11-The Apple IIGS, cont.



Other features Apple engineers added to make the Apple IIGS a next generation computer included a built-in clock, slot space for internal expansion cards, and the electronic equivalents of seven more expansion cards.[1] Taking the cue from their experience with the Apple IIc, they included as built-in features the peripherals that most users would want to use. They allocated serial ports to slots 1 and 2, the classic 80-column firmware to slot 3, the mouse controller to slot 4, a Smartport controller to slot 5, a 5.25 inch disk controller to slot 6, and AppleTalk capability to slot 7. (AppleTalk was the network protocol that Apple had designed originally for use with the Macintosh).

Apple IIGS upgrade – Photo credit: unknown

Because the engineers wanted to make the IIGS capable of connecting to an AppleTalk network, the serial ports they planned were based on a different communications controller chip than was used in the older Super Serial Card and the Apple IIc serial controller. Although the new controller chips were more capable than the older ones used on the 8-bit Apple II, telecommunications programs written for those older Apples wouldn’t work. This was because most terminal programs, for the sake of speed, were written to directly control the Super Serial Card (rather than going through the slower, built-in firmware commands). The controlling commands necessary to manage the newer chip were very different, and so caused such software to “break”.[2]

The case and motherboard used in the Apple IIGS was made smaller than that found in the IIe, both in order to make a smaller “footprint” on a desktop, and also to make it easier to make an upgrade available for IIe owners. This original motherboard (known as a “ROM 0”) was released with all the parts necessary to install it into an Apple IIe (the conversion kit included the motherboard, an optional mouse, and a backplane for the IIe.)[3] They had wanted to make it possible even for Apple II and II Plus owners to upgrade, but in the end it turned out to be just too expensive and difficult to execute.[4] The Apple IIe-to-IIGS upgrade resulted in a computer that looked like a IIe, but contained the motherboard of a IIGS. A new name plate on the cover identified the modified computer as a IIGS, even though in all other respects it looked like a IIe.

Apple IIGS upgrade name plate – Photo credit: unknown

The Macintosh engineering group was at this time designing a protocol for interfacing standard input devices, such as keyboards, mice, and graphics tablets. This protocol, called the “Apple Desktop Bus”, or ADB, was first implemented on the Apple IIGS. It made possible the interchangability of hardware devices between the Macintosh and Apple II lines, allowing Apple to sell a common set of peripherals that both computers could use.[5]


Firmware, you may recall, is that layer of controlling programs in ROM on a computer that sits between an application program and the hardware it is trying to control. On the IIGS, the firmware was designed after the hardware was finalized. Unlike the older ROM that Wozniak included with the original Apple II, the IIGS software engineers tried to make it more than just a set of addresses to call to carry out a function (such as clearing the screen). Rather, they wanted to make a more comprehensive system, called a “toolbox”, which could be more flexible for future enhancements of the hardware and firmware. In particular, they didn’t want to have the addresses for carrying out certain functions to be fixed in a single location as on the older Apples. This toolbox would have a single address to call, and a specific command would be passed on through that address. Set up like this, it would allow Apple’s firmware programmers to modify the ROM in the future without having to take trouble to make multiple addresses in the ROM “line up” properly. Additionally, they made it easy to “patch” the toolbox code in the ROM using code loaded from disk, allowing programmers to fix errors that were later found without having to replace the physical ROM chips.

At first, they were given 64K of space for the ROM, over four times as much as was available on the original Apple II. Later, they had to go back and ask for 128K of ROM, because of the many things that they needed and wanted to do. Of course, Applesoft had to be present in ROM in order to maintain compatibility with the older Apple II software. Additionally, they also put all of the mouse-handling tools into the ROM (unlike the II, II Plus, and IIe, which had to have the mouse firmware on a card in a peripheral slot).[6]

A boost to the firmware design of the IIGS came, unexpectedly, as a result of the merger between the Apple II and Macintosh divisions. This merger came as part of the reorganization that coincided with the departure of Steve Jobs from Apple. Since the Macintosh team was now working in the same place as the IIGS designers, they were available to offer help and ideas. Bill Atkinson, the programming wizard who wrote MacPaint and many of the mouse tools for the Macintosh, helped in the creation of the mouse tools and QuickDraw II for the IIGS. (This was the name given to the ROM tools used to draw on the super hi-res screen, and was borrowed from the older QuickDraw routines on the original Macintosh).[7]

