The beginning…

2008 October 18
by JJ Sonick

My first Apple II was a IIe, the computer of my youth, the computer of endless days of playing the early Ultimas and the Infocom text adventures, of planning a super-elaborate world to implement in Stuart Smith’s Adventure Construction Set which I never got close to finishing it, of being amazed I could make the computer do something with BASIC, even though I had none of the attention span to program anything substantial.  Needless to say, I have very fond memories of that computer I grew up with.

In the late 90′s, when I first ventured onto the wild Internet, I was amazed and delighted at the existence of Apple II emulators and disk images that let me re-live some of the fond memories of my youth.  But as charming as the emulators were, it still wasn’t quite the same thing.

Fortunately for me there existed a Goodwill Computer Store right on the other side of the freeway from the Half Price Books store I worked at when I lived in Austin, Texas.  For a mere $15 I acquired an Apple IIe, color monitor, and 2 disk drives.  I also discovered eBay and started tracking down games familiar and unfamiliar that I wanted to play on the trusty IIe, as well as ransacking my parent’s attic to uncover some of the games I’d owned as a kid (amazingly, my mother had no thrown many of them out).  A little while after the same Goodwill store offered up an Apple IIc with 128k which would allow me to play some games that the IIe couldn’t (I hadn’t real spent time looking online for a memory card for the IIe, and the IIc was only $10, so how could I resist?

I had great fun with that IIe and IIc, but there was always the problem of space – I had a computer desk for the PC I used for modern computing concerns, so whichever Apple II I was going to use had to live in some akward corner of my bedroom.  This resulting in them never getting used as much as they could have been.  The IIe ended up dying of unknown causes (old age?) a little while after I moved to San Francisco in 2000.  The IIc lasted much longer, carrying on strong til early last year (2007) when it got fried by a power surge that brought down my entire street block (as well as my TV, DVD player, PC, I don’t remember what else – some neighbors had their refrigerators fried, so I considered myself lucky – and yes, I was using a surge protector, but a surge protector plugged into a socket with faulty wiring (insert doh! emoticon)).

There was painful attempt at rebuilding my PC which lead to so many hardware nightmares that I threw in the towel and did something I’d been contemplating for awhile – switch to a Mac.  The fact that Boot Camp seemed fairly stable at this point was a big tipping factor, meaning I would not have to ditch all the Window software I’d paid for over the years.  Anyway, the relevance of my switch to Mac to old-school Apple concerns is that my new MacBook Pro laptop lives, for the most part, on my living room table in front of my couch which means… the old PC table was available to hold a Apple II!

So just last month I acquired a IIc through ebay and a IIe through online retailer Digital Dinos.  The monitor I had for the previous Apple II ‘set’ miraculously survived the Great Electrical Purge of 2007, so I didn’t need to go monitor hunting again.

The Apple IIe is still boxed up, as the compact form of the Apple IIc is better suited to how I have the desk set up, but the IIe will gets its turn for sure.  But right now, the IIc has the place of honor:

I really should have started this blog last month, as my Apple II (re)-explorations have already taken me in several different directions, and my first several posts will be playing catch-up to cover those.

Before I finish this post, I should perhaps answer the question, “Why?  Why this interest in this decades-old hardware and software?” Well, it’s fair to say I have a fascination with retro-gaming and retro-computing in general. Nostalgia is obviously a strong part of it.  So would I have any interest in this stuff if I hadn’t experienced it as a child?  This was partially answered for me when I became fascinated for a good deal of time with a ZX Spectrum emulator and the games available for it.  The Spectrum was a 8-bit computer I had never seen or touched as a kid, but I found myself intrigued by some of its best games, in a way that was similar to interest in Apple II games I had never played as a kid.  I think what interests me in these cases is seeing how much a person or a team could pull out a system that has some very tough constraints (and in the Apple II’s case, serious quirks – I don’t know how quirky the Spectrum’s workings are or aren’t).  There’s something inspiring about that creative effort within tight confines – especially when the final product retains some magic despite being run on (emulated or actual) decades-old technology. Examining those creative efforts will be part of what the blog covers, as I survey some of the Apple II games and apps of the past (and of course, some marvelous creations of the present, like Michael J. Mahon’s Real-Time Synthesizer.)

The other part of the blog will me inexpertly bungling around trying to create some new Apple II programs myself, and seeing what odd experiments can arise.  And overall, I’ll have some fun. :)

3 Comments leave one →
2008 October 19
Pirate Mitch permalink

I’ll be following your RSSes.

2008 October 20
chigdon permalink

I remember using one of these in the computer lab at school. We had a BASIC programming assignment where my lab partner insisted on plotting out a picture of a pickle with a cape.

“Super Pickle,” he’d proclaim. It was obvious what we were making, but the why escaped me. “Why?” I asked. “Because Super Dave is funny,” was the general reasoning behind it. I didn’t get HBO, so I really wasn’t too familiar with the man (who now is apparently on Curb Your Enthusiasm, but I still don’t get HBO).

Thanks Josh for bringing back that confusing part of my childhood.

2008 October 22

Thanks, Pirate Mitch!

chigdon, glad I could bring back the magic of the Super Pickle for you! Maybe I’ll draw my own flying pickle with cape Apple II graphic in tribute to that moment. :)

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