Category Archives: Documentation

Don Worth’s Bag of Tricks manual original files

Next up, we have the original texts for the “Bag of Tricks” manual.

Well, most of them anyway. Pieter Lechner’s “Chapter 2: Trax” is missing. When I asked Don about it, he replied:

“Pieter was responsible for his own disks and was working at Quality Software in those days, so I don’t think I had copies of his parts of the manual.”

If you’re looking to read the original files on your favorite emulator or real Apple II, this is a CP/M formatted disk, but Don doesn’t remember the specific word processor he used:

“I believe at the time I did BoT I was using a CP/M word processor (to get proportional spaced output on my Diablo daisy wheel printer). I can’t for the life of me remember what it was – except that it had a small padded brown vinyl manual.”

Also of note: on side 2 are a few letters written to Softalk editor Margot Comstock. I left them in the image because they’re probably interesting to Apple II historians and Don gave his OK:

“If there is nothing embarrassing in the letters, go ahead and share them too.”

This .zip file has what you’re looking for.

Don Worth’s Beneath Apple DOS original text files

A while back (feels like about a year ago, but I’m sure it’s closer to two or three – memory gets funny when you age) Bill Garber sent me a disk-box full of Don Worth’s original floppies. These include source code for various versions of Beneath Apple Manor, Zap!, AstroApple and some other things, as well as the text files that were used in the production of his groundbreaking Beneath Apple DOS book, and the manual for Bag of Tricks.

I used an FC5025 to create disk images; Device Side Data’s ingenious little board is a handy tool and makes bulk-imaging a breeze but its error handling is somewhat less robust than, say, the Kryoflux or the E.D.D. Plus card, which is unfortunate because several floppies had bad sectors scattered across them. One, “DOSX Source” couldn’t be read at all. On the plus side, when the FC5025 does encounter an error, it doesn’t kill the process completely so some of the images have a bad file or three where data couldn’t be read. I’ll make sure to point out the affected items as I post them.

Anyway. I’ve held them captive for long enough, so we’ll start with the Beneath Apple DOS book files and I’ll try to get everything else up shortly. The source files for Beneath Apple DOS span three diskette sides and were written in Hayden Software’s PIE Writer. The zip archive (link below) contains a disk image for that program so you can fire it up on your favorite emulator, or transfer it over to the real thing and read the text that way.


I couldn’t find a copy of the PIE Writer manual but the ‘Help’ files are included on the program disk. You won’t need them to load Don’s text though. Just choose the Format Text Processor (option 2) from the PIE Writer menu and follow the prompts to load the file called CH1 and you’ll be off and reading. The files are chained together so when you reach the end of one chapter, the next will load from disk automatically. (PIE Writer is pretty cool!)

I’m not sure why I’m telling you this, actually. If you’re here, you know how to do all this…


This zip file contains everything you need. (No bad sectors on Don’s originals – whew!).

A Look at On Three’s 512K Memory Board for the Apple III

When Apple introduced the Apple III at the National Computer Conference in May of 1980 in Anaheim, California, it was touted as supporting up to 512K of RAM (as opposed to the Apple II and II Plus, which commonly shipped with up to 64K).  Thus, I was somewhat surprised when I opened this Apple III and took a look at the installed On Three 512K memory board.

On Three's 512K Board

On Three's 512K Board

I don’t know specifically what I was expecting – probably a similar set up to what you see in Apple IIIs with 128K and 256K boards.  And that’s sort of what I got, with the exceptions of the additional wires and cables coming from the memory board and attaching to various spots on the motherboard.  The person from whom I acquired the Apple III didn’t have any documentation about On Three’s expansion, so I was confused.  Why would a 512K board need such additional electronics if the III natively supported that much memory?

On Three's board includes several modifications

One of the unfortunate side effects of the III’s short lifespan is that Apple never developed more than a handful of expansion cards for the machine.  While cards such as the ProFile controller and the UPIC were produced in fairly plentiful numbers and are easy to find today, Apple never got around to releasing memory boards with more than 256K RAM, or much of anything else for that matter.  This left it up to small third party developers to manufacture and support peripherals for the die hard users who refused to migrate to Macintosh or other Apple products.

One of these developers, a user group called On Three, holds a special place in Apple III history.  While most UGs of the day held weekly or monthly meetings and offered other services such as shareware sales and newsletters to members, On Three took it much further.  In addition to printing a professional monthly Apple III-specific magazine, they also published numerous commercial-quality software titles and the 512K memory expansion.   The latter is doubly impressive, as Apple never released much in the way of low-level technical documentation for the machine, so it represents an excellent hardware hack in the truest sense of the word.

Back to the issue at hand.  I had this neat add-on, and no documentation for it.  Fortunately for me, when Dave Ottalini decided it was time to get rid of his Apple III collection, it ended up in the hands of Bill Degnan.  Degnan photographed and commented on much of the collection, including the 512K board.  It was his website that turned up in the Googles when I was hunting for more information.  After a brief email exchange, Bill provided me a copy of the scan he made of the user’s guide.  (You can get a copy here, if you’re interested.)

A quick perusal of the PDF gave me the answer to my question:  the Apple III doesn’t actually support 512K.  SOS does but not the hardware itself, at least not without some modifications.  The manual doesn’t really go into much other technical detail, but there it is.  In the mean time, enjoy some pictures of the board while my search for the specific function of On Three’s hacks continues.

Several hardware modifications are necessary to allow the Apple III to access 512K of RAM

On Three's new board includes addressing ROMs as well new address lines

In the end, the rather high $949 introductory price (On Three later dropped it to $449) and fact that it was introduced after the III was discontinued to an already-shrinking market, helped to limit the number of boards that made it into the hands of users.

Update (1/19): I added a gallery of high-resolution photos of the On Three board.  Check it out in the Picasa galleries.