To allow the user to easily configure certain features of the IIGS to their own tastes, a “control panel” was designed (another idea borrowed from the Macintosh). It was used to set the clock, the system speed (between a “normal” 1 MHz and a “fast” 2.8 MHz), change the standard text display from 40 to 80 columns, set colors for the text screen, set sensitivity of the mouse and keyboard, and make the standard settings for the printer and modem ports. These preferences were saved in a special battery-powered RAM that would survive even when the system power was turned off.[8]

Apple IIGS control panel
Apple IIGS control panel – photo credit: personal


ProDOS needed to be updated to better take advantage of the additional memory on the IIGS, as well as the larger storage devices that were not very available when ProDOS was originally written. Back then, five megabytes was felt to be quite a large disk size. By the time the IIGS was designed, 40 megabytes was becoming a common standard. The new IIGS-specific version, called “ProDOS 16“, would also be able to handle any number of open files at the same time (the older version of ProDOS was limited to eight files open simultaneously).[9]

The first version of ProDOS 16 was more limited than Apple’s designers wanted it to be, but they didn’t want to hold up the new IIGS until a better version was ready. The version of ProDOS that would run 8-bit Apple II software (on the IIGS or older Apple II models) was renamed “ProDOS 8”. That version was modified to handle system interrupts better, which was important on the IIGS because of the control panel feature and the way in which the Apple Desktop Bus worked. (An interrupt refers to a special signal that is sent to the microprocessor by a hardware device. This signal “interrupts” what the processor is doing, redirects it to do something else, and then returns the processor to what it was previously doing. The mouse on the IIc and the mouse card for the other Apple II models used interrupts to handle movements of the mouse).[10]

(Click on these links for further details about ProDOS 16 and its later replacement system, GS/OS).


The earliest name used internally at Apple for the IIGS project was Phoenix (as mentioned earlier). It was also known as “Rambo” (when the design team was fighting for final approval from the executive staff), “Gumby” (from an impersonation done at Apple’s Halloween-day parade), and “Cortland”.[11],[12]

Some of the members of the design team not yet mentioned here include Nancy Stark (an early and energetic champion for the IIGS project); Curtis Sasaki (IIGS product manager); Ed Colby (CPU product manager); Jim Jatczynski (Operating System group manager); Fern Bachman (who worked to ensure compatibility with existing Apple II software); Gus Andrate (who developed the sound tools and the unified drive firmware); and Peter Baum, Rich Williams, Eagle I. Berns, John Worthington, and Steven Glass, who each developed part of the IIGS system software and firmware.[13]


inCider, October 1986
inCider, October 1986 – Photo credit: François Michaud

In September of 1986, Apple introduced the new Apple IIGS, bundled with an Apple 3.5 drive, for $999 (not including a monitor). The Apple II community was excited about the new computer, and inCider magazine featured a exuberant Steve Wozniak on the cover of its October 1986 issue with the caption, “It’s Amazing!”

Apple, for its part, did do some advertising for the new computer in the pages of current Apple II publications of the time. However, there was no major push for the new computer, and again it seemed destined to be dwarfed by Apple’s preoccupation with the Macintosh.

Though announced in September, the IIGS was not widely available until November. Early production models of the IIGS had some problems; one of the new chips did not work properly, and necessary changes to fix them caused a delay. The upgrade that would turn an Apple IIe into a IIGS was also delayed until early 1987.[14]


In September 1987 Apple made an incremental improvement to the IIGS with the release of a new ROM. The ROM 01 revision made a few changes in the original IIGS ROMs and included an improved video controller chip. Bugs in the ROM code were fixed, and a problem with a “pink fringe” effect with certain graphics displays was fixed. The new ROMs were not compatible with any IIGS System Disks earlier than version 2.0. The new ROM was identified by a message at the bottom of the screen when booting the IIGS that said “ROM Version 01”. The original IIGS had no message in this location.[15] Also, where the original motherboard (the ROM “0” board) was designed to be useable for a IIe-to-IIGS conversion, the ROM 01 board did NOT have this capability. None of the internal plugs for attaching Apple IIe-style power or other connectors were provided. However, if a ROM 01 motherboard was found to be defective and required service, it was replaced with one of the original, convertible motherboards (supplied with the appropriate ROM 01 chips), and the non-convertible boards were then refurbished into convertible ones.[16]

The next change came with the release of the ROM 03 version of the IIGS in August of 1989. This new IIGS computer came standard with 1 Meg of RAM on the motherboard, and twice as much ROM (256K versus 128K on the older IIGS). This allowed more of the operating system to be in ROM, rather than having to be loaded from disk when booting. Additionally, fixes were made to known bugs in the ROM 01 firmware. (The latest version of the IIGS system software made patches to ROM 01 to fix those bugs, but these patches still had to be loaded from disk, which slowed startup time. Having the latest new tools and fixed new ones already in ROM made booting the version 03 IIGS a bit quicker). The new Apple IIGS also had the capability of using both the internal slot firmware as well as using a peripheral card plugged into a slot. The ROM 01 IIGS could, of course, use cards plugged into the slots, but only at the expense of being unable to use the internal firmware for that slot. With so much useful system firmware built-in, a ROM 01 user who wanted, for example, to add a controller card for a hard disk would have to give up either AppleTalk in slot 7 or use of 5.25 disks in slot 6. Almost everything else had to be set in the control panel to the internal firmware.

