One of the perks of attending KansasFest is getting to meet some of the active programmers and developers within the Apple II community firsthand and speak with them about their projects. James Littlejohn is one of our newest and most prolific developers, who has released an astonishing 6 new hardware products this year (available through ReactiveMicro). I had the opportunity to visit with James during KansasFest 2008 and pose a few brief questions.
A2C: James, tell us a little about yourself. Who are you and what do you do? What are your non-Apple II hobbies?
JL: I’m an electrician by trade, computer geek at heart. All my hobbies tie into the Apple computer, one way or another.
I collect Hero 1 robots. We had one in our electronics lab in college, but no one was allowed to touch it. About 6 years ago, I ran across one for sale. It was in poor shape, but after several months working with it, I was able to restore it to full working condition. So my quest began, I now have the second largest Hero 1 collection in the world.
I also like the Timex Sinclair. It was my very first personal computer. Oh, the nights and hours spent in front of the family TV, typing in programs on the membrane keyboard, just to finish in time for the RAM pack to wobble and crash the computer. Fond memories (tears in eyes)…
A2C: How did you get involved in Apple II computers? Do you have a favorite model?
JL: My first computer class in high school was with the Apple IIe. I rediscovered the Apple quite by accident in 2002. I found 2 IIe’s that had been discarded from a local school, about 5 years previous, half burried at a junk yard. I literally dug them up out of the ground, and after a half dozen trips through the dishwasher, and many hours pulling roots out from under chips, I had 2 working IIe’s. And from then on, I was hooked.
A2C: So the Apple IIe is your favorite model? Why?
JL: One word, expandability. Just one look at the case, and it screams ‘Mod me, open my top and look around, fill my slots with cards, make me be the best computer I can be for you.’
A2C: What about the Apple //c Plus? You seem to be spending a lot of time and effort trying to get it truly portable.
JL: The //c+ is a great computer, with built-in accelerator and 3.5 drive. With just a little help from me and others, we can truly make it the most perfect portable Apple II ever.
A2C: How do you feel about the IIGS?
JL: I had never used or owned a IIGS up until my first KFest in ’06. Although I now own several, my heart will always belong to the IIe.
A2C: What got you started making add-ons? Why do you do it?
JL: I missed out on the Apple scene in the 80’s and early 90’s, and some of the coolest products came out then that are non-existent today. So, I am trying to reinvent the wheel in a way, and see where we can go from here.
A2C: Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?
JL: Mostly from the little voices in my head, and sometimes from real people. ?
A2C: Have you been pleased with the reception of your products?
JL: Yes, I have been. Some really surprised me by the community’s interest in them.
A2C: What product are you most proud of and why?
JL: I guess that would be the LittleProto II. I wanted to make one just for myself to build circuits on, but Henry convinced me to do a full run. They are one of the best selling products I have out. If half of the cards I’ve sold result in a product for the Apple II, there is going to be alot of new Apple hardware out there.
A2C: Is there anyone’s work in the Apple II community you admire most?
JL: Not just one person but many. I won’t mention any names, for fear of leaving someone out, but I love that people are still building hardware.
A2C: How is your portable GS project going?
JL: I have the hardware part done. It has about a 2 hour run time. The next part is the case — finding a way to make a custom case is harder than you may think.
A2C: Do you have any future product plans you’d care to share?
JL: I have a couple of projects to finish up, they are listed on my web site, Littlejohn Systems. My next one will be a major project.
A2C: Regarding that next major project, can’t we have a just a tiny hint?
JL: The projects I have done up to date were small, to help me get comfortable using CAD software and ordering parts for more complex projects. Now that I’m comfortable with that process, it’s time to really sink my teeth into a big project for every one to see.
A2C: Nice evasion. I see a clue in your answer that someone might pick-up on if they had attended KFest this year, or if they’ve been watching and monitoring some of the recent discussions on comp.sys.apple2.
Speaking of KansasFest, what did you think of KFest 2008? It was your third time, right? Was it fun?
JL: I think there is something wrong with the spacetime continuum around Kansas City. Time goes way too fast when you are there. You wait all year to get there, and then it’s over before you can blink. But, I loved every second of it.
A2C: Anyone you’d like to shout out to?
JL: Yes, all the friends I have made at KFest that weren’t able to be there this year. Start planning on KFest 2009. You won’t want to miss it.
A2C: James, thanks for sharing. I know I’m not alone in looking forward to seeing your new projects.
JL: Thanks for letting me share, and everyone can see all my projects at 8bitsystem.com