Tag Archives: Apple II

Apple II S/N 5025 (continued)

After last month’s post about A2S1-5025, I received several requests for photos of specific areas of the machine that were not visible in the first set of pictures. Here you go:

This is the keyboard, removed from the case.

Rev 0 Keyboard (second version)

Rev 0 Keyboard (second version)

Bottom of the keyboard.

Apple II Rev 0 keyboard, second version - from the bottom.

Apple II Rev 0 keyboard, second version – from the bottom.

Apple part number 01-0425-01 is described in the Apple II/II-Plus Level II Service Manual (1981, Pre-Release Version, available in PDF format here – do a text search for “keyboard varieties” in the file) as “The first Apple keyboard,” but it is not. The early revision 0’s shipped with 01-0341-01, an example of which can be viewed here.

As with the Apple II board itself, the early days of production saw the keyboard undergo a number of changes more evolutionary than revolutionary. The circuit board was made shorter and wider to better fit the case, with the silver leaf plates formerly used to secure the keyboard to the plastic sacrificed to make room for the reconfigured electronics. The silk-screened Apple part number was moved from the lower right to left…

Apple II keyboard second version (01-0425-01)

Apple II keyboard second version (01-0425-01)

The encoder chip and associated electronics were migrated to the lower right…

Apple II Rev 0 keyboard encoder chip

Apple II Rev 0 keyboard encoder chip

These long, threaded, brass posts lined up with the spacers on the PCB to provide a mounting system.

Threaded brass posts affix the keyboard to the case.

Threaded brass posts affix the keyboard to the case.

The mounting set up is reinforced with these hollow spacers that also align the keyboard assembly on the brass posts.

Hollow spacers provide guides for the posts and reinforce the mounting.

Hollow spacers provide guides for the posts and reinforce the mounting.

Here’s the upper shell, removed from the base pan and keyboard.

Apple II Rev 0 case - upper shell

Apple II Rev 0 case – upper shell

Close up of the black nylon “velcro” lid fastener pad.

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When trying to determine whether an Apple II is a revision 0 or some later production model, there are a few identifying markers on the motherboard that can quickly be verified. One of the indicators easiest to identify is the presence (or lack) of the color killer circuit, which includes a transistor visible on the PCB in the area to the right of the CPU, between rows F and H (there’s no row G), like so:

Color-kill circuit transistor.

Color-kill circuit transistor.

This circuit was added to production beginning with the revision 1 boards so it’s simple math: no transistor means the board is a revision 0.

All revision 0 boards, and only revision 0 boards, lack the color kill circuit. (I, on the other hand, lack grammatical skills apparently.)

All revision 0 boards, and only revision 0 boards, lack the color kill circuit. (I, on the other hand, lack grammatical skills apparently.)

Another “dead giveaway” that you’re looking at revision 0 board can be found under the 6502 chip. Or rather, not found. All Apple II boards beginning with the revision 1 run were assigned a part number which, early on, could be found by taking a peek under the processor. As an example, here’s what you see when you pry up the CPU on a rev 0 board, with the revision 4 Apple II Plus below it.

Rev 0. No part number under the CPU.

Rev 0. No part number under the CPU.

Apple II Plus rev 4 part number under the CPU.

Apple II Plus rev 4 part number under the CPU.

These memory select jumper blocks allowed users to upgrade their memory easily. Simply plug-in your new DRAMs and insert the appropriate jumper blocks to let the computer know how much memory it had to work with. The presence of these, while an indicator that you are looking at an early Apple II board, doesn’t guarantee a revision 0. Later boards shipped with them soldered in place and at some point they were removed altogether.

Revision 0 memory blocks, not soldered.

Revision 0 memory blocks, not soldered.

This is one that often gets missed in auction photos on eBay because of the awkward position you have to hold your phone in to get a clear shot, but a surefire indicator is the copyright date that appears just above the system ROMs and below the Apple Computer logo. Only revision 0’s are marked ‘1977’; every thing after that stamped with a 1978 copyright (or later.)

Only Revision 0 boards are (c) 1977.

Only Revision 0 boards are (c) 1977.

Someone asked for a shot of the underside of the 6502, so here you go. I assume “PHIL.” means it was manufactured in the Philippines. No idea what the other text might mean.

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I’ve got a few more areas to cover, but that’s probably enough for now. I’ll knock the rest out in a third post next week.

Apple II S/N 5025

A few people have suggested that I document my revision 0 Apple II computer, so here you go.

