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Of things new, old and somewhere in between

I felt it important to post something, if just to remind myself that 6502lane is still here and only mostly dead.  The latest lack of updates can be attributed to any number of things, but here are a few thoughts, just off the top of my head.

I started this with another Apple /// user (fan? user? is there really a difference when it comes to this particular Apple?):

Yep, that’s an Apple /// podcast.  I have an unnecessarily long blog post mostly written up for that.  I think it will be up soon over at that web page.  It explains why we started it and what we hope to get out of a podcast about a very (*very*) small corner of our hobby.

And this changed:


I’ll be recording the next episode this weekend, actually.  Yep, you heard it here first, folks.  I don’t have a whole lot to say about it this very minute.  I may not have much more to offer once the mic is hot.  I know I have a few points I need to address and then maybe I’ll catch us up on the Apple II news.  Of which, there’s a lot…

I bought one of these:

BrickPi for LEGO and Raspberry Pi

Essentially, it lets you interface one of these:


with this:


I’m hoping to plug this:


into one of these:


… at the other end of the chain, the result being an Apple II that (eventually) talks to the LEGO NXT set at the other end.  Way back when, LEGO made a robotics set designed to interface directly with the Apple II.


Today, these sets are hard to find and command a premium price on the rare occasion they are offered for sale.  My little Frankenstein’s Monster project is probably as close as I’ll ever get to owning my own Technic set.  And who knows?  Maybe I’ll lug it with me to KansasFest this year and we can have some fun in the dorm hallways.

Next, a Facebook thread on the MicroSci A143 drive for the Apple /// prompted me to install a trio I acquired a while back and test them out.  According to the old articles in TauTales, ON THREE and other resources from that era, the A143s are notoriously tricky to configure properly.  I didn’t run into any of the problems noted by those authors, but that may be because the driver disk had already been configured for that set of drives, so it was mostly plug and play.

I did run into the dreaded “I/O Error” bomb when I tried to format a disk in any of the three A143s, but I think that’s probably a speed adjustment or alignment that needs to happen and not due to the vagaries of drive set up and installation.  The Apple /// was able to identify and communicate with the MicroSci’s, at any rate.  I attempted to document the process by making a video with this new thing I received for my birthday:


The Zi12 was designed by Kodak and was about to go to market when they went out of business.  When Kodak’s assets went up for auction, JK Imaging bought the unsold stock and licensed the designs and the rights to continue making them (and other cameras) using the Kodak name.  More on that here:

It’s a neat camera, earning high marks on most reviews and comparing favorably with the latest GoPro models.  I suspect that the Zi12′s uncanny resemblance to a circa-2005 BlackBerry dampens the “cool” factor that the GoPro enjoys, but it’s every bit as capable.

Anyway, my awfulness at making a video was really displayed nicely in the footage I captured.  I messed around with camera settings and watched a bunch of tutorials, but I couldn’t get anything decent, other than a new-found respect for anyone able to create watchable videos with home equipment.

And finally, my ongoing battle to learn 6502 assembly language continues unabated.  I’ve been trying to absorb the lessons of the Easy6502 guide found at:

I really enjoy the interactive simulator and it has made a big difference in my learning process.  Of course, completely skipping the binary and hex math at the outset of the process is a big plus, as well.  For those keeping count (just me, I’m quite certain), my current obstacle is to understand how the carry flag works.  Admittedly, I am not making much headway, but hope springs eternal, and I’m not ready to give up just yet.

So that’s mostly what’s been happening.  6502Lane still has a pulse… sort of.

A look at an early Apple IIe

(Warning: I’ll be discussing topics that may seem extremely obscure and pointless to the casual visitor.  If you’re don’t find interesting the minor nuances in Apple II design, manufacturing and engineering over the years, this will likely be terrifically boring.)

A while back, I came into possession of an early Apple IIe and I thought it might be fun to post about it here.

This is Apple IIe serial number A2S2-01601.  The motherboard is a Rev. A, date-coded “8233″, in hand-written ink, which would put it mid-August 1982, several months before the IIe was announced in December of that year. Here’s a look at some of the chips and their date codes.

