Retro Renovation

There are those who are collectors who do a little polishing and the job is done.

And then there are collectors that do it like Rick’s Restorations on the History channel. They tear it down to the basics, clean up every piece, and then reassemble it to functional condition.

Todd Harrison has a nicely detailed blog post on how he does that very thing with an Apple II Plus, plus Monitor III, plus Disk II drives (one of which was not working until he did some service on it).

Shows what kind of fun one can have with a couple hundred dollars spent on eBay! Thanks, Todd.

IMSAI To The Rescue!

In my Languages chapter, in the story about the creation of Applesoft I, I make mention of Cliff Huston and his own IMSAI computer that was used to help Randy Wigginton rework the 6502 Microsoft BASIC that later became the first version of Applesoft, released in January 1978. The Huston brothers, Cliff and Dick, worked for several years at Apple. (In fact, in my last post I announced some additional information about the creation of ProDOS in the early 1980s, and how Dick Huston was the product champion that made it happen.)

The Hustons had placed some of their historical artifacts on the auction market a couple of years ago, including an Apple-1 board. They have just posted an auction for the other Apple-1 board, as well as the very IMSAI computer that Randy Wigginton used in his programming of Applesoft BASIC back in 1977 and afterwards. They tell a very entertaining story about the entire process, and you can read about it (and the auction) here.

I was never an Altair or IMSAI fan to the point where I would want to try for one of these antiques; but if I was ever going to get one, this special unit would be my dream IMSAI system, because of its historical significance.

ProDOS Origins

Dick and Cliff Huston were engineers at Apple who worked on and for the Apple II in the 1970s and early 1980s. They preserved items from their time at the company, and made some of them available to purchase in the past two years. Antoine Vignau of Brutal Deluxe, who is himself an archivist of early Apple history, purchased the Huston’s printout of the source code of the first ProDOS Golden Master. Included with this printout were notes of the development process and preliminary manuals. These notes have been shared with me, and I am grateful to the Huston brothers and to Antoine Vignau for the opportunity to add to the story of ProDOS you can read here. If you’ve never heard of DOS 3.4, DOS 4.0, or XDOS, get the full story!

A Deluge of Magazines

Have finally completed my revisions and additions to the Magazines chapters (part 1 and part 2), barring any further information that comes back as a response to some remaining email inquiries.

Many of the entries have been expanded, and some have been completely rewritten. Additionally, I have more magazine covers displayed, and in the case of disk magazines have included some screen shots.

Even the section about Foreign Apple II magazines has been expanded a bit, thanks to information I was able to find on the Internet that was not available to me 20 years ago. Even so, I have very little information I can find about Peeker (a German publication), and the several Netherlands magazines that have been mentioned in the History for many years; on these magazines, there just isn’t much on the Internet available about them.

As usual, anyone who has information about any of these magazines that I have excluded that seems important, let me know and I’ll see if it can be added.

Now, onward to updates to Telecommunications!

Wolfenstein 3D

The KansasFest 2012 keynote speaker this year is John Romero, who got his start writing games for the Apple II computer, in various magazines, and in the disk magazines UpTime and Softdisk. When he left Softdisk to start his own company and create shareware games, one of the groundbreaking games he helped create established the entire genre of first-persone shooters. Wolfenstein 3D was a reinvention of the older Apple II game Castle Wolfenstein, and although it was not made for the Apple IIGS (or Apple II) in the beginning, it eventually did make its way to the GS. You can read the story in a new Spotlight story here.

Apple II Guide

News today about another Apple II book that is in the works. Here is the press release, as posted at the VintageComputer forums:

Lincoln, IL – Apr. 20, 2012 – David Finnigan and Mac GUI Vault announce today the first paperback book exclusively about the Apple II to be published in over a decade.

The New Apple II User’s Guide, which is to be self-published on as a trade paperback book, includes over 650 pages. It is intended for all Apple II users, from the absolute beginner to the experienced veteran. The purpose of the book is to serve as a guide to all models of Apple II, and explain the basics of setup, programming, networking, and other specialized topics.

The first chapters deal with identifying each model of Apple and common peripherals and accessories. The next chapters are a complete introduction and coverage of how to program in BASIC. Further chapters detail advanced programming topics such as screen formatting, graphics, sound, and printing. The later chapters complete the book with specialized topics including the disk system, networking and the Internet, using the low-level machine monitor, and subjects specific to the Apple IIgs.

Many appendices hold miscellaneous information of use to programmers, including a summary of all BASIC and disk commands, error messages, ASCII charts and other tables, repair and troubleshooting tips, and how to use software to transfer disks to a modern computer. The book includes a full glossary and index.

No publication date is set, but Mr. Finnigan, the author, hopes for a May date. The book is expected to sell for around $28.