I obtained this computer in 2014, as thanks in part for helping a grieving widow organize and clear out her late husband’s vintage computing collection. The computer does not work. Photos and stuff start here:

Apple II and Disk II Drive

Apple II and Disk II Drive

This is a revision 0 Apple II, one of the first 6000 produced. It was made late in the run, bearing case number A2S1-5025.

Apple II serial number sticker

Apple II serial number sticker

According to the accompanying receipt, this Apple II was purchased at a store called Computer Workshop of Kansas City on North Oak Street in Kansas City, Missouri on July 19, 1978, more than a year after the official introduction at the West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco. The original owner paid $1,197.44 ($1,150.00 + $47.44 in tax) for the computer. According to the US government’s CPI inflation calculator, that would be $4,358.83 in 2015. The receipt unfortunately does not have the Apple II’s serial number written on it but I have no reason to doubt its authenticity.

Apple II S/N A2S1-5025 - sales receipt

Apple II S/N A2S1-5025 – sales receipt

Here’s a look at the base pan.

Apple II Rev 0 S/N A2S1-5025 - base pan

Apple II Rev 0 S/N A2S1-5025 – base pan

The motherboard bears the serial number 5206, handwritten in black permanent marker. The discrepancy between case and board numbers is due to the fact that Apple also sold the II as a board-only DIY kit to hobbyists. These boards drew from the same pool of serial numbers but didn’t come with cases. The white serial number square is beginning to flake away and I’m concerned because I don’t know how to stop this process.

Rev. 0 Apple II - board number 5206

Rev. 0 Apple II – board number 5206

At some point, the original power supply was replaced with this later one. I haven’t had any luck locating a unit for sale that would be period-correct.

Rev. 0 Apple II - upgraded power supply

Rev. 0 Apple II – upgraded power supply

Here’s a photo of the 1977 copyright date found on revision 0 boards, and the CPU. The datecode on the 6502 reads 7807 – the 7th week of 1978. Oriented just above the chip in the photo, you can see the ends of the dark olive green slot connectors that Apple used in the latter stages of the revision 0 production run.

Rev. 0 Apple II - 6502 CPU

Rev. 0 Apple II – 6502 CPU

Here’s a close up of the machine ROMs and a row of DRAM chips. The date codes all look right for this machine.

Rev. 0 Apple II - ROMS and DRAMs

Rev. 0 Apple II – ROMS and DRAMs

Most RF modulators installed in these early Apple IIs were the “Sup’R’Mod” type, but the one installed in my Apple II looks like a generic version.

Apple II Rev 0 RF Modulator

Apple II Rev 0 RF Modulator

Here’s the keyboard, with the raised power light.

Apple II Rev 0 keyboard

Apple II Rev 0 keyboard

… and the keyboard PCB with the inspection date of May 10, 1978.

Keyboard Inspection Stamp

Keyboard Inspection Stamp

The Disk II drive is an early model, bearing serial number 00562. According to the accompanying paperwork, the drive was purchased on September 27, 1978 at the Team Electronics store in the Conestoga Mall in Grand Island, Nebraska. At some point, a write-protect control switch hack was installed.

Disk II Drive, S/N A2M0003-00562

Disk II Drive, S/N A2M0003-00562

One cosmetic difference between the early Disk II drive models and later ones (aside from the rainbow cable) is visible on closer inspection. The lower area of black plastic on the face plate is shiny on the earliest Disk II’s. In later examples, the finish has been changed to matte. I have vague memories of Tony Diaz explaining why they made the change, from some long-ago KansasFest, but it escapes me.

Disk II faceplate - old version

Disk II faceplate – old version

Disk II faceplate - new version

Disk II faceplate – new version

Here’s the Disk II Drive Controller card. Based on the date codes on the chips. the P5 and P6 PROMs were replaced at some point.

Disk II Controller Card

Disk II Controller Card

Here’s the receipt for the Disk II Drive from the Team Electronics store.

Disk II Drive Receipt

Disk II Drive Receipt

The case lid…

Apple II Rev 0 case lid

Apple II Rev 0 case lid

… and the underside of the lid.

Apple II Rev 0 case lid bottom

Apple II Rev 0 case lid bottom

The warranty paper work for the Apple II consisted of this card. The one that shipped with the Disk II Drive is identical.

Apple II Rev 0 limited warranty card

Apple II Rev 0 limited warranty card

And that’s pretty much it. The computer doesn’t work – you can see the problem here:

I’ve done all the simple troubleshooting (chip swapping, etc) that I know how; it’s probably a problem for a skilled electronics technician. Maybe someday…

Quark. Only mostly dead.

