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Apple IIe

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Never had an Apple back in the day.  

We were barely able to afford the Vic-20 I had (and loved)...

But I went to a nicer high school (long commute from my neighborhood) and one of my friends there had an Apple ][ Plus.

Funny, I can't remember if he had a color monitor or green screen?  

But I remember Canonball Blitz and lots of Ultima II!!!

I'd run across some Apple ]['s a bit before and after, but that was when I really got to use one...

Took me over 25 years to finally get one myself.  ?  That was my //c...

Was a Commodore kid (Vic-20, C64, SX-64, Amiga 500, Amiga 1200), but always had a soft spot for the Apple II series...

Edited by desiv
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  • 4 weeks later...

Expanding upon the "discovery" theme and activities surrounding the II series..


When I first got the II I had only a tape drive and soon enough a 16K card. Using the tape drive was old hat and took moments to learn. I had read about tape drives earlier and how they were used in JPL and NASA to store data from those space probe things.


Upgrading to the (slot 0) Microsoft 16K RamCard was like a rite of passage. It was a big stink. It was like my first real upgrade ever. I had never taken apart something so exotic and expensive as a $1,500 computer. Took me over an hour of reading and re-reading the manual and all the necessary steps. It was complex because I had to carefully pull out a memory chip and plug in a 16-pin jumper strap thing. And then the card itself. Way more complex than inserting a classic videogame cartridge into the 2600. So imagine my elation when I turned the machine on and it didn't explode! I was ON MY WAY!


Next came the disk drive some few months later. This time plugging it in happened in like 10 or 15 minutes. The hardest thing was an annoying thing. The cable was very short which limited placement of the drive to directly ontop the computer or immediately to the right. Oh well.


By then I had thoroughly learned BASIC and now I was ready to learn DOS. It was amazing! It's like BASIC gained a whole new level of functionality. Most DOS commands worked like BASIC. And that made sense to a kid.


Knowledge building on top of knowledge. Straightforward. DOS did of course eat into the amount of space available to BASIC programs. But that wouldn't be a problem for me till I started writing and modding BBS'es. It just so happened that I learned that Integer BASIC could be loaded into the 16K card. An Apple II with 5 ways of communicating with its user. Applesoft in ROM, Machine Language Monitor in ROM, Integer BASIC, Mini-Assembler, and DOS. Amazing! And so was the versatility. Hmm.. Yeah.. I discovered I could put DOS up into the 16K card and gain more space for Applesoft BASIC. Truly flexible. Magic even. At age 7 or 8 I felt like a full-blown systems admin!

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There were other areas of discovery, too, like learning about game genres. The Apple II had something to offer in every category it seemed. Simulation, RPG, action/arcade, strategy, board, and more! I naturally gravitated toward action/arcade and simulation like A2-FS1. RPG and D&D was too "grown uppish" for me. I also enjoyed the occasional text adventure. But case in point, the Apple II taught me about the growing variety of genres.


When I first got my Hayes MicroModem II I started on the path of telecommunications or simply "modeming". I had no clue what modems were about. But the physical modem itself looked intriguing. It came with a standard interface card with a big-ass orange hybrid chip on it and some ROM-sized chips and other colorful parts. It also came with a mysterious smoked plastic box which somehow translated programs into weird sounds on the telephone. Why were they making these things I wondered?


I quickly read the owners manual. And it was a real instructive book. Had a theory of ops, the why's and how's something was done. Had practical examples. And even had step-by-step 1-2-3 procedures. Real material and not like the shit you get today, if you get anything to begin with. Well.. We learned you could "talk" to other computers. Another new concept. And soon enough we all found out about BBS'es where you could get games for free. There was much to absorb. Protocols, commands, how did a computer know what was chat data vs file-transfer data. More magic happened when terminal and file-transfer programs could do data compression and seemingly knock off 10 minutes from an hour-long disk transfer session. But those sessions weren't too bad. We'd often cozy up with some space and astronomy books and enjoy the wonders of the universe. Just having one computer connect to another computer was amazing. The cusp of real 21st century stuff.


