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Considering Apple IIGS--Buying tips?


nd2003grad
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I have recently been given some money for my birthday (read: yesterday). I own a Atari 800XL, and Amiga 500, and a C64. What is glaringly missing (and I feel would make my personal collection complete) is a IIGS, largely because it plays both GS and standard II games/programs. I'm on the fence, though, as I know there are only a tiny fraction of exclusives and the modification/modernizing curve is a little steeper than with these other computers. The overlap is what has kept me (and I presume will always keep me) from purchasing an Atari ST, but there's just something about the IIGS...I never had one, but I definitely used various models of Apple II (E, etc) along with Mac's (no real nostalgia for those) in school as a kid. In fact, they were the first computers I ever used.

 

I have some specific questions that I can't find a unified "FAQ" about with this system. I have $200 to spend.

 

1. What is the actual video output for this machine? I have a multi-synch monitor with VGA input for my Amiga and my old Windows 98 computer. I also have a TV for the other two. I am doubting I can acquire an Apple monitor at this time.

 

2. The music seems to be fantastic for this machine. Is production easy on it? I know it doesn't have built-in MIDI like the ST.

 

3. I see a lot about "ROM 1/3" etc...is there any specific advantage here?

 

4. I've also heard that having a system with some expansion is a must...is this truly the case?

 

5. Software--is there any particular advantage on this? That's one of the things that backs me off a little bit.

 

6. I'm asking way too many questions.

 

7. Is there any easy hard drive or SD solution for this system? I have a GOTEK, a SD2IEC, and an SIO2SD. These are varying levels of fantastic devices, but I don't think that GS has one other than an internal CF solution that is pretty expensive?

 

8. In the alternative, I'm totally cool with and enjoy making floppies. How difficult is this for transfer with Windows architecture?

 

9. I'm sure I forgot something important.

 

This is probably my final purchase in my console and computer collection unless I ever get a hold of the AT&T 6300 I had as a kid or the coveted Amiga 1200 (not so easy to get in USA). Oh, and a cheap (ha ha HA) Vectrex! In fact, I've got $200 for all three of these if you are interested (that should provide comedy for a while).

 

I got into this hobby in 2012. It's stunning to see how prices have absolutely soared in these five years, so I'm trying to get these items before they are prohibitive and/or decay further from neglect. As always, I love this community and thank you for your help.

 

Clay

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Shoot for a ROM 1, although a ROM 3 is also good but tend to be less common and more expensive. Woz special editions are ROM 0 when not upgraded and not desirable. You need ROM 1 to run GSOS, the graphic operating system.

 

It has composite out video. For VGA consider Ultimate Micro's IIgs VGA adapter. It does require a specific frequency 15kHz like old non-fat Macs.

 

I'd suggest using a CFFA 3000 but a Microdrive will work too, but it is less elegant. . There should be a new run of CFFA3000s in the next 6 months for $175 or so. On eBay they go for a premium. There are plenty of great hard disk images with GSOS system 6.0.4 available. Try whatistheiigs.com. Brutal deluxe also has a lot of images. Going with system disks you'll get boring old ProDOS 16 or earlier GSOS which is fine.

 

Note that without an expensive accelerator, you'll find the IIgs to be a little sluggish, like a Mac Plus compared with an SE.

 

You'll need a 3.5" drive unless you are cool with hard disk images only.

 

You must have a large memory expansion. They aren't too expensive. Try eBay (buy one of the modern 4meg or greater cards, NOT an original card with less than 4 megs) or a2heaven.com. Having more than 4 megs is of questionable utility.

 

Sound wise, both ST and Amiga have it beat. If just because it has no dedicated sound output jack aside from headphone mono. They went cheap on the sound out (although the hardware is very good) so you need to buy a stereo card to get stereo. They are available from ultimate micro or manillaware and cost around $60.

 

Overall it can be quite expensive to get a nice tricked out IIgs setup. The accelerator is the clincher and makes the GS fully useable. Hopefully in the next year or two a2heaven or ultimate micro will release one for under $200.

 

You can easily spend $1000 setting up a nice system.

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Floppy Emu is the Apple equivalent of the SIO2SD or SD2IEC. It does pretty much the exact same thing and works just as well.

 

I personally wouldn't worry about an accelerator until you get the computer and decide you need one. The IIGS runs at the same speed as every other II (other than the IIc Plus), or it can run accelerated for 8 bit stuff (which is often too fast), and then it runs at its own speed for GS-specific stuff. But there's not much GS-specific stuff, and a lot of what there is was developed for the speed the IIGS runs at anyway. If you're planning some specific task that requires as much speed as you can get, or you plan on spending a lot of time in the GS/OS, then an accelerator would help. But these are ridiculously expensive, so if your budget is $200, it's not gonna happen.