The ROM 03 IIGS also included enhancements for disabled users. A feature called “sticky keys” made it possible to do multiple keypresses. (To execute an “Option-Control-X” sequence, for example, required pressing three keys at once. This was something that a paralyzed user with a mouth-stick to press keys could not previously do). Also, more things that had required a mouse now had keyboard equivalents (using the keypad). The new IIGS also had somewhat “cleaner” sound and graphics. However, because the improvements made were minimal compared to the cost of providing upgrades to previous owners, Apple announced no upgrade program. In any case, many of the new features could be obtained on older IIGS‘s by upgrading the memory to at least one megabyte and using GS/OS System Software 5.0.2 or greater.[17]

A feature that was added to the ROM 03 firmware that was entirely fun, instead of functional, was accessed by a specific key-sequence. If the computer was booted with no disk in the drive, a message that said “Check startup device” appeared, with an apple symbol sliding back and forth. At that point, if the user pressed the keys “Ctrl”, “Open Apple”, “Option”, and “N” simultaneously, the digitized voices of the Apple IIGS design team could be heard shouting “Apple II !”

Also, the names of those people would be displayed on the screen. If running GS/OS System 5.0 or greater, the user would have to hold down the “Option” and “Shift” keys, then pull down the “About” menu in the Finder. It would then say “About the System”. Using the mouse to click on that title would cause the names to be displayed and the audio message to be heard.


In the early 1990s, Apple IIGS users warmly welcomed the System software updates from Apple Computer.  However, politics within the company continued to make the future of the Apple II line very uncertain. Despite its greater power and abilities, the Apple IIGS continued to sell in lesser quantities than the Apple IIe, and so this uncertainty about the future applied in particular to the Apple IIGS.

During the mid-to-late 1980s and into the early 1990’s, Apple’s focus was firmly on the Macintosh computer. Apple’s engineers had taken the Palo Alto Research Center graphic user-interface concept and perfected it, introducing their own special touches that made it even more useful for the consumer than its original PARC designers could anticipate. The release of System 7 of the Macintosh operating system software in May 1991 brought this to a new level of sophistication, and the evolution to System 7.1 in August 1992 added a feature that had been present in the Apple IIGS operating system from the start: A separate folder in which to keep fonts (up to this point, any fonts used by applications went into the Mac’s ever-growing System file). The quality of the Macintosh graphic interface was the one unique thing that set it apart from the rest of the personal computing world. Intel-based PC owners had been using various versions of MS-DOS and its command-line interface as their operating system of choice since the original introduction of the IBM PC back in 1981. Many viewed the “WIMP” (windows, icons, mouse, picture) interface as a toy. But even though that attitude was prevalent in the non-Mac world, Microsoft’s efforts at creating a graphic user-interface were beginning to achieve acceptance as a viable alternative, with the popularity (finally) of Windows 3.0 in May 1990, and Windows 3.1 in April 1992. The emergence of a useable version of Windows undoubtedly made Apple begin to feel threatened (they had tried, unsuccessfully, to sue Microsoft for copying “their” interface), and even more insistent on promoting the Macintosh with all of their corporate energy.

Apple’s efforts to de-emphasize the Apple II went so far as to have their developer technical support staff specifically recommend that new applications not be created for the Apple II or IIGS, but rather for the Macintosh. Apple authorized dealers tended to direct potential customers away from purchase of any new Apple II product, and towards the Macintosh platform, often making this advice because “the Apple II is about to be discontinued anyway”.[18]


As Apple continued its efforts to find a way to emerge above the dominance of Intel and Microsoft, some projects that were not directly to the benefit of the Macintosh were allowed to move forward. Because of the strong classroom presence of the Apple II series, being able to connect the computers together in a school computer lab was important to educators, and so in the March 1988 Apple introduced several products to make it easier for administrators to create networks of Apple II, Macintosh, and MS-DOS computers. The Apple II Workstation Card would allow an Enhanced Apple IIe or Apple IIGS to connect to such a network, and AppleShare file server software installed on a Macintosh would allow network-aware application programs to be loaded on an Apple II, rather than having to have the software installed on each individual computer in the network. To an Apple II computer with the Workstation Card, the network connection would appear both as a disk drive AND as a printer, allowing the network to be used both for file storage and retrieval as well as a conduit to print to a central printer. Further enhancements came in July 1989 when GS/OS System 5.0 was released, improving the ability to allow a IIGS to function directly over an AppleTalk network.

