An early story of Apple II software marketing, as told by a disk label

I came across an eBay auction that had a photo of a disk in it. I tweeted the photo with a caption matching this post title.

 

But I thought it about a bit more and it actually feels like it’s worth expanding on this. There is a lot of information hiding in (or alluded to by) that photo.

Softalk v1n5 did a company overview of California Pacific Computers, in which it was mentioned that CPC had non-exclusive distribution rights to Sirius Software titles. In that same issue, Sirius had a direct sales ad for some of its products, including Both Barrels, Star Cruiser, Cyber Strike, and EZ-Draw. All of those titles were products of Nasir Gebelli, and there’s an interesting overview of Nasir’s history at The Golden Age Arcade Historian site. It includes a image of the Star Cruiser insert that reads “Synergistic Software presents.” So, Star Cruiser got around. I believe it was always a Sirius title, but it was definitely sold by California Pacific (with their own label on it, see above), and I guess also by Synergistic Software.

Both Barrels, at least, was also sold by Synergistic Software because I have one of the Synergistic versions of the disk:

It’s kind of interesting to see the CPC label simply stuck atop the Sirius label in the image I tweeted. I believe I’ve seen other ones that had the CPC label stuck over a more generic label, so this one in the photo is probably one of the early ones that Siruis would have sent to CPC for the initial distribution order, before CPC would have started duplicating their own? I guess. Certainly not something that was documented anywhere as far as I know, but that must be how it went, mustn’t it?

See? A whole story of early Apple II software marketing, as told by a disk label.

 

 

Axlon RAMDISK 320

This is the Axlon RAMDISK 320, a Disk II-sized box that can connect to the Apple II (and reportedly also to the Apple III, with a different interface card) and serve as a fast RAM disk. It looks nice. Because I assembled this in pieces, I have not actually had a chance to test it out yet, but I think I am almost at a point where I can. I got the main unit itself a couple of years ago, and recently found the missing interface card. Earlier, someone else on eBay had sold a complete unit with a bunch of the disks, and was kind enough to make copies and send them to me. So, rather than wait until I finally get around to testing this all out, here is what I have so far.

Here is one of the ads.

And a brief review from Softalk December 1982.

And here is what the actual unit looks like. It is in a box essentially identical to a Disk II drive. Inside there are RAM chips and a battery, the board says designed by MOS Sorcery. Mine got kind of knocked around in shipping, and the fuse in the back basically shattered. I also have the card for the Apple II. There was a version of this for the Apple III as well, but it must have used a different card, since this card is too long to fit in the slot of an Apple III.

 

The disks that I got with the drive were v1.1 of the DOS System Master, and v1.0 of the Pascal system master.

From a helpful eBay seller, I was able to obtain copies of a bunch more disks. This is the photo of the disks he sent me, along with copies he made of them. There are two copies of v2.0 of the DOS system master, two more copies of the Pascal v1.0 system master, a copy of v1.0 of the DOS system master, some CP/M support files, two demo disks, and a disk that says it has the source code on it. Sadly, that source code disk had read errors. I will attempt some surgery on it to see what I can retrieve but it might be effectively lost. I have not tested these really at all. The DOS disk boots.

All of these disk images can be grabbed here: axlon-ramdisk320-disks.zip

Microsoft Z-80 SoftCard manual (draft)

I recently got a (signed!) set of manuals for the “Microsoft Z-80 SoftCard” that were originally provided to the designer of the SoftCard, Don Burtis, for the purpose of proofing the text. They are interesting in that they contain some penciled corrections, and also that the product itself was called the “Z-80 SoftCard.”


Sometime after this, but before the product hit the market, Zilog asked Microsoft to remove the “Z-80” from the name, and the card was actually sold just as the Microsoft SoftCard. For comparison, here are those manuals:

I scanned the manual as it was, for the historical interest, and if you’re curious about what corrections were penciled in, I’ve noted all those that I saw in the table of contents of the PDF. Mostly they are correcting technical typos.

Z-80 SoftCard
Volume I
Z-80 SoftCard
Volume II

Apple III ProFile Sales Kit

This is the Apple III ProFile Sales Kit, for dealers, to encourage customers to buy a ProFile.