 

Get an 8MB Bytebooster card; they're like $60 or something. 4MB is a little cheaper and is probably all you'd really need. (I have 4MB because 8MB wasn't available at the time.) You definitely need this to run GS/OS at all. The GS/OS minimum is 1MB, but 2MB is recommended for anything close to decent performance. Anything above that is for running programs on top of GS/OS, and programs don't use that much memory. So 4MB is fine and more than almost any IIGS would have had at the time, it's just that 8MB is a better deal in terms of cost per megabyte. I'm pretty sure that 8MB maxes out a IIGS.

Edited by spacecadet
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Does anyone know how difficult it is to make 3.5 floppies with Windows? With my current setup, believe it or not, that would be a cheaper/better solution. I have access to a horde of NOS floppies.

 

That's impossible. The IIGS 3.5" floppy drive requires Double Density (DD) diskettes. High Density (HD) will not work.

 

ADTPro is used to transfer disk images from a Windows machine. The Windows machine acts as a server through a serial connection. The IIGS has serial built-in, but requires a cable with specific characteristics (http://adtpro.sourceforge.net/connectionsserial.html#MiniDIN8). I have used a IIGS printer cable (also MiniDIN8) for this using a couple cable adapters on the PC side -- one being a null modem adapter.

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That's impossible. The IIGS 3.5" floppy drive requires Double Density (DD) diskettes. High Density (HD) will not work.

 

ADTPro is used to transfer disk images from a Windows machine. The Windows machine acts as a server through a serial connection. The IIGS has serial built-in, but requires a cable with specific characteristics (http://adtpro.sourceforge.net/connectionsserial.html#MiniDIN8). I have used a IIGS printer cable (also MiniDIN8) for this using a couple cable adapters on the PC side -- one being a null modem adapter.

Believe it or not, I do have DD disks as well. That was what I thought, that serial was the only way to go with this--but net info is often out-dated.

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OK, to answer your questions and to stick up for my favourite machine:

1) the machine does have composite out, but you are far better to use the native RGB out using a suitable 15 kHz monitor (either the IIgs' standard monitor, or a Commodore Amiga monitor with the appropriate cable). The Nishida Radio DVI output for modern monitors is exceptionally good, but he only makes small run and infrequently (you basically need to keep an eye on his website or Facebook page for upcoming sales).

2) the sound chip in the IIgs (the 5503 DOC) blows the Amiga and Atari ST out of the water. It has 32 voices (Amiga comes in second with 4 voices!) Sure if you want stereo you need an expansion, but one of these would fit the bill nicely (https://console5.com/store/darksound-apple-iigs-stereo-sound-card-and-digitizer-w-amplifier-line-out-2gs.html/).

3) a ROM 1 or ROM 3 are fine - the latter giving you 1 Mb on-board RAM (as opposed to 256 Kb)

4) To run GS/OS, you will need at least 1 Mb of RAM. My recommendation is to get one of the newer 4 or 8 Mb RAM cards from A2Heaven.com or ByteBoosters (https://console5.com/store/byteboosters-8mb-darkram-apple-iigs-memory-expansion-card-2gs.html/). Accelerators are definately desirable, but *very* hard to come buy and attract very high $$.

5) The IIgs has a *much* smaller 16 bit software library when compared to an Amiga or Atari ST, however the fact that you can run all 8 bit software as well (some claim over 10,000 titles) it is no slouch either

6) When you are starting out, there are *never* too many questions! :-)

7) The best solution by far is the CFFA 3000 and there is plans for another run of these later this year. There are other options as well - the MicroDrive from ReactiveMicro, the FloppyEmu from bigmessowires, the SD Disk II from Ian Kim, UNISDisk Air from Nishida Radio and probably one or two others I can't think of right now

8) To transfer images without any of the flash memory solutions mentioned in (7), your best bet would be to go via serial using ADTPro. You cannot create IIgs disks in Windows as the IIgs has variable speed drives which Windows machines do not. Also as a side note, it has been mentioned that you can't use high density disks - this is not entirely true. You cannot use high density 5.25" disks at all (they simply won't work). However, you can use high density 3.5" disks but they do tend to be much more unreliable than double density 3.5" disks.

9) If you've forgotten something important, ask more questions!