With the increase of networks based on the Ethernet protocol, the next obvious evolution of network hardware for the Apple II was to create a peripheral card that worked on Ethernet the same way that the Workstation Card worked with AppleTalk and AppleShare. By 1991 engineers in the Apple II group at Apple had completed a design for a card based on the Workstation Card, with the same ability to boot an Apple II or IIGS over an Ethernet connection, or to print to a central printer on that network. The original design for the card used a 2 MHz 65C02 processor, 32K of RAM for packet buffering and miscellaneous card use, as well as 128K of ROM (which was divided into four banks that were swapped in as needed, somewhat like the extra ROM code on the Apple IIe and IIc computers. This ROM code handled the AppleTalk protocols for network communication. The card was to use the AAUI (Apple Attachment Unit Interface, Apple’s proprietary Ethernet connector) to plug the card into a network.[19]

Ethernet Card take 1
Ethernet card, version 1 – Photo credit: Tony Diaz, http://www.apple2.org/AIIEthernet.html

For reasons that possibly involved estimated costs of production versus sales, the first design for the Apple II Ethernet Card was scrapped, and a second card was designed during 1992-93. This card was not based on the earlier Apple II Workstation Card, and rather than using custom-designed Apple parts it used less-expensive “off-the-shelf” parts in its design. It still used the AAUI connector, but instead of the 65c02 processor used by the Workstation Card and the previous Ethernet card, this version utilized a 65816 running at 4 MHz to handle data processing functions for the card. Rather than being a secretive product, the Ethernet card was openly acknowledged by Apple representatives, and at the 1992 A2-Central Summer Developer’s Conference they announced that the 6.0.1 revision of GS/OS would be released simultaneously with the new Ethernet card, with a predicted release date of late 1992.[20]

Ethernet Card take 2
Ethernet card, version 2 – Photo credit: Tony Diaz, http://www.apple2.org/AIIEthernet.html


Meanwhile, the other Apple II project the developer community at large was anticipating was a new revision to the Apple IIGS line. At AppleFest in September 1988, Apple CEO John Sculley had stated that there would “a new Apple II CPU in 12-18 months”. Even though the ROM 03 revision to the Apple IIGS was released a year later (August 1989), there were rumors of a yet more powerful IIGS that was being developed. This hopeful reasoning was because the ROM 03 was viewed as an improvement but not a redesign, and information leaking from Apple and its developers spurred the hope that the best was yet to come.

Predictions about the final appearance of this new machine were often based on information provided (on an anonymous basis) to various industry news publications, and were supposedly obtained from examination of beta units sent by Apple to developers. In early 1990, it was believed that this ROM 04 revision would provide an improved screen resolution of 640 by 480 (which had not been tried with the original IIGS design, for reasons of backward compatibility and to keep the cost down), and was supposed to run at a faster speed, from 5.7 to 7 MHz.[21],[22]. Other anticipated improvements were the inclusion of an Apple SuperDrive (which was making it possible for the Macintosh to read and write 1.4 meg MS-DOS disks). And to add fuel to the fire, Western Design Center (the company that had designed the 65816 microprocessor) had expressed interest in creating a further enhancement to the processor line with a 32-bit version called the 65832.

The expected release date came and went without any further mention of a new Apple IIGS. Even the rumors quieted down, especially after Apple USA president Bob Puette was quoted by the San Francisco Chronicle in late October of 1988 as stating that Apple was “phasing out the Apple II line.” It was later stated that this comment had been taken out of context, and Puette made a later clarification:

We remain committed to our millions of Apple II customers and we want to make sure that they understand the high level of support that Apple has behind the Apple II product line. We want Apple II owners to remain happy with their investment in Apple II technology and we continue to look for more ways to protect that investment and extend the life of Apple II products — both as standalone computers and as part of networks. We will continue to sell, support, and service the Apple II product line and provide product enhancements to that line as long as customer demand warrants it. We plan to continue to enhance the existing product line through updates to system software and peripheral add-ons. We fully expect Apple II computers to continue to serve education and other customers satisfactorily for many years to come.