 

I have scanned the contents of the binder here:

 
Apple III ProFile Sales Kit (PDF)

It came with a bunch of Backup III disks (the program and then a 6-disk set, designed to be restored onto your ProFile). It restores a bunch of programs and a rolling demo. Here are a couple of screen shots of the rolling demo. I was successful in restoring it within the emulator and making it go.

Here are the disk images themselves: Apple III ProFile Sales Kit disks.

I did not include an image of the Apple III Business Graphics disk, and the expected VisiCalc III and Quark Catalyst disks were not there. These would all have been protected anyway. If you want the PDF scans of these disks, then: Apple III ProFile Sales Kit disk scans (PDF).




I haven’t done much real exploration with this yet, but I’m posting it here so that it’s posted, maybe you’ll be able to do the exploring before I do!

 

A few Apple III images from Ian

I have long been meaning to post these somewhere, but I will post them here for now. These are a few Apple /// disks that an online friend of mine, Ian, imaged from disks that he had around that were labeled as being for the Apple ///. I have not gone through them very thoroughly, but I have gone through them cursorily now, and I’ll put them here with any notes I have on them. If you figure out more about them, great, let me know, I’ll update this post. But just so they are somewhere.

The whole set of disk images/photos are here: ian-apple3

Here’s what’s in it:

The Apple /// Professional Solution Demo. Three disks. You boot disk 1, are asked to insert disk 2, and then you can watch a “rolling demo.” It seems though that either there were some errors in the imaging, in the emulation, or in the program itself, since for me at least it didn’t go into rolling mode properly, and I managed to get it to crash out by trying to move to a different part of the demo while it was running. The third disk (“follow-up”) is kind of interesting in that it contains a bunch of templates for the dealers to use (in Apple Writer, I believe) to follow up with potential customers who saw the demo. The text versions of these are in the “janetta” folder in the archive.



Apple II emulation disk. The disk is a copy and is labeled “64K ?” which is intriguing, since normally Apple II emulation is restricted to emulating a 48K Apple II. I’m not sure what was intended here. However, the disk when it boots looks pretty normal, except that it crashes on the couple of DOS 3.3 disks I attempted to boot with it. So.


Microsci A74/A143 driver disks. Version 1.2 and version 1.4. And something labeled “UTL”. These contain drivers.



Apple software revisions disks. Apple Access III revision, and SOS revisions A00 and A01.




Microsci Gameport III modification diskette v1.1 Apr 19 1983. Modifies the Emulation disk, presumably to allow for some kind of game input devices on Apple II games.

 

TG Products modifier. Boots on an Apple II, modifies the Apple II emulation disk, presumably to allow some TG products game input device to work with Apple II games.

Business Apple Group, Inc. Business BASIC .003. Disk of what appear to be example programs in Business BASIC. I didn’t try these out.


PKASO driver files for the Apple ///, Nov 9, 1983.


On Three Lazarus /// v2.0. Only side 1 was imaged here, but side 2 is available from apple3.org.


PFS, PFS: file, PFS: report, PFS: report sortwork. These don’t boot and are probably protected.



Quark Word Juggler data, install. Neither boots, and they’re quite probably protected.



I think that’s all of them. So, now they are on the web and Google will eventually know of them.

 

 

Apple III Record Processing Services (RPS)

I recently got ahold of an Apple III software package I had never really heard of before, the Apple III Record Processing Services (RPS). It provides libraries that allow developers to add database functionality to their applications. At this point, I have not explored it or really tested it out, I have only just scanned it. I will probably come back to this post later to update it with more information, but, for the moment, here is what came in the package. It was not sealed, and I did not get a packing list, but I think the packing list was the only thing I was missing.

apple-iii-rps-box-front Box scan
 apple-ii-rps-disk Disk scan (PDF)
Disk image: apple-iii-rps-disk.zip
 apple-iii-rps-programmers-manual Programmer’s Manual
 apple-iii-rps-errata Errata: Record Processing Service (RPS) Programmer’s Manual
 apple-iii-rps-using-the-unknown-type Technical note: RPS: Using the Unknown Type
 apple-iii-rps-box-label Box label
 apple-iii-rps-license-agreement Software License Agreement
 apple-iii-rps-auir Apple User Input Report

How to Operate the Apple II Plus

Back in 1982, computers were not as intuitive, and Apple didn’t hold workshops in the Apple stores, which didn’t exist. So, some training tools were developed by enterprising third parties, one of which was FlipTrack, who produced a three-cassette audio course called “How to Operate the Apple II Plus”. They later did one for the //e as well (which is digitized at the Brutal Deluxe site), but today it’s the II Plus.