 

Hope that helps,

Mike

http://apple2.sytes.net/

 

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Happy Birthday and welcome to the Apple Club.

 

You have been given some AWESOME advice about getting a IIgs. I wanted to present one other option, unfortunately its not a cheap option but a VERY interesting one. So I dont know what budget is but take a look at the IIe to IIgs Upgrade:

 

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Apple-IIgs-UPGRADE-Rarest-of-the-Apple-IIe-Excellent-condition-/132237610739?hash=item1ec9f9cef3:g:sX0AAOSwXetZTcWU

 

These machines are IIe shells with IIgs boards, most likely the rarest of the IIgs's. I find them to be really neat, but they do command a premium. If this is not in the budget I would suggest a nice ROM1 with at least a 4meg (modern) card and get on the list and prepay for one of the CFFA3000 cards.

 

As to accelerators there is a very affordable unit coming out really soon for the IIgs from A2Heaven.

 

This is a excellent time to get into the Apple II as some great and very affordable upgrade are about to become available

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Welcome, future Apple ][ Owner...

 

All the above is Great Advice...

 

Let me add a Bit More..

 

 

The ][gs has Composite NTSC ( or PAL ) and RGB Built in... For working with Text, RGB is the Way to Go...

 

But some of the Classic Apple ][ Games use Artifact Colors, and need to have the Composite Video used, or they won't look as nice...

 

Have Both Monitors handy, and Switch as needed..

 

Also, on the Subject of Classic Apple ][ Games, some are still on 5,25" Disk Images... So you will need a REAL Apple 5.25" or Apple UniDisk 5.25" to read them..

 

Or the CFFA3000.. BTW, the CFFA3000 will read Hard Drive Images or 3.5" or 5.25" It is a Fantastic, All in One Solution.... ( Open Disclosure: I own Two of them, so I might be a little Biased...;) )

 

The Disk Controller is already Built in, so when you get one of the newer Apple 5.25" Drives with the 19 Pin Connector, just plug it in... But NOT when Powered ON!!! Turn OFF First..

 

You can also Daisy Chain the the 3.5" Disks and the 5.25" Disks, just plug the 3.5" Drives in First...

 

On ][gs Software, there are a few Games, that don't run on the ROM 3... They might have all been patched by now, but if your getting a 4MB or 8MB card, the 256K on the ROM 01 won't be an Issue... And the later versions of GS/OS, patch the ROM 00/01 anyway so Get a ROM 01, unless that Fantastic ROM 3 "Falls in your Lap".. ;)

 

 

On the Battery Issue, Yes, they should be replaced...

 

As far as my Actual Experience has gone, with Two ROM 3 Machines and Three ROM 01 Machines and a ROM 00 Machine and Three ROM 01 Motherboards ( I got a Bulk Lot of Factory Refurbished ROM 01 Boards ), only the One ROM 3 Machine Leaked.. ( The other had the Battery Removed 20 years ago ), all the ROM 01s and ROM 00 have had no problems..... So Far.... ( Maybe I am just lucky so far.. )

 

MarkO

Edited by MarkO
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The ][gs has Composite NTSC ( or PAL ) and RGB Built in... For working with Text, RGB is the Way to Go...

 

But some of the Classic Apple ][ Games use Artifact Colors, and need to have the Composite Video used, or they won't look as nice...

 

Have Both Monitors handy, and Switch as needed..

 

Also, on the Subject of Classic Apple ][ Games, some are still on 5,25" Disk Images... So you will need a REAL Apple 5.25" or Apple UniDisk 5.25" to read them..

 

Or the CFFA3000.. BTW, the CFFA3000 will read Hard Drive Images or 3.5" or 5.25" It is a Fantastic, All in One Solution.... ( Open Disclosure: I own Two of them, so I might be a little Biased...;) )

 

The Disk Controller is already Built in, so when you get one of the newer Apple 5.25" Drives with the 19 Pin Connector, just plug it in... But NOT when Powered ON!!! Turn OFF First..

 

You can also Daisy Chain the the 3.5" Disks and the 5.25" Disks, just plug the 3.5" Drives in First...

 

On ][gs Software, there are a few Games, that don't run on the ROM 3... They might have all been patched by now, but if your getting a 4MB or 8MB card, the 256K on the ROM 01 won't be an Issue... And the later versions of GS/OS, patch the ROM 00/01 anyway so Get a ROM 01, unless that Fantastic ROM 3 "Falls in your Lap".. ;)

 

 

On the Battery Issue, Yes, they should be replaced...

