Tag Archives: Apple III

German Apple /// ad

I found this Apple /// ad over at Zock.com, a German collector’s website.  It features the familiar flow of text wrapped around a “stretched” graphic of the Apple Monitor /// hovering above the ProFile drive, which itself floats over the main /// unit.

"Apple ///. The personal computer with the new ProFile." (click for full size image.)

“Apple ///. The personal computer with the new ProFile.” (click for full size image.)

Here’s a rough translation, courtesy Google’s handy utility:

Apple ///. The personal computer with the new ProFile.

Apple’s Third Generation. No question – personal computers are becoming more popular. And the number of suppliers is large. But before you buy any personal computer should you choose to progress rather equal; Apple’s third generation.

Apple III. The most powerful personal computer on the market. It will benefit them more than you think possible. To make it easier and faster than ever to do business transactions of all kinds.

Comprehensive Software. The Apple /// are the most advanced program packages are available simultaneously.

How VisiCalc for your plans, budgets or administrative costs.

In connection with the Business Graphics software package, you can implement the developed VisiCalc with data directly in graphics, drawings, diagrams, or tables.

Mail List Manager, another program from Apple, helps you to manage up to 960 names and addresses and print them. With any accessibility – according to your wishes. Alphabetically, postal codes or own search terms.

Take added Apple Writer /// software and a printer – and you have a complete text system. With 90% of the performance of the specific word processing computer. Incidentally, almost all programs of the Apple II also run on the Apple ///.

Integrated Data Processing. Exclusive to the Apple /// is the program package ACCESS ///. This enables you to change and returned able to take data from mainframe computers.

Personal Storage. Do you want more, take ProFile it. The special Apple /// hard disk space. More than 5 million characters are stored directly. Which approximately 1200 pages of text corresponding to A4 – enough to manage the data of a middle operation.

Growing with Apple ///. We want your Apple /// according to your requirements grow. And have therefore constructed him that you can connect almost any kind of peripherals. Expandable up to 256 KBytes RAM will help you just as the powerful operating systems SOS, DOS, UCSD and CP / M. What other personal computer has already four operating systems?

Apple /// for the Software Developer. With Apple /// Pascal software developers is the right tool available: A performance operating computer language.

Full-service through the Dealer Network. Service for your Apple /// offer in Germany over 200 dealers. Visit your nearest Apple dealer. And find out for yourself what is true computer performance.

With the exception of the ACCESS /// paragraph, the translator is remarkably good.  Here’s the text in the lower right corner:

Want to know more? Then please fill out this coupon and send it to: Apple Computer Marketing GmbH, Maximilian Street 29, 8000 Munich 22nd

I am interested in:

Commercial Solutions
Software Development

And of course, Apple’s slogan:

Apple.  The Personal Computer.

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…

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

Crying wolf

6502Lane is back.  (You’re reading this, aren’t you?)

Exciting news, right?  Probably it has lost a bit of its edge though, considering I take it offline every two or three months in a storm of tears and drama, and then bring it back again, often just hours later.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Honestly, I didn’t expect to stand it up ever again after the most recent decommissioning: the domain was set to expire after the end of the current registration and I felt I was done.

It had become clear the vintage computing book I was attempting to write wasn’t going anywhere and my entropy in community involvement was making it a more and more attractive prospect to clean out my storage space of Apple II and /// computers and documentation that hadn’t been touched in more than a decade.

The ever-increasing content theft and personal attacks both within the vintage computing hobby and beyond combined with my frustration at the crude nature of today’s blogging tools and a general waning of personal interest in the Apple II platform to dull my passion.  I was happy to move on.

Former readers of this blog, tired of my cry-wolf, rage-quit-and-return antics, agreed and stayed away in droves.

And then a post appeared in the “Apple /// Enthusiasts” group on Facebook.  Another user had come to a similar point in his life and offered up his extensive collection, hoping it would go to someone who would cherish and enjoy it, as he just didn’t have time any more and the focus of his priorities had shifted away from his former interest.  I (and I’m sure about a dozen other collectors, hobbyists and recyclers) immediately contacted him and while I didn’t score the bulk of his holdings (most of which ended up on eBay a short while later for a king’s ransom), I did land a couple of interesting items that I’ll document here at some point.

As the bartering and electronic payments were flying back and forth between us at a furious pace, my RSS reader gently nudged me, reminding me that it was time to sign up for the impending Retrochallenge 2014 Winter Warm Up, or at least make a note of it for an upcoming episode of Open Apple.

Two years ago, I’d entered 2012WW with the intention of doing something – anything – with my Apple ///, but when you reach your 40s, time really begins to slip quickly past and before I knew it, I had less than a week left in the 30-day retro computing competition.  Disappointed, I withdrew but promised myself to return someday.  And that day, I felt, was here so I sent off an email to the organizer, announcing my entry and all was happy.

But there was a snag.  You see, entry into the Retrochallenge requires an active blog, so the community can follow your progress and everyone can join in the fun.  To make an already overlong story slightly less so, 6502Lane is back, apple2scans.net is back (though without most of the previous content … more on that later) and I’m going to be doing something with my Apple /// for the 2014WW.  I’m thinking music and video — something you couldn’t easily do on an Apple II, much like Andy Hertzfeld’s inspiration for the Running Horses demo so many years ago.

There’s more to this sordid tale, but I’m out of practice and winded, so I’ll post more later.