What I really hated was the WarGames stuff. Oh not the movie, not the story, but when other kids asked me (the guy with the modem) to break into the school computer and change grades or fix up a bank account or other ridiculous nefarious activities. I didn't really know how to "hack" or figure out passwords. All I ever did was rack up a $450 phone bill by sequentially calling every number in the exchange area code. Might have made some free calls with a box (tone generator in the Apple Cat II modem) to see if it worked. But that's it.


Discovery was a great way to learn about something. You didn't even know you were learning. It happened behind the scenes in your head. And suddenly you knew everything.


Every bit of new functionality like a serial or parallel interface card, clock card, printer, buffer, 2nd hard disk, bank switching memory, sound chip control via 6522 interfaces, A/D D/A joystick controls, sound creation, hard disk, co-processors, CP/M, Pascal, Fortran, Cobol, and so much more; was like whole miniature course in technology. And it was important real-world stuff for the upcoming information age. We never ever ever learned that much at that pace in school. School was slow & plodding. Backwards. 1800's Victorian era backwards.

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Upgrading the II+ to lower-case capability was another big deal. It was even more invasive because I had to take the whole top off the baseplate, thus exposing the motherboard in all its glory. A remarkable thing. An intelligent machine with like a hundred chips on it that could do anything. Anything! But I wasn't intimidated anymore. I would comfortably eat and do upgrades. No big deal if I spilled soda on the mainboard. As long as the power was off I would just have to rinse and dry the spillage. Not that that ever happened of course.


Getting upper and lowercase from the same keyboard was a shocker and was one of the things that thrust me into the professional world of word processing. I don't know why I wanted the upgrade chip, but I did. And it was cool. It was like Mr. Data getting an emotion chip. Of course my buddies didn't think so because it had nothing to do with games. And they were upset that I took the machine out of service for a whole rainy afternoon while I ate potato chips and cream cheese and plodded through the process for over two hours. It should have taken only half an hour. I did the shift-mod too.


Sometime thereafter I got the Videx Enhancer II. This was super cool. It had multiple functions, all keyboard related. A board to replace the keyboard encoder card. It had a 6504 CPU on it tool. It had a type-ahead buffer and programmable function keys where you could make a strip of buttons do anything. 1-button CATALOGs and other lengthy commands were suddenly easy. I learned keyboard macros! Yay! Even had 2 speeds of repeat built-in. This opened up new possibilities for games and increased my score (when hi-scores were big deal) in several of them.


I swear. Every new hardware add-on was exciting and opened up new dimensions and directions in self-learning. I felt like a god. Moving way beyond any educational software of the day.


There's so much more to mention. And I will later.


But, quickly, there came a time when the II+ was packed full of cards and tweaks and enhancements and add-ons and was not keeping up with newer software. It was getting "hot'n'heavy". Software wanted a slightly different keyboard and character set. And a different, more standardized, beyond 64K, memory map. And that happened to be the //e.


I transitioned into the //e because I had did something to the II+ that broke it. I saved all the parts and I would eventually repair it. However, I was without Apple II capability for a few months or three. And it was a bad time. Felt naked and alone and like I was throwing away so much knowledge. I even tried to convince myself I didn't need an Apple II series machine anymore. But that didn't go over good. I spent $899 on an Apple //e and was back in the saddle! With new capabilities too. I was impressed with the new keyboard, I loved the extra "[]{}_" characters and that made for easy decorative BBS text [-][-][-][-][-] or [=][=][=][=][=] or /\/\/\/\/\/\/\ or }-{ }-{ }-{ Shit like that.


Let's see. Most of the II+ cards transferred over, the AppleCat II modem, the TimeMaster II H.O. clock, the Disk II drives, RF modulator, Joystick external extension cable, and other stuff. I appreciated that and learned the importance of forward and backward compatibility. The only things I lost were the Enhancer II keyboard buffer and fast repeat. That was hard thing to get rid of, but of course it still functioned in the repaired II+. Also had to "dispose" of the Microsoft 16K RamCard, as the //e came with 64K already. Also "dumped" the 80-column card. T'was about time the memory and 80-columns were standardized. I was impressed.