On the other hand, we have no plans at this time to introduce new, standalone Apple II models. However, we will incorporate Apple II technology into current and future platforms, as we have with the Apple IIe card for the Macintosh LC. We believe that this compatibility strategy will preserve customers’ investments in Apple II, while allowing them to move to new technology platforms if they wish.[23]

The network connectivity implied by his remarks referred undoubtedly to the as-yet-unfinished Ethernet card. And with this remark it would appear that the question about a further revision of the Apple IIGS was settled for good.


And yet, there were still efforts within Apple to bring about a final revision to the Apple IIGS, one that would make it better and more capable. The IIGS still had people within the company who poured out their hearts in making changes to improve the computer, both in software and hardware. Some of these same people had created the advances in the GS/OS system software that made the computer faster without requiring any changes in hardware, and also made it possible to take advantage of new peripherals as they became available. With this same fervor, they had indeed been creating the rumored next generation Apple IIGS.

The IIGS they were creating was a logical extension of the capabilities of the current models of the computer, combined with the features that were most needed to provide usability with the new IIGS software that was appearing. The newest versions of GS/OS continued to require more memory to properly run, so this computer was built with 2 Meg of RAM on the motherboard. For RAM upgrades beyond this minimum, the older memory expansion slot was eliminated, and replacing it was two slots for SIMM (single inline memory modules) RAM cards. These compact packages were becoming the industry standard, and were being included in all newer Macintosh models.

The firmware code in the ROM 04 IIGS was to include the new tools that later appeared in GS/OS System 6 (tools that would be loaded into RAM at boot time with older IIGS models, just as the ROM 03 tools were loaded from disk in ROM 01 computers). With the increased size and complexity of System and application software, a hard drive was changing from a luxury to a necessity, and so a 40 Meg SCSI hard drive was included. And to make the SCSI experience complete, a DMA SCSI port was to be included on the rear panel for attachment of additional SCSI devices. The SuperDrive (mentioned above) was also to be included as a built-in device, making it possible to have a very complete IIGS system without the need to have additional hardware attached. As a finale to the new system, HyperCard IIGS would be bundled with this computer when it was released. The one predicted enhancement that did not make the final cut was a speed increase beyond the original 2.8 MHz.

The code name assigned to this new Apple IIGS was “Mark Twain”, likely because of the writer’s oft-repeated quote, “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” It was to be a triumph over the writers in the media who continued to insist that the end of the Apple II line of computers was just around the corner.

This wonderful new Apple IIGS had many things going for it, but the one thing that it did not have was someone in a position of power at the company who would champion the machine, and push for its full support and promotion. This had been the biggest problem with the IIGS beginning with its original release in 1986. After its product introduction, which involved a couple of television and magazine ads, Apple turned its attention to other concerns and left the Apple IIGS to sell itself. What promotion was done for the IIGS or products associated with it was done with all the fervor Apple had applied to the Apple II line since the Apple III had been designed (in other words, very little).


Apple planned a unique event for the evening of September 25, 1991. Their first live nationwide Apple User Group television broadcast via satellite occurred on this date. A prerecorded tour of the Apple Campus was shown (which some felt was too long and uninteresting), and then product introductions were made. These included the Apple II High Speed SCSI card and GS/OS System 6, the new Macintosh System 7, the Macintosh Classic, and the Apple IIe Card for the Macintosh LC. Conspicuously absent was the highly anticipated ROM 04 Apple IIGS. It was ready to be demonstrated — but it was pulled from the program at the last minute, a decision that ultimately meant that it would not appear at all.

Because the ROM 04 project was killed, the GS/OS System 6.0 release was delayed until March 1992. That year passed from spring into summer, and despite its announcement by Apple at the 1992 A2-Central Summer Developer’s Conference, the Apple II Ethernet Card also failed to materialize.  The final blow occurred in December 1992, when the Apple IIGS failed to appear on the new product price lists released by Apple (although the Apple IIe was not yet at that time cut from the list).