How to operate the apple ii plus binder front How to operate the apple ii plus binder spine How to operate the apple ii plus binder back

I’ve seen ads for this around in the magazines of the day, and I’ve seen a couple pass through eBay within the past couple of years. One of those I got, and so here it is.

The “FlipTrack” concept works like this: side one of the tape has the basic lesson, interrupted relatively frequently by beeps where you are supposed to stop the tape and type whatever it is you’re working on, or wait for your television to warm up, or whatever. Occasionally there are special little bloopy noises that mean that there’s an extended part of this discussion on the other side of the tape. The procedure is to stop the tape, flip it over, reset the tape counter, listen to the extra bit, and then rewind back to zero, flip it back over, and continue forward. The stuff on the second side either dives deeper into the subject, or has information tailored for people with, e.g., two disk drives.

Opiiplus open

I digitized the tapes, but I had to make a decision about what to do with the FlipTrack parts. In the end, I just chopped it up, and flipped the tape for you. So, in these audio files you have no choice but to tread along the path with the lucky/wealthy enough to have two disk drives or be interested in the order in which mathematical operations are applied. The m4a files are about twice as big and in principle higher quality, the mp3 files are for maximum compatibility. But the quality of the original was the quality of a spoken word audio tape from the ’80s. (Edit: Actually, these are pretty clipped, even though I watched the levels fairly carefully, I may re-capture them to see if I can make it clip any less.)

There are three cassettes, a manual, a flyer and a feedback card inside the binder.

How to operate the apple ii plus operators guide

How to operate the apple ii plus flyer

How to operate the apple ii plus binder tapes

Fliptrack feedback card

How to operate the apple ii plus tape1a

How to operate the apple ii plus tape1b

How to operate the apple ii plus tape2a

How to operate the apple ii plus tape2b

How to operate the apple ii plus tape3a

How to operate the apple ii plus tape3b

Motorcycle disk drive

For no particularly good reason I found myself looking at the boot code for Jordan Mechner’s Prince of Persia, the source code for which was released to the world a little while back. I was flipping through the protection code, and found a comment that said “Motorcycle disk drive“.

Pop motorcycle disk drive

A quick glance at it revealed that, indeed, it is code that is designed to make your disk drive sound like a motorcycle. It pulls the drive head back until it starts hitting the edge and keeps going, which is basically the same thing that happens when you boot a disk (causing the characteristic Apple II booting noise from the drive). This differs only in that it is using specific delays (controlled by paddle zero) to alter the frequency of the motor turns.

That’s kind of a weird thing. When does this get executed?

Backing up a bit, I saw that when the protection check succeeds, control passes to the point labeled “:yippee“, which does the following thing: Check to see if both the open-apple and closed-apple keys and one other key is pressed. If not, everything proceeds as normal, but if so, look up the key in a dispatch table (just below the code pictured below) and jump to the address in the table.

Pop dispatch

Looking at the dispatch table, it has a few different vectors in it. One of them is for “^” which has the address for the motorcycle disk drive routine in it.

Pop dispatch table

So, if you’re holding down (open-apple, closed-apple, and) ^ at this point very early in the boot process, the code to make your disk drive sound like a motorcycle will be executed, rather than Prince of Persia. (This code is quite likely actually written by Roland Gustafsson, rather than by Jordan Mechner, since Roland was mostly in charge of dealing with the disk drives as I understand it.)

There are in fact a couple of other Easter eggs available at this same point in the boot process. OA-CA-return will give you “confusion” and OA-CA-@ will give you “rotcube”, both graphics demos, and OA-CA-! will print a little message from Jordan (Mechner) and Roland (Gustafsson) to Robert (Cook?) dated 8/25/1989 wishing him well at college and then show some randomly colored blocks.