The two most important upgrades to the //e (for me) was getting the 64K/80column card and the enhancement kit. Imagine that! Two separate disparate functions on a single card. Nothing new considering what the AppleCat offered. But discovery was at hand again! Wait. Make that three functions, the third being DHRG. And then I got the enhancement kit, a 65C02 processor that ran cold. That was another magic moment. Chips that don't warm up! How'd they do that?!?! The kit came with a new character set, MouseText. And it made programs like ProTerm look really far out and custom. And some new firmware which did some small stuff. I continued to be impressed.


Here on the //e I learned more about bank switch and extending BASIC into 128K. This was more black magic because we had become so accustomed to having our Applesoft programs top out at around 38-45K more or less depending on variable requirements. And. Now. There was this huge block of memory up there in subspace but no way to use it.


Beagle Bros., a software company I didn't fully appreciate till years later, had a tool set and tutorials that enabled my BBS to seriously expand in size and capability by using that upper 64K block.


I was quite pleased and relieved that 99% or more of the II+ software worked. And what didn't was either cracked or patched TO make it work. Also got some custom chips on the mainboard. That was intriguing and an endless form of idle entertainment. The //e had 3 big chips going. And we all know that the bigger the chip the smarter it is. And me and my buds always liked to guess their function in comparison to the hundreds of chips in the II+, what chip was doing what and that sort of thing.


Never quite learned as much on the //e as the we did on the II+. No. Wait. We learned different things. And life went on.


Eventually 16-bit caught our eye I tried moving into it. But it was nothing but weird remakes of arcade games. So I never did much with those except play games and draw pictures (which I still have saved today). And then eventually I could afford a PC and uber-fast modems like 56K. A topic for another time. I will mention though that I got into PCs a little late. Whole generations of them, 8086 - 80386 had come and gone. I got in with the 486. And felt late to the game. Especially with programming. It was overwhelming. The PC was micromanaging me. Just trying to keep up with all the applications, Windows, Word, Office, utilities, disk tools, games.. No time for it all. No time for programming much.


I got on in just before the internet exploded in the dot-com era. Just when AOL on 56K dial-up was getting underway. I felt I missed out on the colorful ASCII BBS'es. All my BBS'ing was in monochrome on the II series.

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My "first" Computer Experience was the Apple ][+, in JAN-1982 at my High School.  A year later, my Dad and Uncle bought Sinclair ZX-81 Kits, and in NOV-1983, I became a Half-Owner of an Apple ][e.

My start with Personal Computers, especially the Apple ][+ is an interesting story, in that I discovered them because I was perpetually late to my First Period Class, Chemistry...

My Chemistry Teacher "assigned" me to After School Detention, which started at 15:30, and school ended at 15:10, so while waiting for Detention to Start, the Business classroom next door had Three, Apple ][+s.
One with Two Disk ][s, and an Epson MX Printer, One with One Disk ][ and a Hammer type printer and One with just a Disk ][.
All had 48K RAM and the Language Card with Integer BASIC.

The Business Instructor let me read the AppleSoft Manuals, the Disk ][ Manuals and the Epson Printer Manuals..

This Introduction to Personal Computers lead to getting the Sinclair, and then the Apple ][e, and later a Commodore SX-64 and then IBM-PC Clones and eventually the Tandy Color Computers. ( and an Osborn I and just a few weeks ago, a Northstar Horizon )


I also went to the local community college and learned some Electronics, and Computer Programming, including COBOL and eventually into Embedded Programming.



My favorite Apple ][ games are Castle Wolfenstein, Load Runner, and the Adventure Games like EAMON and Odyssey, The Complete Apventure, and the Infocom Games.




Edited by MarkO
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