 

As far as my Actual Experience has gone, with Two ROM 3 Machines and Three ROM 01 Machines and a ROM 00 Machine and Three ROM 01 Motherboards ( I got a Bulk Lot of Factory Refurbished ROM 01 Boards ), only the One ROM 3 Machine Leaked.. ( The other had the Battery Removed 20 years ago ), all the ROM 01s and ROM 00 have had no problems..... So Far.... ( Maybe I am just lucky so far.. )

 

MarkO

 

Just a few points worth noting:

  • unfortunately the IIgs composite output is not like that of earlier 8 bit varieties, so differences will remain regardless of whether you use composite or RGB (the composite signal is essenitally the RGB signal "downgraded"). Because of this I cannot recommend switching monitors as an option. :(
  • whilst there are some software titles that won't run on a ROM 3, they are *very* small in number and I wouldn't use this as a deciding factor (titles are still being patched today making the number even smaller).
  • The ROM 3 has additional toolsets in the ROM which makes some operations slightly quicker (not having to load the toolsets from disk).
  • The battery should definately be replaced in either a ROM 1 or ROM 3, however it is far easier with a ROM 3 as the battery just slots into the battery holder whereas a ROM 1 the battery is soldered and either needs to be snipped off or desoldered.

 

Just my 2c.

 

Regards,

Mike

http://apple2.sytes.net/

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Not just some Apple II games use artifact color- they ALL do. That is the only way the Apple has color! :)

 

Anyway, for old Apple II games, composite or RGB will work, but you'll really want an RGB monitor, because none of the "GS" modes are usable on the composite out.

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The IIGS is just outright AWESOME. I will attest to what Ianoid said regarding pricing. I got really lucky scoring a ROM3 version locally, and with the CFFA3000, 8MB of ram and sound card in total I spent around $600 and the thing is not accelerated (yet). I simply refuse to spend another $600 on just an accelerator however. I can wait for it. The system isn't extremely fast but its on par with my unaccelerated A2000 so whatever. The games are awesome although the library is MUCH smaller.

 

Even still, I hold this machine in very high regard. I pondered parting with it a few times in order to upgrade my Amiga obsession, but just cannot find myself to do that. It just took way to long to acquire one...but again I chose locally.

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Just re. the battery stuff... I've had three ROM 01 boards, two of which went bad due to the VGC chip, and on both of those I removed the original battery to test it to make sure it wasn't the problem. Both of them tested fine.

 

I don't think you automatically need to replace the battery. If you do, it's very cheap and easy, even if you need to solder it. If you have any soldering experience whatsoever, it takes 5 minutes tops. If you have no soldering experience, double that to 10.

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Just re. the battery stuff... I've had three ROM 01 boards, two of which went bad due to the VGC chip, and on both of those I removed the original battery to test it to make sure it wasn't the problem. Both of them tested fine.

 

I don't think you automatically need to replace the battery. If you do, it's very cheap and easy, even if you need to solder it. If you have any soldering experience whatsoever, it takes 5 minutes tops. If you have no soldering experience, double that to 10.

 

I disagree. As you don't know how old that battery is (if they're original they could be 30 years old!), its better to be proactive than reactive. Those batteries *will* leak acid and it really is just a question of *when*.

 

The damage caused by battery leakage can be difficult to repair, and in some cases it can pretty much ruin the motherboard. I personally wouldn't take the risk when swapping them out isn't that difficult.

 

If you have a ROM 1 board and you've got no experience in soldering/desoldering, you can cut the wires leading to the battery and then attach a battery pack with three AA batteries to the wires with alligator clips taking note of the polarity. I did this with my first IIgs for years. It might be ugly, but at least you know that your motherboard is safe.

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There are just so many things that can go wrong with these motherboards that I think being proactive in just this one case is basically a waste of time. As I said, I've had two IIGS motherboards go bad and neither was due to the battery. You can be proactive and do a full recap, replace all socketed chips, replace the battery, etc. and there are *still* things that can go wrong. A 30 year old motherboard is never "safe" - you accept going in that things can go wrong. That's true of any piece of vintage electronics.

 

I will agree that replacing the battery is easy and cheap enough that if you do want to do it because of whatever percentage it reduces the chances of a catastrophe, it's a pretty non-controversial thing to be proactive about. But I just think the idea of being proactive at all when it comes to vintage gear is kind of self-defeating, endless and pointless. You can spend a lot of money and time replacing stuff on a IIGS board only to have your VGC chip go bad (as mine did) and then you're just out all that money and time and you still have a broken board. I think with any vintage gear, it's usually better to make sure everything's working when you get it, then use it and let the chips fall where they may. Deal with problems as they come up, because something *will* come up at some point no matter how proactive you are.