I have yet to see these run in meatspace, though I’ve hand-assembled the motorcycle code and tried it out on an emulator. Which is a ridiculous thing to do, really—this is code that uses hardware banging against other hardware to make a noise. However, if you can compile it, OpenEmulator does in fact do a good job of emulating the sound, though Virtual II didn’t manage it despite otherwise being pretty accurate with its emulated disk noises. Copying and pasting the assembly code below at the monitor prompt will get you the hand-assembled program, though:

6000: A2 60 BD 89 C0 BD 87 C0 BD 80 C0 20 2C 60 BD 85 C0 BD 86 C0 20 2C 60 BD 83 C0 BD 84 C0 20 2C 60 BD 81 C0 BD 82 C0 20 2C 60 4C 05 60 A9 06 85 00 2C 70 C0 EA EA 2C 64 C0 30 F9 C6 00 D0 F2 60 N6000G

The other Easter eggs would take too long to hand-assemble, and I haven’t yet imported the PoP code into a compilable form for any assembler, so I’ve left it at that for now. If anyone has a real disk, real hardware, and a video-capturing machine, I’d be interested to see these Easter eggs actually being triggered.

[Update: Antoine Vignau pointed out that the secret keys were already documented in the crack documentation, and pointed to a disk image that allows you to play with the Easter eggs by pressing 1-5 upon startup: Brain Trust’s Prince of Persia crack. Still was neat to discover myself, of course!]

CompuMart catalogs from 1980

I recently got ahold of a couple of CompuMart catalogs, sent to me from across the country. Ironically, the actual CompuMart location was only about a 10 minute drive away. I know nothing about it, but I can see on Google Maps that it is clearly long gone.

Compumart 2014 gmap

But never mind. I have no knowledge of CompuMart apart from these catalogs, but the catalogs are pretty cool. A very compact collection of information, pictures, prices on quite a wide range of computers of the early 1980s. The Summer 1980 edition pre-dates the Apple ///, and the Winter-Spring 1980-81 issue announces the Apple ///. Also included are KIM-1 ads, Atari, Commodore PET, HP-85, really quite neat.

So, without further ado:

  • CompuMart Summer 1980 Microcomputer catalog (300dpi, or 600dpi)
  • CompuMart Fall-Winter 1980-81 Microcomputer catalog (300dpi, or 600dpi)
Compumart summer 1980 Compumart fall winter 1980 81

FileMover, Beagle Bros for the PC

Pretty much everybody in the Apple II community is aware of Beagle Bros, the prolific and playful early software company with a sense of humor and a hacker spirit. But it’s probably not nearly as well known that they actually did test the waters with an IBM PC title as well. FileMover was that title. I got ahold of a copy of it, kind of crushed but still shrink-wrapped.

Filemover box wrapped Page 1

This thing is rare. To find one still wrapped is even more rare, but it doesn’t do a lot of good wrapped. So, I opened it up, and here is what I found. First, the box panels:

Filemover box Page 1 Filemover box Page 4
Filemover box Page 2 Filemover box Page 3

Inside the box was the disk, along with a little insert with instructions (though still Apple-centric) on what to do if the disk goes bad, a sticker, the manual, and a wall poster. With Apple titles, the wall poster was generally some useful programming information, likes “Peeks & Pokes” or 6502 opcodes. In the FileMover package, the wall poster has some Pascal programming information on one side, and the disk treatment warning graphics on the other.

Filemover disk Page 1 Filemover disk Page 2
Filemover disk problems Page 1 Filemover disk problems Page 2
Filemover sticker Page 1 Filemover sticker Page 2
Turbo pascal poster Page 1 Turbo pascal poster Page 2
Filemover manual  

The program itself is a relatively straightforward file handling utility, allowing you to delete files, rename them, move them around, etc.

Filemover splash
Filemover directory

The disk includes the Pascal source code for the program, as well as a couple of other things. There’s actually an “Easter Egg” of a sort as well. There’s a hidden file called DONTREAD.ME, which you can see in the file listing above, but which does not appear in a regular DIR of the disk. If you TYPE DONTREAD.ME, you get a secret message. I’m going to reveal it here.

Filemover dontread me

Anyway, although the program itself is ok, it’s probably mostly interesting due to the fact that—as far as I know, at least—it is the only program Beagle Bros ever released for the PC. And the Pascal source code is probably interesting to look through as well. Someday I might do that.

Here are links to all the stuff. When I tried to run this under FreeDOS, it didn’t work, but it did work under DOS 3.3 at least. I captured the disk image using a Kryoflux, although the image is not protected. At the moment, the disk image is a bit larger than it needs to be I think, but it did work under emulation.