The official book web site is offered in English:

and in French:

Mac GUI Vault, the creation of David Finnigan, is an online source for retro Apple II and Macintosh enthusiasts. It features a fully cataloged and searchable database of software files, pictures, text and PDF files, and Usenet posts. The site has become a popular destination, having over 100,000 visitors and over 50,000 files downloaded last year alone. The New Apple II User’s Guide is its first physical product offering.

Mr. Finnigan may be contacted by email:

It sounds like a great book! Go get it; watch the count down at MacGUI.

Game Recovery Mode

Just had to post the link to this great story in Wired. Jordan Mechner, author of Prince of Persia recently discovered his old disks of source code, and utilized the service of master Apple II collector Tony Diaz (to recover the data from very old floppy disks), and master archivist Jason Scott to put the code on for all to see. See the story here.

Prince of Persia recovery
Jason Scott, Jordan Mechner, and Tony Diaz - Photo credit: Wired

Better Late Than Never

I’m obviously late to the Apple II 35th birthday party. Being busy with life and writing and such drives those calculations right from one’s mind. Hope this bowl of fruit and bag of M&Ms from Wal-Mart helps…

As many others have posted today, this is the 35th anniversary of the First West Coast Computer Faire, at which Apple Computer, Inc. made its grand introduction of the Apple II computer. Harry McCracken has been the most prolific, with no less than three well done posts about this event:

Perhaps this summer at KansasFest we’ll have some additional 35th birthday celebration!

***Microsoft Word 2011 ERR

After my last post about the help I got at the Apple Store in recoving files lost when Microsoft Word misbehaved, I have had at least five additional episodes of Word causing disk errors on my boot drive. I tried doing my editing on a flash drive; still had it happen. Put a partition on the hard drive and worked with me file there; still had it happen. After about seven restorations of my files from a Time Machine backup after Word trashed my hard drive, I learned that if the “Always create backup copy” and “Save Autorecover info every xx minutes” boxes are UNchecked, the only error that occurs is an error where Word complains about the file being busy, but then lets me save it with a new name (and an additional error message before it successfully saves it).

As a result, it was not until the middle of last week that I really got going again with revisions. I am still in the Magazines chapters, revising and updating info. I also took a side trip down a path I had not yet documented in this history: The topic of Apple II viruses. That now makes up a chapter of its own in the History, bumping the last chapter up one number. If you’ve ever wanted to know everything there was to know about Apple II viruses now you have it all in one convenient place.

(By the way: The latest update of Word 2011 to version 14.2 does not fix the problem with saving this very large file. That’s okay; at least turning off those backup options has protected my hard drive!)

Bump In The Road

20120328-192942.jpgMicrosoft Word 2011 and I were having a tussle this morning, as I was trying to add pictures to the Peripherals chapter. I’d copy an image and try to paste it ino the document at the appropriate place. And then the spinning rainbow ball would appear … and not go away. So I’d have to kill Word, and restart it, an try again. I started saving after each picture was added, just so I would stop losing work.

So while doing this, I’m noticing the Activity Monitor is pegging the top, with lots of red on the little graph. I look at the Activity Monitor window, and there is no activity that is using up even as much as 50% of these dual cores. Odd. So, I restart; it’s been days since that was necessary. And just for entertainment, I press the Command-V keys so I can see the Unix-y things happening. And that “fsck” disk check is going really slow, finding things to fix. Also odd.

And after restarting, I go looking for my Word document to continue … and it ain’t there. Gulp. I have my regular Time Machine backups … at home, on my home network. And I’ve been working on this for about an hour. Hmmmm…

With OS X Lion there is supposed to be local Time Machine backups, right? Let’s see … and there it was! Whew! Problem solved. Or so I thought.

After a half hour, same problem popped up again. Same pegged Activity Monitor. But this time, the restart failed to help. The “fsck” process was unable to resolve the file system errors. And after a restart from my Lion restore partition, same problem – “Disk Utility” took a look, shook it’s head and said, “Sorry, can’t do it. Why don’t you save your files somewhere, reformat, and restore from a backup?”

20120328-193058.jpgAll fine and good, but how do I get the files off when I cannot start up from that disk? I’ve got about 90 minutes of work I’d like to recover.

Thankfully, I’ve got an Apple Store nearby, and I make a Genius Bar appointment. And the helpful Genius I had the pleasure to work with got my latest files recovered, and gave them to me on a CD.

So my MacBook is being restored from a backup at home, and I’m posting this from my iPhone. The work will move forward tomorrow.

Thank you, Peter Carter at the Village Pointe Apple Store in Omaha. You’re the best!

(And in the context of this web site, Peter said he remembered the Apple II computers whose pictures were in the files we recovered, from the years his mother was managing computers at the school where she worked.)