February 21st, 2011

Apple IIgs Laptop Project redux

The A2GS-L01 project folks posted a brief update to say they are building a new unit to replace the prototype that was lost last year. Plans are to show it and take orders at this year’s KansasFest.

December 13th, 2010

Apple’s first user group newsletter available

Brutal Deluxe has made available the last three issues of Apple’s Contact newsletter from 1978 and 1979, as well as the 32-page Best of Contact ’78. The Apple Bibliography on page 30 is filled with classic early article references on the Apple II, such as:

Wozniak, Stephen, “Sweet 16: the 6502 Dream Machine”, Byte 2, No. 11, pp 150-159 (Nov. 1977), and

Bishop, Robert J. “The Remarkable Apple II”, Kilobaud Issue 23 (Oct., 1978)

December 12th, 2010

ActiveGS browser plugin updated

FTA‘s browser plugin ActiveGS is a front-end based on the Apple IIgs emulator Kegs, running on Windows and Mac OS X. Version 3.2.619 was released on December 6th and includes adjustments to the emulator speed, screen shot function and various other fixes.

December 11th, 2010

Becky “Burger” Heineman extensive interview

Matt Barton (author of the excellent book Dungeons and Desktops, a history of computer role-playing games) interviewed famed Apple II programmer and game developer Rebecca Heineman as part of his popular Matt Chat series. The interview is broken into four parts with possibly one more to come. Becky discusses Bard’s Tale, Dragon Wars, Tass Times in Tonetown, Wizardry, and the early days of the gaming industry.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

November 7th, 2010

TreeHugger 1.0 released

krüe’s GS/OS printer port driver TreeHugger has gone through several revisions and has hit version 1.0. The latest version features a new control panel. See our previous post for more info.

November 6th, 2010

1 MHz and the Retro Computing Roundtable offer new podcast episodes

Vintage computer historian David Greelish hosts a new podcast called the Retro Computing Roundtable (iTunes). His first guests included other retro computer hobbyists Bill Degnan, Earl Evans and Carrington Vanston. The discussion includes Apple related history, as well as ENIAC, the Xerox Alto, and more. David founded the Historical Computer Society and produced an early vintage computer publication from 1993-1996 called Historically Brewed. Steven Weyhrich’s Apple II history was serialized in its pages over several issues.

And speaking of Carrington, he is back in the saddle, releasing episode #12 of his 1 Mhz Apple II podcast (iTunes). He covers the Treehugger GS/OS printer port driver, the Visual 6502 emulator, an excerpt on early LucasArts games from Matt Barton’s maybe-someday book on the history of adventure games, and the classic game Wasteland.

July 23rd, 2010

KansasFest 2010 – Thursday

Thursday was the first full day of sessions, and we were excited to see what the presenters would come up with this year. Peter Neubauer started us off with a presentation on Macrosoft, an Applesoft-like programming language that allows one to achieve machine language speed without having to write assembly code. Peter used Macrosoft to create last year’s winning Hackfest entry. He demonstrated the impressive graphical speed gains achieved over Applesoft. Other nice features are the lack of line numbers (it uses labels), and the ability to interleave assembly and Macrosoft code in the same program. It provides a handy ascii-based status indicator during the compiling process, and you can watch the conversion of your program to assembly in real time. Peter also compiled a short history of Macrosoft after interviewing creator Alan Floeter. Was it used for any commercial software releases? He would love to know if you have any info. Through an arrangement with Mike Harvey’s Nibblesoft, Peter is selling copies of Macrosoft plus the Assembler for $23.95 at the Saturday swap meet. It also comes with a 200 page pdf manual.

The next session by Eric Shepherd was delivered remotely over iChat. Entitled ‘What’s New in iPad Programming”, Sheppy covered the differences between programming for iPad vs. iPhone, such as taking into account multiple screen orientations and screen ratios. To demonstrate, he took his ‘Shepfari’ web browser created during his 2008 iPhone programming session and updated it for the iPad. He took us into the iPhone simulator to show us how to make changes to the graphical user interface. This included turning it into a universal app, and fixing the screen size, location of the address and status bars, and more. Click here to download the Xcode project code.