Apple representatives met with the Bay Area Apple User Group to let them know of the decision to terminate production of the IIGS. During this meeting, the news was met with a quiet resignation, rather than the anger that had often greeted Apple’s anti-Apple II decisions in the past. They were also told some of Apple’s reasons for this decision. They were, as before, making the Macintosh the future of the company, and it was felt (rightly so) that further enhancements to the IIGS would take away sales of the Macintosh LC, the new consumer color computer that Apple was promoting. A IIGS plug-in card for the Macintosh was considered, but it was determined that the cost of selling it would be as much as the cost of the entire Mac LC. Apple had also looked into creating a reengineered IIGS, to reduce production costs (which would make it possible to continue to build and sell the IIGS). This, however, never went beyond the initial ideas. Finally, they were told that it had been hoped at Apple that GS/OS System 6 and HyperCard IIGS would give Apple II users a taste of the Macintosh experience, and encourage them to switch platforms.[24]

There were no plans to license Apple II technology for other companies to build and sell, as it would compete with Apple’s own products. There were no further plans for future hardware products after the Ethernet card was released. They would, however, continue to work on printer and network software enhancements.[25]


Unfortunately, early 1993 passed without any announcement of an impending release of the promised Apple II Ethernet card. Apple’s previously stated intent was that the Ethernet card and GS/OS System 6.0.1 would be released at about the same time, since a major reason for this minor revision was to include the system code to support the card. But the System 6.0.1 update appeared quietly in March 1993, without any mention of the Ethernet card, and by the time the next A2-Central Developer’s Conference was held in July, it was clear that the card never was going to be released. The exact reason for the termination of this project turns out to also be financial. It was predicted at Apple that the card would sell no more than about 5,000 units, and although this would be a success for most small Apple II businesses, for Apple it was just not worth it. Apple was not, of course, interested in licensing the technology to anyone else to produce and sell, though it had briefly considered allowing Apple Australia to do it.[26]


An archeologist becomes excited when a find is made that illuminates his understanding of the past. In the same way, an Apple II enthusiast loves to discover something that he’s never seen before. In the mid 1990’s, discoveries were made in two separate parts of the country that provided further insight to the story of the aborted “ROM 04” Apple IIGS.

In 1993, Jim Pittman was at the University of New Mexico Computing Center, and there he came across a previous Apple employee. Pittman was a member of the AppleQuerque Computer Club, and on that particular day he was using his old Apple II Plus as a terminal to access the University’s Unix system. The former Apple employee, who had worked in the Apple II group, commented favorably on seeing an Apple II still being used. As their conversation continued she mentioned to Pittman that she had in her possession an Apple IIGS prototype that had never been released. Pittman was not too interested in it at that time; but in the fall of 1995, nearly two years later, when he later mentioned this chance conversation to two of his club members, they were very interested. Jim was able to contact her again, and his club got permission to examine the computer in detail. Assisting Pittman in the evaluation were two other members of the AppleQuerque user group: Joe Walters, who was also one of the sysops in CompuServe’s Apple II Forum; and Mike Westerfield, author of most of the high level programming languages (ORCA/M, ORCA/Pascal, and others) available for the Apple IIGS through his company, The Byte Works. Together, they brought a considerable amount of end-user Apple II and IIGS experience to the evaluation.[27],[28]

After attaching an RGB monitor and a keyboard and mouse, they turned it on, and found that the startup screen did NOT display that it was a “ROM 04” revision, but still read “ROM 03”. It started up, not from a floppy disk, as had every IIGS as it was sold by Apple, but from an internal hard drive, and soon was displaying the Apple IIGS Finder desktop. When checking “About the Finder” from the Apple menu, they found that this IIGS had 2 Meg of RAM on the motherboard (remember that the ROM 0 and ROM 01 models came with 256K of RAM, and the ROM 03 no more than 1 Meg of RAM). The 65816 processor was still at the standard 2.8 MHz “fast” speed that every IIGS could run from its start in 1986. Despite several years of having not been used at all, the time on the internal clock still was properly set, due to the battery backed-up RAM on the motherboard.[29],[30]

Mark Twain, front
Mark Twain, front – Photo credit: Tony Diaz

In appearance, it was a standard Apple IIGS, but with several small exceptions. On the front left panel of the computer a slot had been expertly cut for access to an internal 3.5-inch disk drive. A label on the underside of the computer bore a single-digit serial number, “5”, and the name, “Mark Twain”. The floppy disk drive apparently was not a SuperDrive (it could not read a disk formatted as 1.4 meg), and was positioned in front of the power supply, and on top of a half-height 40 Meg SCSI hard drive. Further examination of the internals of the computer revealed that there were only five slots, with slots 5 and 7 missing (since the 3.5 inch floppy drive was usually mapped to slot 5, and a hard drive customarily was attached to slot 7, this was not a great loss). The traditional IIGS memory expansion was missing, and in its place was a pair of empty 64-pin SIMM slots. There were some hand wiring changes that had been done to the motherboard, and the exact nature of these was unclear at the time. The back panel opening for slot 1 was blocked by the position of the power supply, and the power plug and power switch had been moved a short distance from their usual location. On the left left of the back panel was the headphone jack (which had been changed to handle stereo sound), and above that was another, smaller jack that they decided must be for a microphone. It also appeared that there was a new 25 pin port on the back panel, presumably for attachment of other SCSI devices.[31],[32]

