Obviously, things have been quiet around 6502 Lane lately and for good reason. Thing a Week #3 was delayed while I was at KansasFest, and then again while my wife and I moved into a new place across town. But that doesn’t mean I’ve been idle since the last update. I entered HackFest 2012 at Rockhurst this year along with six other participants and was soundly defeated, with my program finishing at the bottom of the list. Not good for a first-timer’s confidence, I can tell you; I likely won’t enter again. Enough self-pity, though.
I had intended to use my program as my latest Thing a Week entry (because I’m lazy like that), but it disappeared during the move. How does a program vanish like that during a physical move? Well, perhaps I should clarify. I’m sure the program is still there, on the Compact Flash card that lives in the CFFA that acts as the mass storage device for the Apple /// I took to Kansas City this year. It’s just that, well, the whole computer seems to have disappeared. I mean, I’m sure it’s packed away in a box labeled “dirty laundry” or is buried in the wrong corner of my storage unit, but as of now, I can’t find the thing. And that means I’ll actually have to do something for this latest entry. Fortunately, I have.
Early this year, Dave Ottalini – former chair of the now-defunt Apple III SIG of the Washington Apple Pi Users Group – reclassified as freeware the WAP Apple /// DVD they used to sell (they still do, in fact) and let me tell you, this thing is a treasure trove of information and programs for Apple /// enthusiasts. It contains a wealth of historical and technical details that weren’t available anywhere else and is an incredible resource for anyone looking to learn more about Apple’s first business computer. But the DVD isn’t perfect – in fact much of the data requires some digging to access. While the disc comes with a nice set of files already in PDF and text formats that you can quickly browse through, it also has an 80 megabyte collection of nearly 580 disc images that originally lived as the Apple /// WAP Disc Library. This disc collection is also available in several other places but let’s face it: accessing the data in the images isn’t exactly convenient. Sure, any Apple II or /// user with a bit of knowledge can fire up an image management tool such as CiderPress or Image Opener and dig through the individual files, but wouldn’t it be nice to have all the resources separated out in a logical, easy to access format? For example, the entire text of Taylor Pohlman’s excellent Exploring Business BASIC column that originally ran in Softalk magazine is contained in the collection… spread across 10 (5 diskettes) images, beginning with APPLE-3-WAP-bsb-03a.po and ending with APPLE-3-WAP-bsb-07b.po.
As an attempt to make that information more accessible to interested parties, I’ve started going through the WAP images and extracting interesting and useful files and info. True, certain information works better in the disk-image format: programs that you want to run, for example. But for other stuff – documentation, text articles and other non-executable information – there’s no reason to keep it locked up in 140K chunks. When dealing with the Apple /// in particular, there’s an extra layer of difficulty involved. The two existing emulators, SARA and MESS, don’t really work that well, necessitating real hardware to really get much out of these programs or access some of the data. Progress is being made with Marc Ressl’s OpenEmulator project to add fully-functional /// emulation, but that’s still in the early stages and there really isn’t a good alternative.
With all that in mind, here’s the initial fruit of my efforts. All twenty three parts of Pohlman’s column in one easy to access, searchable PDF file. I haven’t decided how best to organize the newly liberated files or where they will find a final resting place, but I thought I’d make this file accessible here, in the hopes that my two regular readers will come up with some suggestions or ideas on how best to handle this.
I’ve just scratched the surface obviously, but I think this is a good beginning. Let me know what you think in the comments. You can grab the PDF here.