Aug 092016
 

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
Feb 102015
 

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

Aug 162014
 

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!]

Jun 252014
 

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
Jun 122014
 

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.

Jun 112014
 

I’d always been fairly aware of the Peelings II magazine back during the early 1980s when the Apple II was going strong, because they advertised fairly aggressively in things that I did read, but for some reason I’d never really read any of the issues. Probably this is because the magazine wasn’t sold on any newsstands I had easy access to, and I was never motivated to subscribe. Looking at it now, though, it’s pretty interesting. It’s essentially a magazine of reviews, and as such, it provides quite a bit of useful information for the modern-day retrocomputing enthusiast.

Peelings ii v4n1 7

I looked around a bit, but I couldn’t find any issues scanned online. I have exactly seven issues of the magazine, the first 7 issues of 1983. The issues don’t have dates on them (apart from “1983”), but it appears that Peelings II came out 9 times per year.

So, I scanned the ones I have. And they are linked below. They’re scanned at 600dpi, so the files are fairly large.

Peelings ii v4n1 Peelings ii v4n2
Peelings ii v4n3 Peelings ii v4n4
Peelings ii v4n5 Peelings ii v4n6
Peelings ii v4n7  
Jan 232014
 

Softalk was one of the most highly regarded computer magazines focused on the Apple II series of computers, running from September 1980 until August 1984. They’ve been mentioned here before. In the later years, however, the publishers branched out to a couple of other platforms. There was a second magazine called Softalk for the IBM PC, which was—well—Softalk, for the IBM PC. But there was also a Softalk magazine devoted to the Mac, upon its release. This was ST.Mac, which is etymologically “Softalk” with a filetype/extension “.Mac”, although it also seems to have gone by “Saint Mac” as well.

Stmac

ST.Mac launched just after the original Macintosh did, its first issue covered February 1984. Monthly issues followed, although unfortunately not for long—the whole Softalk enterprise pretty much stopped after August 1984, including both the original Apple II Softalk magazine and ST.Mac. So, all in all, there only were seven issues of ST.Mac, which might explain why even Mac enthusiasts often have never heard of it. I certainly hadn’t until pretty recently, despite having loved the Apple II Softalk for over 30 years.

The magazine is primarily focused on the Macintosh, but also considers Lisa within its scope, and it’s one of the best/only places to find magazine print ads relating to Lisa products. It’s also interesting to see some of the contemporaneous discussion, not all of it positive. I can say myself, having been fairly deep into the Apple II world at the time of the Mac’s introduction, that upon my first experience with a Mac (I think it may have been a “Fat Mac”, the second iteration that had 512K rather than 128K), I wasn’t actually swept away in the way people were supposed to have been. As a child (but one already pretty handy with the command line), it felt kind of slow and limited. True, there were a lot of dots per inch, but I still took it to be mostly a toy computer aimed at novices, and I pretty much ignored it for the next five years until I the Macs gained software and traction and speed (at which point I bought the SE/30, which I still consider to be basically the pinnacle of the compact Macs). And some of that kind of reaction can be seen in some the letters that got printed in ST.Mac, too, though of course the focus of the magazine was mostly the positive and new developments on the Mac platform, right as it was getting its start.

Anyway, I have now scanned the entire short run of this little magazine, and it is definitely interesting to read in retrospect. So, without further ado, here they are. The main links below are to the smaller 300dpi scans (around 70MB), and better, larger, 600dpi scans (around 260MB) are linked separately if that’s of interest.

Stmac feb1984 Stmac mar1984
Stmac apr 1984 Stmac 1984 may
Stmac 1984 jun St mac 1984 jul
St mac 1984 aug  
Jan 202014
 

Here is Quick File /// for the Apple ///. I imaged the disks and scanned the manual, since I didn’t find an existing manual scan online. The disks weren’t protected, and were actually already available on apple3.org, but these are (presumably identical) images of my own disks. The program does work in Sara OS X, but note that in order to get the “tab” key to work, you need to press Ctrl-I, since pressing the actual tab key seems just to emit an “i” character.

I have two of these, one open, and one still wrapped. The open one didn’t have the slipcover, and I haven’t convinced myself to open the wrapped one yet. So there is no scan yet of the slipcover, but I may either open it or try to scan through the plastic.

Qf3 box wrapped

Nevertheless, this is what I will find inside the box if I wind up opening it:

Qf3 box open

Strangely, the manual is called Quick File /// Sampler. It sounds like that would be some kind of auxiliary manual used to point out aspects of the example files, but it is in fact the only manual there is with Quick File ///.

From playing with it briefly, it seems like it’s a pretty well-thought out database system, given its goals. It’s not a spreadsheet, but it can do basic total calculations in reports, and there is no kind of cross-table linking or relations. It also seems particularly novice-oriented, there is quite a bit of onscreen help and opportunities to undo mistakes.

Qf3 splash

Qf3 sues cards

Anyway, here are the files:

Qf3 manual Qf3 addendum

Qf3 boot disk

Qf3 program disk

Qf3 sample disk

Qf3 packing list Qf3 sla Qf3 auir
Dec 142013
 

I finished up a few more scans of On Three, so here they are. I decided in the interest of collecting things together that I would post the whole volume in this post. I still need to scan June 1987 and re-scan March 1987, I’ll insert them in this post later once I have. I have also put up a static page with all of the scans I know about collected together for convenience.

Mike Maginnis scanned and posted a few of these issues earlier, which then made their way onto the asmiov Apple II archive site. I’ve fetched those for this collection—the ones Mike scanned are marked in the list below with an *.

On3 v4n1 On3 v4n2 1987 On3 v4n3
On3 v4n4 On3 v4n5 On3 v4n6
On3 v4n7 1987 On3 v4n8 1987 On3 v4n9
On3 v4n10 On3 v4n11 1987 On3 v4n12 1987
Dec 142013
 

Back in the summer of 1987 or 1988 or so, my family took a road trip across the country. This was a painful prospect, I couldn’t possibly bring my computer with me, and it wouldn’t be a lot of good anyway for the car. Fortunately, a business colleague of my mother’s had a programmable calculator to lend me for a couple of weeks. This was the Casio FX-730P.

Fx730p side top

I played a lot with this on that trip, although I don’t really remember what exactly I was doing with it, just remembered the ability to program on the road fondly. But now, 25 years on, I wanted to get one again. I didn’t know the model number of course, and looking around now, it turns out that there were many of this type of programmable calculator made at around that time. But, although perhaps it is just the fact that this was the one I learned on as a child, I find most of the other ones kind of ugly by comparison. I really like the colorful function bars, the placement of the keys. It’s one of the nicest looking in its class I think.

The FX-730P has 8K of memory built in, although it can be expanded to 16K with an additional RAM module, and it has a connector in the back for connecting peripherals such as a printer and a tape recorder for loading/saving data and programs. A little while back I tried to get a Raspberry Pi to communicate with the FX-730P, although I didn’t really get off the ground. It is not easy at all to find the peripherals for this thing now, though, so trying to do some kind of modern interface is probably where the future lies.

I do however have the box and manuals, which I’ve scanned. There is an existing scan of the manual out there, but it’s pretty low-quality. This one is much better, though it’s bigger. I may re-scan a couple of pages of the manual at some point, but for now:

Casio fx 730p box and contents

I haven’t really done much with this yet, apart from typing in some of the example programs from the manual, but I am looking forward to playing with this more. The inability to load and save things might drive me to resume the tape interface project again sometime soon, we shall see. More as it develops.