Back in the days before the disk drive, one of the primary methods of distributing software for the Apple II was on cassette tapes, and there were actually quite a large number of tapes produced for the platform. However, they also were relatively short-lived, since the floppy disk provided a faster, more reliable, and larger storage medium. Disk drives were expensive initially, so cassette tapes persisted for a while, but it wasn’t very long before the 5.25″ floppy disk took over as a distribution medium.
Antoine Vignau at Brutal Deluxe has amassed a large catalog and archive of cassette tapes, a truly monumental (and valuable) effort. For each of the many cassettes he and the other contributors have archived, you can download the sound files and play them into a real Apple II or emulator. But just like software on disks, there are still some missing (though fairly few by now I expect). The records available on the internet of what was there are fairly slim. Here and there, a catalog appears, listing the offerings, but reviews are scarce, and most of the time all that exists is a line item in a listing or magazine advertisement.
Apple Computer Inc. itself distributed a set of cassettes with its earlier machines, and those cassettes are, relatively speaking, not so hard to find. I have amassed a fairly sizable collection of these, though it is by no means exhaustive (particularly since there were several versions). But there were quite a number of third-party software producers who distributed software on cassettes. And those are getting extremely hard to come by, mostly because there were not nearly as many of them to begin with. One possible exception is Hayden’s Sargon (chess) cassette, this seems to have been very popular, and I’ve in fact wound up with two of them. But a lot have practically vanished. One of the major software companies selling cassettes was Softape. They had a fairly large catalog of software.
What leads me to write about this is that I recently managed to get my hands on what was probably leftover stock from a dealer, in which were a number of Softape cassettes still in their shrink wrap. The shrink wrap is in bad shape, both ripped and quite dirty, but the tapes within are surely in great condition. I have opened one of them (Tic-Tac-Talker), but not yet opened the others.
So, I’ll take this opportunity to show pictures of the Softape tapes, and then run through the rest of the tapes I have. Partly, this was to do an inventory so that I can see if I have anything that Antoine does not yet have up on his site (either audio images, or cassette pictures and scans). I may well get more after this post, but this is what I have as of now, and I’ve made some nice pictures of them. What I have not done so far is any of the audio imaging. I will notate which of the tapes below can be retrieved from the Brutal Deluxe site as of now with a “(cBD)” (‘see Brutal Deluxe’), but you’ll need to go there to download the actual software. It turns out that I seem to have quite a few that have not been captured there, so it will be a project of mine fairly soon to capture those and submit them, and dig around to see if I have any more relevant documentation. I do intend to spotlight individual tapes, programs, and companies later on, but for now I’m just going to dump my pictures.
First, the Softape tapes: Star Warriors and Space Maze (SSB-1077), Othello (OHS-279), and Tic-Tac-Talker (TTT-978) (cBD).
The last of these, Tic-Tac-Talker, I actually opened, so here is the tape that was inside, and a PDF scan of the cover and the instruction leaflet that was inside.
I have a couple of tapes from MUSE, who went on after this to be quite successful in the disk medium as well (responsible for Castle Wolfenstein, Super Text, and a bunch of other things—I will definitely write them up as a separate topic). Below are the tapes for U-Draw, and Global War (cBD).
Hayden produced quite a bit of software on tape and later on disk, but among the more popular titles were the Sargon series of chess games. I have the tapes for Sargon (cBD) and Sargon II (cBD).
Another big producer of software on cassette was Programma, I have a couple of loose Programma cassettes: Football Predictions, and Ampersort II.
subLOGIC sold a number of things, mainly later in the disk era, most somehow related to rendering 3D graphics (mostly flight simulators). I have a very early 3D library on tape, the main program on the front and a demo on the back. I removed the screws in order to replace the pad, which had fallen off, in order to get a read of the tape, and apparently I didn’t put them back in.
Then, I have a few single cassettes. Personal Software’s Bridge Challenger (cBD) (the company that also produced VisiCalc), Rainbow Computing’s Apartment Building Cost Analysis, Cosmos/Astar’s Super Invader, Mountain Hardware’s Setting the Time (cBD) (software for setting the time on their Apple Clock).
And then… and then I have a whole slew of Apple Computer Inc. cassettes. The oldest one I have is the Apple Software Bank Checkbook and Database Management System program (cBD). This may well have been the first ASB title, and I believe there are also screen shots of it in action included on some of the earliest Apple II ads. The style of the cassette is quite different, and it came in a nice folder. The writing on the cassette is extremely faded, I did some contrast tricks in the picture below to make it readable at all.
The rest of the tapes are kind of a mix between the tapes that were supplied originally with the Apple II, the Apple II+, and I believe some that were sold separately, probably through Apple Software Bank. I still need to finish researching these. For now, I will content myself with the pictures and then finish this very long posting. What is pictured below is:
- 002-0001-01 Breakout / Color Graphics (P/N A2T0003X) (cBD)
- 002-0007-01 Applesoft IIa / Floating Point BASIC Demo (P/N A2T0004X) (cBD)
- 002-0014-01 Leases / Loans (P/N A2T0011X) (cBD)
- 002-0015-01 Finance / Savings (P/N A2T0011X) (cBD)
- 600-2013-00 Startrek / Starwars (P/N A2T0002X) (cBD)
- 600-2023-00 Little Brick Out / Color Demosoft (cBD)
- 600-2024-00 Alignment Test Tone / Renumber/Append (cBD)
- 600-2025-00 Finance I / Penny Arcade (cBD)
- 600-2026-00 Hopalong Cassidy / Lemonade (cBD)
- 600-2027-00 Brian’s Theme / Phone List (cBD)
- 685-0001-00 Tape Measure / Alignment Test Tone (and accompanying card) (cBD)
- 685-0005-00 Applevision / Biorhythm (cBD)