(click the ‘i’ for image captions and information)

Notes: The date code on the PCB, 8233, is the 33rd week of 1982, which (if we assume the week starts on a Sunday) puts the date of “manufacture” (probably when the board was assembled, rather than when the PCB was etched) between August 16 and 22.  Steve Jobs was 27 years old; Woz had just turned 32.

Older Apple IIs don’t necessarily match up with older power supplies, by serial number.  There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to how Apple decided which power supply went into which machine.

The “newest” chip in this Apple IIe is the MMU, with a date code of 8244, made eleven weeks after the rest of the PCB was assembled. I’m not sure if this means this batch of machines was assembled and then put on a shelf until the next shipment came in from Synertek, or if this particular computer had its MMU replaced at some point.  Judging from the pins on the chip, it doesn’t appear to have been serviced.

OKI Semiconductor used a 5-digit date code on the DRAMs that I haven’t figured out yet.  I can’t find a datasheet or manual describing how they did their encoding.  I believe that either the first two numbers, “24″, indicate the week of manufacture, and the “1″ is used for the year, assuming a 1980 decade, so these were made in the 24th week of 1981; or the first digit indicates the year “1982″ and the “41″ indicates the week, which puts them as manufactured right around the same time as everything else in this IIe.  OKI had two plants, one in Taiwan and the other in Singapore.  I suspect the “52″ and “97″ trailing numbers on the DRAMs indicate factory of origin, though I might be way off here.

Here’s a look at some of the interesting and unique case features:

(click the ‘i’ for image captions and information)

Here’s a video clip of Apple II historian and hardware expert Tony Diaz comparing this computer to Apple IIe A2S2-01345 during his “Apple II Road Show” session at KansasFest 2013.  Fascinating to see how different were their fates, considering how seemingly close they were in production order.

Tomorrow, I’ll post some photos comparing this Apple to a II Plus, as well as a later model IIe.

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.

One last dance with 6502 assembly language

Way back when (2012 or something?) I posted my intention to learn 6502 assembly language, and explained that my roadblock to this point has been an inability to get my head around binary math-by-hand.  Life, site hacks and other stuff got in the way, but I’m back to this again.  I still do think it’s possible to do without being able to multiply 1101011101011101 by 101010111110110111 without the aid of a calculator.  Someone pointed out to me that it helps to have a goal, in this case an “end-product” program that I want to write, so I’ve come up with an idea that I want to make real, or as “real” as any program code can be, I suppose.

Some people want to run a marathon before they die, or climb Everest.  I want to learn 6502 assembly language.

Retrochallenge 2014WW

I’m off to a bit of a slow start, I’ll admit, but I’m already further along than I got the entire month during the 2012WW.  So far, I’ve dusted off my Apple /// and a monitor (I love the industrial design on that thing) and been able to test the hardware.  Everything passed the diagnostics as expected, but I’ve had little luck getting much further, as I can’t locate the BOS disk that already has the preconfigured drivers to get the /// up and running with my CFFA card.

True, I could skip that for now (and I may have to if I come up empty in the next couple of days) and just boot directly to a Business BASIC disk and work that way, but I’ve come to really appreciate the speed and convenience of working off the CFFA over the past few years. Unfortunately, no one (that I’m aware of) has come up with a work-around for having to boot the /// from a floppy disk in the internal 5.25″ drive.

The other alternative is to build a new bootable BOS driver disk and work from that.  Not impossible, but that takes a fair amount of time and there’s no guarantee that I won’t accidentally wipe the existing data on the CFFA, which includes my half-finished, last-place winning KansasFest 2012 HackFest entry.  As bad as it is, I’d still hate to lose that – it’s one of the few still-existing fragments of code I wrote.

Worse, the rebuild time will have to be uninterrupted as I have a tendency not to be able to get back to a half-finished project like that.  If I don’t complete the process, it will sit incomplete for months and when I do decide to get off my butt and wrap it up, I’ll have forgotten everything I did to that point and have to start over anyway.

Then again, I could just use a blank CompactFlash card.  Still a lot of configuration, but I won’t have to be as careful about ensuring I don’t accidentally wipe it and have to start over.

So, fingers crossed that I can find that bootable disk by my self-imposed Friday deadline.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of my official Retrochallenge 2012WW setup.

2014WW Apple III