II machines, that slot is either allocated to a 1MB “slinky” RAM card, a mouse card, Mockingboard or a WildCard II. It’s seldom that I need to use more than one of those cards at the same time, so the logical answer is some kind of switch that I can use to select the appropriate card just prior to bootup. I figure I’ll be able to downsize and put two or three machines into storage, saving room in my office.

I’m pleased to say I had a small (very small) part in making the LEP a reality; I came up with the idea of integrating the LittlePower ATX adapter into a clone of the SCRG Switch-a-Slot for an all internal four slot expansion device. Littlejohn did all the hard work (design and testing), and was nice enough to have my name silk-screened on the LEP. Finally, my name immortalized somewhere… but in a good way. ;)

When I get back, I’ll post pictures and an update about the trip.

April 14th, 2008

Ben Heckendorn’s incredible custom-built IIGS laptop

It’s been done before, but not like this! Check out Benjamin Heckendorn’s Apple IIGS laptop. This is the most beautiful and amazing one of a kind hack I’ve ever seen done on an Apple II. You have to see it in this YouTube video to believe it.



Like every other Apple II fanatic on the planet, I’m envious and I want one. Badly.

April 10th, 2008

Five reasons why GS/OS beats Vista and OS X

Everyone has their favorite operating system, and the holy wars among each camp continue indefinitely. Among the modern candidates — Mac OS X, Linux, Windows XP, and Windows Vista — one OS is conspicuously absent: GS/OS. Ken Gagne offers five reasons why this 16-bit, 15-year-old operating system is superior to Vista and Mac OS X.

January 28th, 2008

Is a new Apple //c really worth $2,553 USD?

That’s the big question I’m asking myself. As a die-hard Apple II user, I’ve collected a fair amount (ok, tons really) of retro-computing gear over the years. I call them spares, my Wife calls it clutter. I’ve also aquired several machines still new in the box that I’ve picked up on the cheap back when the Apple II was generally considered obsolete AND disposable. I used to have an affordable hobby, or so I thought. That was just a few years ago…

On January 26th, a NEW Apple //c auctioned for $2,553 USD on eBay. I saw the //c listed early on, and being that it was new, I expected it to go for $500, even maybe as high as $700. It was only a //c after all and not even the historic original ROM 255 model released in 1984. The selling price went much higher than I was willing to commit so I didn’t bid. So much for my skills as an appraiser of Apple II collectibles. Still, I was astounded at the going price.

I’m not the only one amazed and a little pained by the auction either. Check out what Blake Patterson has to say on the matter at his vintage computing site, BYTECellar.

In the meantime, I’m asking myself other questions as well. Was this a fluke? I’ve seen some weird things happen on eBay over the years. Should I move my brand new machines to one of those temp controlled storage places? Should I secure them better? Should I try to sell them now and ride the nostalgia wave while I can? Despite what my Wife says, my vintage spare computers seem much more like an investment, but who knows if these machines will still be considered collectible a few years from now?

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