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There are just so many things that can go wrong with these motherboards that I think being proactive in just this one case is basically a waste of time. As I said, I've had two IIGS motherboards go bad and neither was due to the battery. You can be proactive and do a full recap, replace all socketed chips, replace the battery, etc. and there are *still* things that can go wrong. A 30 year old motherboard is never "safe" - you accept going in that things can go wrong. That's true of any piece of vintage electronics.

 

I will agree that replacing the battery is easy and cheap enough that if you do want to do it because of whatever percentage it reduces the chances of a catastrophe, it's a pretty non-controversial thing to be proactive about. But I just think the idea of being proactive at all when it comes to vintage gear is kind of self-defeating, endless and pointless. You can spend a lot of money and time replacing stuff on a IIGS board only to have your VGC chip go bad (as mine did) and then you're just out all that money and time and you still have a broken board. I think with any vintage gear, it's usually better to make sure everything's working when you get it, then use it and let the chips fall where they may. Deal with problems as they come up, because something *will* come up at some point no matter how proactive you are.

 

It sounds like you picked the wrong hobby! :P

 

Honestly, maintaining vintage hardware is all we really have - you can't go to the store and pick up a new one - you have to keep the existing hardware running. You are correct in saying that nothing is truly "safe", but I prefer to make things as safe as possible. I don't necessarily advocate recapping everything and replacing socketed chips unnecessarily; but where there is something I can easily do to prevent my prized possessions from frying (or in this case being eaten away by acid), I will do so.

 

My personal experience with all Apple II's is that they were well built and can take much more punishment than most of their contemporaries. VGC's and ROM's don't go bad very often - maybe you've been unlucky. I have three running Apple IIgs machines and a few spare boards and the only problem I've ever had is that one of my spare boards has a dodgy clock chip (it functions fine otherwise).

 

How many Amiga 500+ are dead due to battery leakage?? How many Amiga 500 RAM/clock expansions?? My guess, a crap load.

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Yes I've rather had good luck with most all my Apple hardware. As children we all learned to look for the red LED power light and not to touch anything while it was on. And the first thing we DID touch would be the metal power supply case. Avoid touching the card connectors, handle by the edge only. Wait 10 seconds between power off/on. Turn off during thunderstorms. Turn off when the whole neighborhood has their A/C running. Use grounded soldering iron. Use grounded tools. Don't yank on cords or bend them excessively. Really basic stuff like that.

 

On one of my long-term Apple II+ units from 1981'ish I recently put a dielectric compound on each of the pins on each IC. So thin, that I used like 3 or 4 drops for the whole motherboard. That'll keep moisture/electrolysis corrosion away for another 30+ years.

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  • 2 weeks later...

While any battery can explode, the battery type in the IIGS is very different. I have never come across one of these that actually leaked...although I cannot say it will not happen. The barrel type batteries in the Amiga computers (and peripherals) *always* leak. A clock isn't even really required in any of these machines fortunately.

 

But, regardless of the situation, I am too a firm believer that ALL batteries should be removed at once. Vintage hardware can die, but there is no reason to leave a ticking time bomb in them to seal their fate all for the sake of keeping time/date settings!

Edited by eightbit
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They leak. They all leak eventually. Cut it off... who even cares if it knows the time/date.

 

https://www.google.com/search?q=iigs+battery+leak&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiYuZXdk_fUAhUEMyYKHemRB7UQ_AUIDCgD&biw=1536&bih=853&dpr=1.25

 

 

Agreed. Even though I had a new one in there I decided to remove it permanently. If this thread doesn't put the fear into you I do not know what will:

 

https://68kmla.org/forums/index.php?/topic/17086-warning-exploding-maxell-pram-batteries/

 

When I received my IIGS I was incredibly lucky that the battery was fine. When I received my Amiga 2000 the battery was leaking slightly. I removed it and cleaned the area right away. Two machines at least that will not be killed by battery acid. Alot of things can fail in these old machines, but again, removing the batteries at least eliminates one inevitable possibility.

 

If anything should be stickied in the vintage computer forums it should be a thread explaining the dangers of these old batteries, what to look for prior to purchasing and advice on removal and cleanup if need be. I can imagine lots of these computers are in inexperienced collectors hands with these ticking time bombs. Actually, I don't have to imagine. The thread I linked pretty much proves that. Really sad.

Edited by eightbit
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