Tag Archives: Apple II

What Apple got for $10K

I discovered Ed Tracy’s fun and informative series of articles titled “Apple and the History of Personal Computer Design” this afternoon as I was looking for something to do that I could pretend was work, should the boss’s shadowy form suddenly find itself looming in my cube entry.  It ties in with his series on computer design and is a good read.  This paragraph caught my eye:

“Though thought impressive on its introduction, the plastic of the initial Apple II case was quite crudely constructed. To fit a tiny budget and tight deadline – Jerry Manock was hired only nine weeks before the West Coast Computer Faire in April 1977 where the Apple II was introduced – reaction-injection molding was used. This process is fast and inexpensive to set up, but leaves surface irregularities. Many case parts had to be sanded to fit together properly. Moreover, the light brown paint chosen did not adhere well to the polyurethane, so that surviving cases from early production inevitably have flakes revealing the lighter colour of the plastic below. By December 1977, tooling was completed for cases made out of the more durable and smooth ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) plastic which did not require painting or finishing and could be produced in larger volume (Kunkel, 15).”

The bit about the irregular cases was particularly arresting, as I’d heard before of the unique personalities of each early Apple II and how they were so physically different, a lid from one case couldn’t be used in another because it wouldn’t fit.  I could feel my post-lunch carb crash hiding in ambush in the shrubbery just up the sidewalk, wearing a 70’s era hockey goalie mask… waiting… and I decided to stave it off for a bit by researching more on this.  Nothing like reading to help you stay awake, right?

Anyway, Jerry Manock’s own web page discusses this a bit more.  In the first paragraph under the “Manufacturing Process” section of his Apple II page (found here), Manock states:

The initial units used the Reaction Injection Molding process from wooden tooling due to the very short three month design and development schedule.  The lids were hand finished, then painted, and were non-interchangible. (sic)

There’s that non-interchangeable lid thing again.  He also mentions wooden tooling, a thing I find particularly fascinating, as I have next to no knowledge of industrial design and case manufacturing.  I’ll admit that I didn’t even know wooden tools could be used in what sounds to me like a physically punishing environment.  Stuff gets all hot and melty, and there’s chemical gooeyness usually happening. Stuff that you don’t normally associate with getting chopped up and punched full of holes, gets chopped up and punched full of holes, that sort of thing.

Were they really using wooden tools to make those Apple IIs?  Why on earth would they do that? (Spoiler alert).  Money, that’s why. (Shocking revelation, I know.)  It didn’t take Google long to lead me to the March 8, 1982 issue of InfoWorld, in the search giant’s own collection of digitally available issues.  On page 12 begins an interview of one “Steven P. Jobs”, then just 26, deigning to gift the eager tech news journal readers with some of Apple’s unique philosophies and even some company history. The piece was part of the issue’s “Special Section: Apple Computer”, which I’m sure Jobs insisted upon as a condition for allowing himself to be interviewed.  Therein, he reveals the answer to my piny mystery.

To the InfoWorld interviewers’ question, “What sort of problems did you have at the beginning?“, Jobs – his penchant for bombast and hyperbole already well-developed and on full display, even at that young age – replies,

We didn’t know much about plastics back then.  We went with the Apple II case with a molding process. We didn’t have much money to make molds. So we hired an outfit in Mountain View.  The company said it would make the molds for $10,000.  The problem was, you got wooden molds for $10,000.  Well, we introduced the Apple II and all of a sudden the orders started coming in like crazy.  The wood came off the molds and a third of the cases would stick in the mold.  We almost went broke because we couldn’t get cases.  It got so bad at one point that we decided the outfit wasn’t interested in supporting us, so we went down there and some of us kept the guy busy while the rest grabbed our mold real quick.

Apple's Steven P. Jobs

Apple’s Steven P. Jobs

So there you have it.  Steve and his wild and crazy team, pulling of one caper after the next!  A totally minor bit of Apple trivia there, but a fun afternoon spent researching Apple II case manufacturing was enough to keep me awake for a fe…d.g.hkllkhndg;lhn…

sleep-computer-460_1205647c

… While visions of Reaction Injection Molding Process manufacturing danced in his head…

The End of an Era

To most people working in publishing today, the name Quark is synonymous with the publishing process itself. The Denver-based company’s flagship product, QuarkXPress, set the standard for DTP and anyone looking for a job in the industry had to have at least a basic knowledge of the program. In recent years, increased competition from Adobe’s InDesign application coupled with high prices and a poor customer service record to erode QuarkXPress’s near-monopoly. A delayed appearance on Mac OS X and comments in 2002 by CEO Fred Ebrahimi served to further alienate Quark’s core user base (ever met someone in publishing who doesn’t use a Mac as their primary platform? Yeah, me either.)

So after years of losing market and mindshare, today’s announcement that Quark has been sold to a mergers & acquisitions company intent on selling off Quark’s IP portfolio should come as no surprise.

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

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 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.

A user would first install Catalyst onto their shiny new $5,000 Apple ProFile 10 MB 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 called these disks, “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.

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.

Have you been, uh… Catalyzed?

Great stuff!

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

Word Juggler

Word Juggler was a popular word processor for the Apple II platform for many years.

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 III, Word Juggler was the first, and for years only, commercially available word processor.

