February 14th, 2013

Bill Budge to give Pinball Construction Set ‘postmortem’ at GDC 2013


Bill Budge will be making an appearance at GDC 2013 to give a “Classic Postmortem” on his hit software title Pinball Construction Set.  From the GDC 2013 news item:

… Bill Budge, father of the seminal Pinball Construction Set will lay out one of the earliest examples of an in-game editor – a title that game developer legend Will Wright has credited as a key influence on the simulation games that launched him to stardom

Published in 1983 by Electronic Arts, Pinball Construction Set created a new genre in video games that encouraged user generated content where players could trade personalized content via floppy disk. The game’s editor allowed players to construct their own virtual pinball tables, and players could save these tables to disk and trade them with friends.

The editor’s clean and simple interface even served as inspiration to designs behind SimCity six years later – The Sims creator Will Wright cited Pinball Construction Set as his key inspiration while speaking on the GDC 2012 panel “Forgotten Tales Remembered.” Bill Budge, the father of the seminal Construction Set entry, will lay out the blueprints for how he created his own game and one of the earliest examples of an in-game editor.

This should go nicely with Budge’s release of the PBC source code earlier this week.

GDC 2013 is scheduled to take place March 25 – 29, 2013 in San Francisco.  Registration and travel information can be found here.

February 13th, 2013

Ewen Wannop releases Phoenix file undelete utility

Esteemed Apple IIGS programmer Ewen Wannop has released Phoenix, a file undelete utility for ProDOS and GS/OS. Ewen’s announcement is attached.

Announcing the release of the Phoenix File Un-Deleter Utility

Accidentally deleted a file from a ProDOS or GS/OS disk? Need to recover it? Then Phoenix is at hand to help you.

Phoenix handles all kinds of deleted files, from a simple text file, to a large forked file, letting you recover its data. A 100% recovery is to be expected, as long as the data has not been over-written since the file was deleted.

Phoenix handles any kind of disk, from a 5.25″ floppy to a 32Mb hard drive.

Although un-deleting or exhuming a file is the primary purpose of Phoenix, in most case you will wish to copy the deleted file instead, thus preserving the integrity of your disks.

Phoenix is available as a stand-alone application, a self-booting disk image, and of course comes with a high quality PDF manual!

Get Phoenix and all my other software from: http://www.wannop.info/speccie

February 13th, 2013

Bill Budge posts Pinball Construction Set source

Bill Budge has posted to github the source code to his seminal hit Pinball Construction Set, according to this Y-Combinator item.  Some sharp eyes in the comments thread noticed that although the code is for the Atari 800 version of the program, it was developed on an Apple II, a common practice in those days and made easy by the fact that both platforms use a 6502 processor.  According to one of Bill’s recent tweets: “The Atari 800 had a raster mode that was very similar to the Apple II Hi-res graphics. The code had minimal differences.”


Bill has also tweeted that he intends to go through and comment the code, which you can find here.

(HT: Sean Fahey, image source: The Digital Antiquarian)

February 8th, 2013

Open Apple podcast #24 (February 2013) now available

Jimmy MaherThis month on Open Apple, the Apple II community’s only co-hosted podcast, Mike and Ken chat with Jimmy Maher, the historian behind the renowned blog The Digital Antiquarian. A published author, Jimmy provides us with his perspective on the pros and cons of going with a publishing house over the recent trend in retrocomputing toward self-publishing. We gripe about the Steve Jobs film sacrificing historical accuracy for mass appeal and recommend some alternative movies that get it right. We’re still loving iOS as a platform for classic gaming ports, from the adventure game Transylvania to the recently released Lode Runner Classic. Speaking of platforms, which is better: the Apple II or the Commodore 64? The answer may not be as obvious as you think! Finally, we offer a cautionary tale to vintage computer collectors whose inventory may be at the mercy of an avaricious landlord.

Find the show at the Open Apple Web site or in the iTunes and Zune podcast directories.