Mark Twain, interior
Mark Twain, interior – notice on left the 3.5 drive on top, 5.35 inch hard drive on bottom, with SCSI connector going to the back; on right front are two SIMM memory chips – Photo credit: Tony Diaz

Clearly, this was a nearly completed model of the ill-fated IIGS that was supposed to have been introduced to the world at that September 1991 Apple User Group satellite broadcast. To these Apple IIGS veterans, this Mark Twain IIGS did not really offer anything to them that they did not already have. If fact, the enhancements that they had by this time added to their own Apple IIGS computers (additional memory, a 65816 accelerator card, and a large hard drive with a very fast interface card) made this 1991 prototype actually a less-capable machine than they were used to running. However, they were all favorably impressed with the potential that the Mark Twain had offered (for 1991), and most who saw it felt that had it been released in 1991, they would have been interested in purchasing one. Certainly, it was a more significant enhancement to the Apple IIGS than was the ROM 01 to ROM 03 upgrade in 1989 (increased RAM and improved firmware). The Mark Twain offered not only a further increase in RAM supplied with the computer, but also the benefits of built-in floppy disk and hard drive storage. In the same way that the Apple IIc provided an “all-in-one” solution to Apple II Plus and IIe users, with the added benefit of five empty slots for even further expandability, this truly had the potential to be the pinnacle of the IIGS series.[33]


The start and end dates for the Apple IIGS, Apple IIe, and Apple IIc:

  • Apple IIGS – September 1986 – August 1987
  • Apple IIGS ROM 01 – September 1987 – July 1989
  • Apple IIGS ROM 03 – August 1989 – December 1992
  • Apple IIe (all versions) – January 1983 – November 1993
  • Apple IIc (all versions) – April 1984 – September 1990

(Many thanks to Peltier Technical Services, Inc. for assistance in creation of this chart.)