Back in 2011, it was widely reported that Quark, the legendary maker of software that at one time was the cornerstone of the desktop publishing industry, had been purchased by Los Angeles-based mergers and acquisitions firm Platinum Equity. Quark’s star had been waning for years by then, its once-sterling reputation now tarnished by a series of blunders in what appeared to be a deliberate and targeted campaign of ill will against its primary customers, Mac users in the industry.  Increasing pressure from Adobe’s encroachment into the publishing space and a CEO that couldn’t keep his mouth shut accelerated the fall, so no one was really surprised when news of the sale broke.  The common speculation was that the whatever valuable IP remained would be sold off to the highest bidder and the company dissolved.  An ignominious end to a sad story, indeed.

Quark global headquarters in downtown Denver, Colorado.

Quark global headquarters in downtown Denver, Colorado.

Sensitive as I am to such things as the suffering of others, I exploited the opportunity to write a post about some of my favorite Apple II and /// products from Quark’s early days.  And, like everyone else, I was expecting the worst for Quark.

Well, turns out they’re still in business.  As I was trying to restore some of the old articles that existed here a few years back, I did a little Googling and yep – they’re still around.  I’m not sure what they’re doing these days.  Gaining market share lost to Adobe doesn’t seem to be a priority, but Platinum Equity is content to let them keep at it.  And that’s cool – my “not so fond farewell” can wait.  Here’s the old article, with the stuff about Quark’s demise excised.


This post originally appeared on 6502lane.net on August 9, 2011.

Those of us who have been playing around with computers for a bit longer than the average user probably remember Quark for more than just a powerful desktop publishing application. Here’s a quick look at some of the stuff they produced for my favorite 8-bit home computer, the Apple II (and III!). Don’t worry, the list is short.

Catalyst

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Quark was an early proponent of DRM and implemented draconian copy protection schemes in their products. Catalyst was designed as a program selector to assist Apple /// users in loading their expensive business products from diskette onto their new, even more expensive hard disk systems while retaining their copy protection. They were going for the best of both worlds here, and didn’t really attain either.

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An Apple /// user would first install Catalyst onto their shiny new $5,000 10 MB ProFile drive and then, through a series of convoluted steps, load various pieces of software into Catalyst. During the install, the user’s original diskettes would be disabled and permanently tied to the Catalyst diskette so that the originals would no longer boot and could only be reinstalled to the hard drive through the specific copy of Quark’s program to which they were tied. Quark whimsically referred to these lobotomized disks as, “Catalyzed”.

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Have you been… uh… Catalyzed?

Additionally, if your newly enslaved applications required access to your printer, Catalyst had to be manually configured through a quick, 30-step process… Okay, maybe not so quick.

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Catalyst itself was also copy protected and featured a serial number so that once “Catalyzed” your applications couldn’t be loaded by a copy with a different serial number.

You can imagine the headache you were in for if you one day decided to move to a different program selector to access your programs once they had been modified.

A version of Catalyst creatively called “Catalyst IIe” was eventually introduced for the Apple IIe and IIc.

Word Juggler

word-juggler-review-infoworld-july-05-82

Quark’s word processor for the Apple II line was known for its ease of use, extensive feature set and simple learning curve and matched up well against AppleWriter, which served as Word Juggler’s main competition until the AppleWorks suite was released by Apple in 1984. On the Apple ///, Word Juggler was the first, and for years only, commercially available word processor.

Apple recommended Word Juggler and even sold copies directly to customers and through dealer retail shelves while its own offering, Apple Writer ///, floundered in development hell.

Word Juggler ad from InfoWorld, Nov 30, 1981

Word Juggler ad from InfoWorld, Nov 30, 1981

On your Apple II, it came with a custom set of keycaps, silk-screened with convenient command information, and a nice keyboard template of sorts, that you could align with your number keys for easy reference while working.  Fancy.

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Word Juggler wasn’t immune to Quark’s copy protection efforts and customers had to install a hardware dongle in their Apple II to get the software to boot up at all. All that convenience and flare didn’t come for free, it seems.

quark-hardware-dongle

Lurking silently in your Apple II, protecting Quark’s IP.

And that pretty much wraps it up for Quark’s 8-bit Apple software offerings. They also sold a number of minor applications, most designed to enhance Word Juggler. Lexicheck was an 8,000-word spelling checker; Terminus provided telecommunications functionality; Mail List Manager Interface also integrated with Word Juggler as did TypeFace, giving you access to typesetting equipment, should you have it.

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And so we bid a not-so-fond farewell to the corporate entity known as Quark, Inc.

