Category Archives: Apple III

Apple III and III Plus differences

Last night, I decided it would be a good idea to move a 512K memory board from a 5V Apple /// that has become increasingly flaky over the past few month, to a III Plus. While the effort was ultimately unsuccessful (more on that in a later post), the exercise gave me the opportunity to note some differences between the two boards. I took some pictures. Here they are.

Clock/Calendar Chip and Battery

Of course, we all know the story of the bad batch of clock chips Apple bought from National Semiconductor.  It seems to be one of the few problems commonly associated with the /// for which Apple isn’t blamed.  When end users and dealers began receiving their new ///s in late 1980, one of the first things they noticed was that the inbuilt clock wasn’t functioning normally. Sometimes, it would speed up randomly; other times, it failed to roll over properly and continued to count up.  If you ever wondered what thirty-three o’clock looked like, you could ask your Apple ///.

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No awesome Retrochallenge 2014WW prizes for me

Sadly, another year has slipped by and I wasn’t able to get to my intended 2014WW project.  This is partly because January is always a crazily busy month for me – work picks up, and an entire weekend and most of the preceding week is lost to an anniversary getaway with my wife – and partly because I wasn’t able to locate the Apple /// BOS disk that I’d pre-configured to work with my CFFA card and I didn’t adequately organize my time to devote the necessary 90 uninterrupted minutes (give or take) to start over.  So there it is… My dreams of Retrochallenge glory lie in ruins.  We’ll get ‘em next year.

Maybe I should just drive downtown and visit Quark, Inc.

So, it’s back to the Apple ///.  Hey, it’s been calling – what can I do?  I just can’t leave a problem unresolved.  Anyway, I’d like to thank Dave Ottalini from Washington Apple Pi for providing me with working Quark Catalyst disks so I could try to get to the data on the ProFile drive.

Quark Catalyst Diskettes

Quark Catalyst Diskettes

My concern here, though, is (if I understand the manual) once you load a program onto the ProFile with Catalyst, it’s “branded” with the Catalyst’s serial number, so that files loaded with one serial number can’t be accessed with a copy of Catalyst that has a different serial.  Which would have been a major inconvenience 20 years ago, if your Catalyst disk went bad and you didn’t have a backup.  And since the Catalyst disk is apparently so heavily protected, that scenario probably isn’t so uncommon, especially these days with more and more floppy disks lost to the ravages of time.  True, Quark included a complementary back up floppy with the package, but if you’ve lost it or it’s dead, you could be out of luck.

WAP has a disk image for a program that apparently deserializes Catalyst, and another to make a back up of your existing disk, but I don’t know if that allows you to access programs that have already been installed by another Catalyst that hasn’t already been deserialized.

Stay tuned!

Binder for version 2.0 of Quark Catalyst

Binder for version 2.0 of Quark Catalyst

A bit of personal trivia.  The Quark headquarters building, which Google maps tells me is about 10 miles from my house, is located at 1800 Grant Street in Denver.  In the mid-1990s, I worked for Kaiser-Permanente, building databases to help them index their extensive library of medical publications and articles.  The Kaiser offices were located in this building, several floors below Quark.  On my lunch breaks, I used to ride the elevator up and talk tech with whomever happened to be around that would listen to me.  I wonder what they’d say if I walked in with a copy of Catalyst, asking for technical support… Actually, I know what they’d say: “Security!”

 

Quark global headquarters in downtown Denver, Colorado.

Quark global headquarters in downtown Denver, Colorado.

 

It’s Alive!

So, after some confusion around disk image transfer shenanigans related to the way Microsoft changed UAC in Windows 7, the Apple III is in good, running condition once again.  As I was digging through the cases, I noticed something I’d missed the first time around: holes.  Specifically, a series of holes Apple drilled through the pressed aluminum case of the two later models I have:

Cooling holes present in later 5V Apple III and Apple III Plus models are also seen here in this 12V machine.

Cooling holes present in later 5V Apple III and Apple III Plus models are also seen here in this 12V machine.

These are not present in the earlier Apple III I have:

The case from an early 12V model, serial number 018052

The case from an early 12V model, serial number 018052

What’s interesting to me about this is that these holes exist in the case of one of the two 12V models, indicating that Apple knew about and was trying to address design flaws even before they officially started the replacement and upgrade program. Remember that before Apple released the III Plus, they first rolled out a revised Apple III which featured some significant changes to the machine’s design, including the aforementioned holes, as well as a new more efficient 5V power system. But the presence of the cooling holes in this 12V case (serial number 050756) shows that Apple were aware early on of the troubles plaguing the machine.

Two 12V Apple IIIs, one with the cooling holes drilled in the cast iron case.

Two 12V Apple IIIs, one with the cooling holes drilled in the cast iron case.

At any rate, after a handful of successful disk image transfers, I loaded up the Apple /// Dealer Diagnostic disk.  I’m not sure if the obvious issues with the color video modes are the fault of the Apple III or the monitor it’s plugged in to. I’ll need to dig further into that:

Color video mode test pattern.

Color video mode test pattern.

But, it was very nice to see this at the end of the rather extensive diagnostic:

The Apple /// Dealer Diagnostic: complete and successful.

The Apple /// Dealer Diagnostic: complete and successful.

Maybe not so bad after all

The Apple III, considered to be Apple Computer's first commercial failure.

The Apple III, considered to be Apple Computer’s first commercial failure.

If you’re like me, you’ve come to accept the popular wisdom that the Apple III was a deeply flawed machine, crippled from the beginning and doomed to failure before it left the design stage. We’ve all heard the rumors of the fanless case causing excessive heat build-up and leading to warped PCBs that dislodged chips from their sockets.  It’€™s a popular tale in Apple lore that one of the manuals shipped with the Apple III actually suggested lifting the main unit six inches off the table and dropping it to reseat loosened chips; and perhaps it’€™s true – I’€™ve never seen it myself.  Excessive price and a late start into a business market already cornered by IBM and its legion of clones further limited sales; by the time the III was quietly pulled from Apple’€™s product list in September 1985, it had sold only 65,000 units (or 75,000.  Or 125,000, depending on who you talk to).  Apple’s attempts to address the flaws (real or perceived) were too little, too late and the updated Apple III Plus sold even worse than the original.

But was the final product really as bad as everyone said?

While searching for Apple III technical documents and information to help the restoration of my Apple III, I happened across this article at AppleLogic, in which an electrical engineer with experience designing hardware for the Apple II takes a second look at the so-called design flaws in the Apple III. If you’€™re like me, the conclusions he draws from his analysis might surprise you.