  1. [1]Duprau, Jeanne, and Molly Tyson. “The Making Of The Apple IIGS“, A+ Magazine, Nov 1986: 57-74.
  2. [2]Pinella, Paul. “In The Beginning: An Interview With Harvey Lehtman”, Apple IIGS: Graphics And Sound, Fall/Winter 1986: 38-44.
  3. [3]Utter, Gary. GEnie A2 Roundtable, Cat 6, Topic 2, Jul 1993.
  4. [4]Pinella, Paul. “In The Beginning: An Interview With Harvey Lehtman”, Apple IIGS: Graphics And Sound, Fall/Winter 1986: 38-44.
  5. [5]Pinella, Paul. “In The Beginning: An Interview With Harvey Lehtman”, Apple IIGS: Graphics And Sound, Fall/Winter 1986: 38-44.
  6. [6]Duprau, Jeanne, and Molly Tyson. “The Making Of The Apple IIGS“, A+ Magazine, Nov 1986: 57-74.
  7. [7]Duprau, Jeanne, and Molly Tyson. “The Making Of The Apple IIGS“, A+ Magazine, Nov 1986: 57-74.
  8. [8]Duprau, Jeanne, and Molly Tyson. “The Making Of The Apple IIGS“, A+ Magazine, Nov 1986: 57-74.
  9. [9]Duprau, Jeanne, and Molly Tyson. “The Making Of The Apple IIGS“, A+ Magazine, Nov 1986: 57-74.
  10. [10]Pinella, Paul. “In The Beginning: An Interview With Harvey Lehtman”, Apple IIGS: Graphics And Sound, Fall/Winter 1986: 38-44.
  11. [11]Duprau, Jeanne, and Molly Tyson. “The Making Of The Apple IIGS“, A+ Magazine, Nov 1986: 57-74.
  12. [12]Hogan, Thom. “Apple: The First Ten Years”, A+ Magazine, Jan 1987: 45.
  13. [13]Szetela, David. “The New II”, Nibble, Oct 1986: 5-6.
  14. [14]Weishaar, Tom. “Miscellanea”, Open-Apple, Nov 1986: 2.74.
  15. [15]Platt, Robert, and Bruce Field. “A.P.P.L.E. Doctor”, Call-A.P.P.L.E., Nov 1987: 58.
  16. [16]Utter, Gary. GEnie A2 Roundtable, Cat 6, Topic 2, Jul 1993.
  17. [17]Doms, Dennis. “Apple upgrades IIGS hardware”, Open-Apple, Sep 1989: 5.57.
  18. [18]A very similar scenario would reappear to plague Apple in the late 1990’s, when buyers who came to a computer store to look for a new system were directed by the sales people away from a Macintosh model (despite the ease of setup and use that Apple constantly advertised) to various brands of Windows-based PC’s, telling the customer as an aside remark that “Apple wasn’t going to be around much longer anyway”.
  19. [19]Diaz, Tony. 2002. “The Apple ][ Ethernet Card: ][ be or Not ][ Be Was It’s Question”. The Apple II Information And Pictoral Reference.
  20. [20]Diaz, Tony. 2002. “The Apple ][ Ethernet Card: ][ be or Not ][ Be Was It’s Question”. The Apple II Information And Pictoral Reference.
  21. [21]Diaz, Tony. 2002. “The Apple ][ Ethernet Card: ][ be or Not ][ Be Was It’s Question”. The Apple II Information And Pictoral Reference.
  22. [22]Sewal, Murphy. “Vaporware”, Apple Pulp (H.U.G.E. Apple Club News Letter): March 1990.
  23. [23]Deatherage, Matt. GEnie A2 Roundtable, Category 5, Topic 14, October 1990.
  24. [24]E’Sex, Lunatic. GEnie A2 Roundtable, Category 5, Topic 4, December 1992.
  25. [25]E’Sex, Lunatic. GEnie A2 Roundtable, Category 5, Topic 4, December 1992.
  26. [26]Diaz, Tony. 2002. “The Apple ][ Ethernet Card: ][ be or Not ][ Be Was It’s Question”. The Apple II Information And Pictoral Reference.
  27. [27]Jones, Max. “The Lost Generation Of The IIGS“. Juiced.GS, Volume 1, Issue 1: Winter 1996.
  28. [28]Pittman, Jim. “The Apple IIGS ‘Mark Twain’ Prototype or ‘Super Apple II'”. AppleTalk (AppleQuerque Computer Club), February 1996.
  29. [29]Jones, Max. “The Lost Generation Of The IIGS“. Juiced.GS, Volume 1, Issue 1: Winter 1996.
  30. [30]Pittman, Jim. “The Apple IIGS ‘Mark Twain’ Prototype or ‘Super Apple II'”. AppleTalk (AppleQuerque Computer Club), February 1996.
  31. [31]Jones, Max. “The Lost Generation Of The IIGS“. Juiced.GS, Volume 1, Issue 1: Winter 1996.
  32. [32]Pittman, Jim. “The Apple IIGS ‘Mark Twain’ Prototype or ‘Super Apple II'”. AppleTalk (AppleQuerque Computer Club), February 1996.
  33. [33]Kohn, Joe. “Meet Mark Twain”. Shareware Solutions II, January 1996.

7 Comments on “11-The Apple IIGS, cont.

  1. This was a great read. I had always been intrigued by the “Mark Twain” and this article addressed all my unanswered questions. The IIGS remains my favorite personal computer and sits proudly in my bedroom still.

  2. Take a look at a screenshot of the Twain ROM reproduced from source and running in emulation. Just Google the following:

    macgui twain emulation

    and take the first link. Look for retrogear posts on comp.sys.apple2

  3. I bought an Apple II GS in the mid 80s. With the computer came a beautiful glass apple with “WOZ” signature on it. On the bottom there is a piece number as only a few were made. My number is in the 1300’s.

    Anyone know if there is a link somewhere to be able to track or evaluate the piece. It is quite attractive and unique. Used as a paper weight with a flat bottom

    • The commemorative glass apple is an interesting bit of history, something I only became aware of myself around the turn of the century.

      From what I understand, these were distributed to authorized Apple dealers around the time of the Apple IIGS’s release in 1986. Etched in the front glass is “Apple IIGS”, a “Woz” signature, Apple logo, and “9/27/1986”–a rather interesting date as this is THE official day the Apple IIGS was unveiled made available to the public. I originally thought September 15, 1986 was its release date, but apparently that was just the day it was announced searching Usenet archives.

      These glass apples were not sold or made available to the public, and not that many were produced judging by the hand marked serial numbers (maybe a thousand or so? Hard to say how many survived 30+ years later). There seems to be two variants of the apple: one with a large and thick stem (bent almost like a curling puck handle), the other with a small stem. I think the latter is more elegant.

      I’ve wanted one of these for the longest time but they’ve been selling for several hundred dollars on eBay, way out of my range. Though as fate would have it, late last year I found one on Craigslist and got it (shipping included) for US$30! More than half the cost was shipping to Canada. It now sits on display, on a bookcase in my living room, not far from my Woz signature Apple IIGS. Mine is serial #423.

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