The last morning session was an engaging panel discussing Apple’s trend towards walling off hardware from the user, thus widening the divide between users and programmers. The Apple II was a very open system, and Apple has increasingly moved away from this from the Mac to the iPhone/iPad. Ken Gagne moderated and kept the discussion moving while panelists Martin Haye, Ivan Drucker and Mike Maginnis gave their thoughts and jousted with each other.

The afternoon sessions kicked off with Martin Haye introducing his new disk operating system, NakedOS. Martin described his goal of writing an original arcade game in 48K, and his need for a DOS with a tiny memory footprint so he can have more room for game levels and other goodies. The 5 1/4” only disk format is standard 6/2 nibble and uses no filenames, only numbers. When not in use essentially all memory is freed up. Compared with DOS 3.3 and ProDOS, reading an entire disk using NakedOS is 45% faster, and write speeds are 30% faster. It uses a scattershot method to read and write to every sector, unlike DOS 3.3 which reads and writes every other sector. Martin is already hard at work on version 1.1. NakedOS is distributed here.

The next session by Tony Diaz looked at the use of baking soda to remove the yellowing that plagues many old computer cases. By controlled sandblasting, he proved that yellowing can be removed without harming the plastic or changing the surface composition of textured plastic. He discussed the benefits of sandblasting versus using a chemical solution such as Retr0bright. Note that you will look like a ghost after sandblasting, with white powder everywhere.

Dagen Brocke’s session on off-platform Apple II development was geared to get everyone’s creative juices flowing. He presented methods to make protoyping in BASIC easier, including using a pseudo BASIC that removes line numbers and replaces them with labels; and writing chunks of BASIC as functions in another language (such as PHP). He created functions to take any GIF image, remap the colors, and spit it out in BASIC–this process can facilitate bringing images into older systems. He also explored HTML5 canvas objects, which lets you draw on the screen similarly to Applesoft.

The final session of the afternoon by Mike Maginnis looked at the much maligned Apple III. The failure of this system as a business computer was also Apple’s first big product failure, and “infinite, incalculable amounts” of money were lost. Mike stripped down an Apple III to the bare case, so we could see the design flaws. The Apple III had many unusual features, such as a diagnostic code-only ROM, a severely limited 48K Apple II emulation mode, and a clock chip that often couldn’t keep time. As a business machine, users bemoaned the lack of an internal hard drive and no high res color monitor. Mike said that users turned to magazines and user groups for help after Apple abandoned the machine. Apple III emulation in this day is sparse, consisting of Sara running on Mac and also built into the Multi Emulator Super System, but apparently not working.

Dinner was in-house and during the evening we were treated to a special one-hour cut of Jason Scott’s new 2-DVD documentary Get Lamp, which is devoted to the story of text adventures and interactive fiction. After the showing, we were taken aback to learn that each KFest attendee was to receive a free copy of the film, to be mailed within two weeks. Jason provided copies at cost and former KFest ‘Grand Gouda’ Steve Godzilla Gozdziewski generously donated the funds to cover those costs. To tide us over until the films arrive, Ken Gagne handed each person a beautiful, numbered, heavy metal coin that is a ‘feelie’ included with each copy of the film (just like the feelies included in the old Infocom games).

The halls were alive until the wee hours with the sounds of clacking Disk II drives, Apple II music, and keyboards tapping as coders worked on their sessions and Hackfest projects. The best part was seeing friends hanging out together in the hallways and rooms sharing their passion.

July 21st, 2010

Early Apple mouse prototype

Antoine Vignau scored an early Apple II mouse prototype dated November 12, 1980. Visit his site for pictures of the heavy 3-button device.

June 8th, 2010

Applied Engineering Repository on RetroMacCast

Bill Martens and Brian Wiser are interviewed on episode 161 of the podcast RetroMacCast about their Applied Engineering Repository Web site. The interview starts about 15 minutes into the show. Hear some of the history of Applied Engineering and their excellent Apple II hardware products such as the Transwarp, Ramworks and PC Transporter.

May 2nd, 2010

FishNDA – use your Apple IIgs to keep tabs on Barney Miller’s Fish

Ryan Suenaga released FishNDA, a new desk accessory for the Apple IIgs that tells you whether actor Abe Vigoda is still among the living. Although Ryan bills this as “the stupidest program in the history of computing”, we know it’s a tech demo for even more interesting projects to come…

FishNDA screenshot

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