I finally had some time this past week to play with the IIe Card. What began as a simple install ended up stretching over several evenings as I struggled to get the card to boot a floppy disk (more on that in a minute).
I started with a Macintosh Color Classic that had been upgraded to 10 MB of RAM and a 240 MB SCSI hard drive sometime in its past. Conveniently, the Color Classic was already running System 7.5.5, the highest version you can run with the IIe Card.
The IIe Card was still sealed in its factory-new cellophane when I opened it. I’ve never been of one those, “Don’t open that!” collectors. I get this stuff because I want to play with and use it, and seeing a neat piece of hardware like this sitting on the shelf unused bothers me.
The box contained two 3.5″ diskettes, a user manual, the standard Apple warranty and reference materials, the Y-cable for connecting up floppy drives and a joystick, and the Apple IIe Card.
The manual contains basic set up and use information, but no instructions for installing the card itself. This is because Apple expected you to have a dealer install it for you and serves as evidence of Steve Jobs’ lasting influence on Apple’s philosophies of the day, even though he was long gone by the time the IIe Card and the Color Classic were released: the computer should be an appliance and users shouldn’t be poking around in the interesting bits. You wouldn’t want them to let the magic smoke out, right? Fortunately, Apple took a different view of its dealers and wanted to make repairs and parts replacement as simple as possible.
Here. the back panel comes off and the motherboard is an all-in-one affair that slides in and out of the case and seats easily in its socket.
Installing the IIe card is an idiot-proof process simply line it up with the PDS slot and plug it in.
Slide the motherboard back in, replace the back panel and you’re done with mucking about in the Mac. Next, the Y-Cable is attached and the Apple 5.25″ drive and joystick are plugged in.
And that’s it for the hardware. Easy, no? Getting the software installed was just as simple and I was ready to boot up my Macintosh-shaped Apple IIe.
And this is where I encountered my first problem. The floppy drive came to life and made that reassuring clunking that Apple II drives are supposed to make and then . nothing. The drive just spun, and I could hear that the arm wasn’t moving at all. I put the diskette into a real Apple IIe and it started up just fine. Back in the drive attached to the IIe Card again and no activity.
Like most retrocomputing enthusiasts, I have acquired a number of things related to my hobby over the years, including a seemingly ever-growing stack of Apple II floppy drives. For the life of me, I can’t remember every buying one and yet they seem to be multiplying. Perhaps they’re breeding down in the basement
By the way, if you’re following along at home with your own Apple IIe Card, the only 5.25″ drive that will work is the Platinum Apple 5.25″, model A9M0107. The older beige UniDisk, model A9M0104 won’t do the trick, as the IIe Card doesn’t supply the proper voltage required by the 0104. I found that I actually had to check the model number on each drive, as yellowing has made it hard to distinguish the two models at a glance.
At any rate, I ended up going through several hours of troubleshooting with assistance from a couple of Apple II fans more knowledgeable than myself, and the tedious process of swapping out drive after drive before finding one that still works.
Well, now I know what I’m going to be doing with at least some of my time at KansasFest this July: drive cleaning and alignment. Maybe I’ll do it as a session, so other people can sit and watch and keep me company
Finally, though, I have a working card set up in the Color Classic:
One minor annoyance I noted with the card is that the Control-Command-Escape sequence to get into the IIe Card Control Panel more often than not caused the Color Classic to reboot itself. It didn’t seem to be a genuine crash, but an actual proper restart sequence. Odd
For more pictures of the IIe Card installation and set up, visit my PicasaWeb Album.
If you’re interested (and if you’ve read this far, it probably safe to assume that you are), Ivan Drucker of IvanExpert (and recent Open Apple podcast guest) put together a nice presentation at KansasFest 2009 on the Apple IIe Card. You can read it yourself here.