Word Juggler ad from InfoWorld, Nov 30, 1981

Word Juggler wasn’t immune to Quark’s copy protection schemes and customers had to install a hardware dongle in their Apple II to get the software to boot up at all.

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.

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

Apple III: Random Appearances

The Apple III seems to show up in the strangest of places.  This video was recently posted to YouTube:

????????? ??????? – ?????! (No, I don’t know what it means, either…)

Boingboing picked it up and it had a moment or two in the viral internet sun.  Apparently, the Soviets were doing digital photo manipulation several years before the release of the first version of Photoshop, which is very cool.  But of course, what caught my eye was the Apple III the technician is using to control the PERICOLOR-1000, which is actually a French device running Russian software.  From the brief glimpses we get of the III, it’s hard to make out the keys but the “><” key in the upper right corner where the “|” is normally found on every Apple III I’ve ever seen, would seem to indicate that it’s a non-US keyboard.  Also, from the position of the Apple keys, this is an Apple III, not a III+.  I wonder if they have to pick it up three inches and drop it to reseat the chips between every image…

While the video doesn’t provide any information or historical context for the III, it’s always nice to see something like this.  Other than magazine ads from the era, and videos made in the present day by Apple III enthusiasts, Apple III-relevant multimedia is scarce.  The III appears briefly here and there in Apple II ads made when Apple was trying to convince the consumer that the III was part of the Apple II family, company shareholder reports, and not really anywhere else.   I chalk it up to Apple trying to position the III as a business machine and the fact that it had a very brief – and very rocky – lifespan.

The Apple III also gets a brief mention in this recent interview.  Eyal Akler of DaniWeb sat down with Woz and unfortunately, their discussion of the III is limited to the same old thing: its flaws.  It would be nice to see an article or interview that didn’t just rehash the technical problems suffered by the III and took a look at all the other stuff that was actually really great about Apple’s first business computer…  From an Apple II standpoint, there’s nothing new in the piece and, is it just me or do you get the sense that Woz is beginning to tire of the same old Apple II questions again and again?  Not that I blame him…

Remaking Ultima

u4

When the first Neverwinter Nights was released in 2002 (no, not that first NWN), it came with a very cool mod editor, the Aurora toolset, which allowed users to build and release their own content.  NWN isn’t the first game to come with mod tools, of course, but Bioware and Atari took it further than most other publishers had up to that point by actively promoting community content and even releasing user-created mod packs over the years following the initial release.  I played a handful of these mods, and my favorite had to be the various Ultima IV remakes.  These were basically total conversions aimed at modernizing the Ultima IV experience with the NWN Aurora engine.  While the actual playing experience of the early versions I played was hit-or-miss (the maps and models were great; the NPC dialog not so much), it was a great bit of nostalgia and a chance to replay one of my favorite Apple II games from a totally different perspective.  Development of the mods continued for quite some time – long after I’d moved on to other games – and some made the move to Neverwinter Nights 2 after its release, though I never played any of these.

neverwinternights-logo

This was all brought back to me this morning when I visited Retrogames and saw that a remake of Ultima VI using the Dungeon Siege game engine is available.  Ultima VI, of course, was the final version of the series released for the Apple II line.  Origin took a look at continuing to make new Ultima games for the Apple IIGS, but rightly decided that Apple wasn’t doing enough (or anything, really) to promote the IIGS and that the potential market would be too small to justify investing in development for the platform.

A little bit of Googling revealed that Ultima isn’t the only Apple II adventure title to get the remake treatment using a modern game engine.  The Bard’s Tale also appeared for the Aurora engine.  (I also came across Ultima: The Reconstruction, a page dedicated to tracking every remake effort out there., though it hasn’t been updated since 2007).  This got me thinking about two things: one, that I need to dig out my NWN and NWN 2 discs to give these games a second look; and two, what other Apple II games would be good candidates for the remake treatment?  The first that springs to mind is the unfinished Alternate Reality series.  Not only would it be neat to revisit a couple of my favorite titles (The City and The Dungeon were the only games that were completed), but it might be really great to finish the remaining titles that Philip Price and Paradise Programming were never able to get to.

Alternate_Reality_-_The_City_Coverart

Yes, I know that certain Apple II games have already been “remade” in various forms – Wasteland reappeared (sort of) as the Fallout series; The Oregon Trail is starting to show up on modern platforms.  Even The Bard’s Tale got a crappy remake in 2004 and there was talk as recently as a year ago of a possible Choplifter update, though there hasn’t been anything since the Gamespot post.   But it’s really neat to see some of my favorite adventure games redone by fan communities using mod tools.

What about you?  What titles would you like to see again?

Apple: Touch the Screen

Here’s a fun set of videos that were captured from a 1984 Apple Kiosk Laser Disc.  Designed to be used in a touch screen kiosk, the disc goes over the latest offerings from Apple Computer, including the Apple IIe, III Plus, Macintosh, Lisa 2/10 and the brand new, portable Apple IIc.  Other items covered include the ProFile 10 MB Hard Disk, the DuoDisk, Apple’s line of printers, Apple credit cards, and the AppleCare Extended Warranty program.

Interestingly, this is one of the only pieces of Apple III advertising, other than scanned magazine print ads, that I’ve been able to find.

 

Part 1 of 3

 

Part 2 of 3

 

Part 3 of 3