"Well, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

Apple ][ Forever... and ever

8/24/16, 6:52 AM

The Apple IIe I bought on ebay arrived yesterday. Kudos to the seller for a superb packing job, everything arrived intact.

Once I freed the computer and the monitor from copious quantities of bubblewrap swaddling them, I set them up on the dining room table. (It's not really a "room," it's more like just a place to put a table. But anyway…) The damn thing is beautiful. It's like it just came home form the store. It's got some store logo badge glued on it, but other than that, it's perfect! I've seen a lot of Apple IIs on ebay that just look awful. Schools engraved (badly) property numbers in large figures on them, they're discolored from the fire retardant leaching from the plastic and reacting with sunlight, many are missing keys.

This one is cherry. It's an early model IIe, the same as my first IIe, from 1983. It has the gray keys with the large white lettering, and the case is less susceptible to yellowing, purportedly painted, though it doesn't look that way to me.

The bottom of the computer was equally pristine. All the screws were present, and none showed signs of having been removed. All the rubber feet were still in place.

I removed the lid from the computer and peered inside. Everything looked great. No swollen capacitors on the motherboard, though who knows what's going on in the sealed power supply? Everything was coated with a very thin layer of dust. You'd hardly notice it was there if you didn't disturb it.

And, yes! It is a Rev B motherboard. That means it'll display "double-hires graphics" with a 64K RAM card stuffed in the Aux slot.

I had to find a power cable for the computer, so I pulled the one from my PowerMac G4 MDD (soon to be sold by some means).

I plugged everything up and prepared to perform the smoke test. I flipped the switch and got the familiar, cheerful "beep!" of an Apple II, and no smoke!

Encouraged, I plugged in the Monitor II, connected it to the composite video port of the IIe and powered it up. It came right up and looked great.

I performed the built-in system test and it passed.

Looks like I got a winner!

I didn't get a disk drive for it, but we have the internet these days. So I got a 3.5mm audio patch cable (stereo, but it doesn't matter), plugged one end into the cassette input on the IIe and plugged the other into my iPad. I pointed Safari to the web site asciiexpress.net and typed "LOAD" on the IIe, hit Return and then returned to Safari and pressed play on an audio file of Night Mission Pinball, and in less than a minute I was playing an old favorite!

So cool.

Now I'm kind of wondering what I want to do with it. At first I was thinking it was just going to be fun hacking around with it, burning my own //e (enhanced) ROMs and buying a 65c02 and upgrading it to an "enhanced" IIe. That was a later modification offered by Apple to support something called "Mouse Text" for a text-based mouse interface, and fixing some bugs in the firmware. There's a mod you can make that can intercept the reset vector so you can basically halt the machine and look at or move memory, which was an important thing for the guys "cracking" copy protection, but now is just kind of cool to play with. All of that involves removing chips on the motherboard, and replacing them with non-OEM chips, which isn't exceedingly risky, but it does alter the character of the machine.

So, do I keep this as a very clean "stock" machine that I just sort of build an altar around and take to retro-computing shows? I could get a "beater" IIe on ebay and use that to hack on. Or do I sort of honor Woz's intention and just start playing with it? The IIe isn't as "iconic" a machine as an Apple I or an original Apple II, but I have no idea how many there are that are as clean and completely stock as this. And does that matter?

I did kind of guess that it'd be a Rev B motherboard, there were relatively few Rev A's manufactured and Apple offered to upgrade all of them to Rev B, so it seems the number of pure Rev A's out there is pretty damn small. Based on that, I went ahead and bought an extended 80-col card for it, which will, when installed, enable double hires graphics. It's a period-corrected version too, complete with the manuals which were still in the shrink wrap. (Not any more.) I was worried about whether or not it would have the molex-pin connector installed on the card that enabled DHR graphics. On a Rev A machine, you'd leave that jumper off or the machine wouldn't work.

Surprise! Damn thing came with all the paperwork, including the little sheet with the molex-pin connector taped to it, explaining what it was for! Wow! Twice lucky with ebay!

So I'll pop that card in and then apart from not having a disk controller card and two Disk II drives, it'll be the same machine that I bought in October or November of 1983. I later upgraded that machine with the enhanced ROMs and the 65c02, and I had a RAMWorks III memory card in the AUX slot with about a meg of memory as I recall. Had a 2400 baud modem in it, which I used on bulletin boards and GEnie (the General Electric network for information exchange), a Mockingboard sound card, and a mouse card. Oh yeah, I also put a Zip Chip in it, which was a cpu replacement that ran a 65c02 at 8MHz (stock was 1MHz) with some cache memory in the package to keep up with the processor. Also had a Grappler-clone printer card in slot 1.

In other, "semi-retro" computing news, I bought a 1.33GHz G4 Mac mini for $70.00. I've got my PowerMac G4MDD (dual 867MHz G4 processors) set up in the other bedroom, but I seldom use it because it's noisy. It was disparagingly referred to as the "wind tunnel" machine. I've got some old MacOS PowerPC software that I want to retain access to, chiefly HyperCard and WebArranger, and it won't run on Intel machines. The PowerMac is nearly fully loaded. I'm 256MB shy of it's 2GB max memory, and there may be a HD bay open (it'll take 4). It has two DVD-burners in it, and I added a USB 2.0 PCI card, and the RADEON 9800 AGP graphics card with, what?, 64MB of vram? Can't remember. The damn thing weighs a ton!

I'm going to get rid of it and then tether the Mac mini to the Apple II and use ADT Pro as a server to load programs for now.

Anyway, with Bodhi gone, I seem to have some spare time on my hands. This seems like a happy way to fill a few idle moments.

Here's a quick pic:

Photo of my new old Apple IIe.