Perhaps Quark, Inc.’s final chapter has yet to be written…

Apple III by the Numbers

As one of the half-dozen or so Apple /// fans out there, I am often quizzed by skeptical Apple II users about the computer that has sometimes been compared to the Ford Edsel.  Usually, these grillings immediately follow a post (or occasional KansasFest presentation) in which I point out some of the obvious improvements and superior features of the /// as compared to the earlier home computer from Cupertino, and the queries inevitably include this one:

“Is the Apple /// really *that* much faster than the II?”

And the answer is simple: Yes.  Sort of.  Sometimes. Maybe.

Early reviews in trade magazines dated around the NCC ’80 introduction often mentioned that the Synertek 6502A (or later B) was advertised by Apple as “peak 2 MHz” and that more realistically, the /// tops out between 1.4 MHz and 1.8 MHz, depending on a number of factors, including the task you’re asking it to perform, how many device drivers are active, the version of SOS you’re running, etc.

(Note: SOS 1.1, which was used in the BYTE article referenced below and its predecessor, 1.0 were notorious resource hogs and ate away at precious CPU cycles and bytes of RAM even while sitting idle.  Most of the bugs, as well as the bloat, were squashed with SOS 1.3 and if you’re using a real /// at home, you really shouldn’t be messing about with those older releases… your /// tip of the day folks.  For the discussion below, SOS’s performance doesn’t factor in much until the disk tests.)

The common wisdom from the era is that in early ///’s, you could reasonably expect 1.2 MHz – 1.4 MHz and in later models with improved hardware and leaner software, around 1.6 MHz.  The reviewers are also careful to state that unlike the II, the /// was designed so that the 6502 had a handful of supporting ICs to which it could hand off tasks so even in 1980, true MHz numbers could be deceiving.  Additionally, engineers came up with a clever trick to squeeze an extra .2 MHz out of the aging CPU: if you didn’t need to interact with the /// or see what was going on (e.g., during a big sort or heavy number crunching), you could tap CTRL-5 to shut off the video signal generation circuitry.  Even cooler was the fact that certain programs such as VisiCalc were smart enough to notice this and automatically re-enable the video as soon as the operation was finished.  Neat!

One of the reasons I miss BYTE magazine (the old BYTE, like pre-1992-ish) is their extensive reviews that got way down to the metal and dug around for all the good stuff (and the bad stuff too that the companies didn’t want you to see).

September 1982 issue of BYTE.  Chock full o' geeky goodness

September 1982 issue of BYTE. Chock full o’ hobbyist goodness.

When Apple launched the re-introduction PR blitz for the /// in late 1981/early 1982, BYTE took another look at the “newly revised” business computer.  Apple had been touting the improved horsepower beneath the 26 lb. pressed-aluminum RFI chassis and how much better it was at number crunching, sorts and other functions the pinstripe Wall Street crowd would love, even two years after its release.  As part of the review in the September 1982 issue of BYTE, author Robin Moore decided to run the numbers and see how much spin was really coming from Apple.

Remember that when the /// was initially released in 1980, the IBM PC was still months away from retail shelves, so there wasn’t an interesting comparison to be done.  Revisiting the /// in-depth like this was really beneficial because Apple considered the PC its primary competition on the business desktop.  And Moore helpfully included Apple II numbers for us fanboys too!

Something else to keep in mind before we dive in: by the time this review was published, the /// was approaching its third birthday and had come down in price somewhat, but was still much more expensive than a II stuffed with expansion cards to approximate functionality.  Apple listed a 128K /// at $3,495; 256K /// at $4,295; and a monochrome Apple Monitor /// at $320.

The /// used in these tests was a 128K model with the Synertek 6502B, a single external Disk /// Drive, and Business BASIC.  Total price: $4,115.

The IBM PC was a 4.77 MHz Intel 8088-based system with 48K base memory, a disk adapter card and one 160K internal floppy drive, a 16K memory / game adapter expansion card, a single additional floppy drive (the PC could only handle one external drive at the time), a RS-232C interface card, another 64K memory expansion card, a color graphics adapter card, and IBM Advanced BASIC.  All of these add-ons brought the PC approximately up to what was available in-built to the ///.

Welcome, IBM. Seriously.

Even with the extras you’d have to buy to match specs, the PC was still slightly cheaper, at $3,980.  On the other hand, this configuration maxed out all the expansion possibilities in the IBM; the Apple still had four free slots available to the user, plus the interface ports on the rear of the computer.