February 1st, 2013

New CFFA3000 Firmware released

Rich Dreher has released a new firmware (3.1) for his popular CFFA3000 card.  This latest update offers, among other things, folder support on FAT volumes, “making it easier to organize a large number of disk image files.”  Per David Schmidt’s post to comp.sys.apple 2, here’s a list of everything you can expect when you flash the new firmware:

== Folders ==

Now allows folders on FAT volumes, making it easier to organize a large number of disk image files. Folder names will appear with a trailing ‘/’. Press <Return> on a folder to navigate into the folder. Press ‘-‘ (or use <Ctrl>X, or <Apple>UpArrow) to move back up to a parent folder.

The firmware will remember the current folder for both the CF and USB media. The path shows up at the top left, above “Items:” to separate the current-folder lines from the contents below. The current folder always resets to the top level when you insert the USB drive or CF card.

You can use folders inside folders, up to 8 levels deep. The item list can only show up to 255 items in a particular folder; if you have more files than that, please break them up into sub-folders.

== Assignments Screens ==

<Crtl>B: Now reboots the slot for which you’re making assignments.

Disk II assignments: Comma and Period rotate among the panes.

SmartPort Assignments: When there are more configured images than the “SmartPort Devices” setting, the extra ones appear at the bottom of the right-hand column, marked with ‘*’, and if you highlight one you’ll see “(Unavailable – SmartPort full)”.

Pressing ‘-‘ in a right-side pane deletes an assignment (like Delete / Control-D).

<Apple>Space in the right-hand column toggles between SmartPort and Disk II assignments.

Apple IIgs only: <Shift>Tab cycles backwards through the panes (like Comma does).

== Menus ==

When a menu item for an adjustable setting it highlighted, ‘<‘ and ‘>’ indicators now show which ways the menu item can be adjusted.

The “Quit” or “Boot” menu item now lets you choose which slot to boot from, using the Left and Right arrows.

Quit: Without Booting
Boot: Slot N
Boot: Slot N (Continue)
Boot: Reboot

In the “Other Settings” menu, replaced “Delay for Menu Key” setting with “Menu at Boot” which may select from “Always”, 0.1s..0.2s….up to 25 seconds.

If you choose “Menu at Boot: Always” and your Apple II finds the CFFA3000 at startup, you’ll be able to press Return to continue booting the CFFA3000, or use the arrow keys to choose another slot.

The menus use some MouseText characters (when running on an Apple IIgs or an Apple //e enhanced). If you don’t want to use MouseText, you can turn on DIP Switch 2.

== Performance ==

The CFFA3000 does read-ahead caching from USB or CF, while the Apple II is busy copying the previous block. This requires CPLD v6. Which version you have may be checked any time by going into the menu and selecting the “About” menu. The CPLD version is displayed near the top of the screen.

Various speed improvements in the 6502 and 65816 firmware including faster coordination with the CFFA3000’s microcontroller, and faster entry for ProDOS and SmartPort calls to the card.

== New DIP Switches ==

DIP Switch 1: Flip on if your Apple II or Apple II+ has a “lowercase chip” to allow the CFFA3000 to display lowercase letters.

DIP Switch 2: Flip on if you don’t want to use MouseText.

DIP Switch 4: Flip on if you are using an Apple III. Since Apple III requires the GS DIP Switch to be on, this lets the CFFA3000 know whether it must use the 6502 firmware or the 65816 firmware.

Note 1: To use the CFFA3000 on an Apple III, you must turn on both the GS DIP Switch 7 and DIP Switch 4.
Note 2: The firmware will optimize for the GS’s 65816 when the GS DIP Switch 7 is on and Switch 4 is off.

== Compatibility ==

The end of the Disk II slot ROM now more closely resembles a real Disk II. This makes at least one version of Karateka work.

If you already have the 3.1b2 firmware loaded, here are the specific changes that come with the final 3.1 firmware:

* Pressing ‘-‘ in a right-side pane deletes an assignment (like Delete / Control-D).
* In addition to the existing “go up” methods, Left arrow now navigates Up to Parent Folder in the source column.
* Changed message to “Unavailable: SmartPort full or bad file.” instead of just “(Unavailable – SmartPort full)”.
* New Blank Image: When choosing the size, show the can-adjust indicators, ‘<‘ / ‘>’ (MouseText when available).

Download the new firmware here.

(HT: David Schmidt)