A fourth machine, a 4 MHz Z80 whose brand Moore doesn’t mention, is also given a lane in this digital derby.  This machine was tested with Microsoft MBASIC 4.51.

Moore takes a moment to note the difference in sales philosophy between the two companies.  Apple’s approach was to build in all the “good stuff” a business user might need and then charge accordingly, whereas IBM sold you a basic machine at a lower cost and let you fill it up with whatever you felt you’d need to get the job done.  Interesting that IBM’s thinking was much closer to how the Apple II was developed and marketed than Apple’s own offering.

Apple /// vs IBM PC: Price

Apple /// vs IBM PC: Price

Moore doesn’t list what he put in the II (and in fact, he may have run the tests in the ///’s Apple II Emulation mode, which obviously invalidates those results as anything but a curiosity), but he does pause to mention how differently Apple viewed its potential /// customers from the II buyers, and he does it by pointing out the documentation that ships (or rather, doesn’t) with the ///:

“Much of the technical information included in the Apple II is absent in the Apple /// package.  There is no discussion of bus structure, I/O addressing, memory usage, or screen-memory mapping.  There are no listings published for any of the system software, either in the Apple /// ROMs or on disk.  Apple does not even tell you about the monitor program in the ROMs…”

Moore goes on to check out the hardware (he really seems to like it – a man of impeccable taste, obviously…), features unique to SOS, graphics modes, INVOKABLES and other points of interest before he gets down to business and pits the machines against each other in a brutal performance deathmatch. Well, maybe not quite that dramatic… (I’ll have a link to a PDF scan of the original review at the end of this post, if you want to read the whole thing.)

Let’s take a look…

All of the benchmarks are done in the machines’ respective versions of BASIC and Moore lets us know that the ///’s 6502B is crippled right out of the gate by its own language:

The price of doing Business... BASIC.

The price of doing Business… BASIC.

He also notes that Business BASIC will likely see bigger performance gains over Applesoft with larger programs, and that the tests didn’t include the video blanking trick in the ///, costing it seconds in the final numbers.

Moore’s routines include a number of simple instruction sets, all of which seem likely to be functions commonly used by BASIC programmers: IF… THEN statements, REM execution, basic maths and variable handling, prime numbers, loops, etc.; as well as disk access times for floppies and fixed-media systems.

Moore puts the machines through their BASIC paces.

Moore puts the machines through their BASIC paces.

And… drum roll please… dah duh-duh daaaaaaah!

And the winner is...

And the winner is…

It’s clear that while the ///’s Business BASIC enjoys a slight-to-medium advantage in some (but not most) program execution areas when tested against the II running Applesoft, it’s really no contest when it faces the IBM PC and the Z80.  As expected, the II drops far back when tasked with complex math functions, but the /// still isn’t close to the other competitors.  The results are undeniable: across the board, the /// just can’t keep up.

At least in Business BASIC.

Unfortunately, Moore’s benchmarks are rather narrow in scope (in fact, it appears he didn’t test the PC or the Z80 himself, but pulled the numbers from another BYTE article).  It would have been nice to see how the /// stacks up when flexing some serious spreadsheet calculation muscle in Advanced VisiCalc (to be fair, the PC’s killer app, Lotus 1-2-3 wouldn’t be released until the year following Moore’s review), or Pascal program execution, or in a mixed BASIC and assembly environment.  Other critical testing areas such as graphics performance are absent as well.

So what’s the lesson here?

It’s something you still hear today, that “megahertz don’t matter”. And that’s true in the general sense (due to their efficient RISC architecture, both DEC’s Alpha and Motorola’s 680×0 chips for years easily outperformed similarly clocked Intel processors, for example), but a battery of focused benchmarks can give you a good overall view of where one machine is going to shine… or stumble.

Also remember that Moore’s tests don’t take into account the ~ 30% speed increase gained from disabling the ///’s video circuitry, so the gaps may be narrower than they first appear.

And finally, considering all the complex memory bank switching and other voodoo the /// system has to do behind the scenes to trick the 6502 into seamlessly accessing as much as 512K, the fact that it didn’t fall hopelessly behind the simpler, more elegant Apple II is a testament to the brilliant engineering that really is present in the ///.

On the other hand, given those same very thin apparent margins over the II (again, assuming that the Applesoft tests weren’t run in emulation) and the significant price disparity and divergent design philosophies behind the machines, it’s easy to see why the /// had a such a hard time finding a place of its own in an increasingly crowded and cut-throat marketplace.

Tomorrow, we’ll go over the rest of the article, where Moore looks at the all important disk seek/access times…