on three

I recently received a great collection of On Three magazines and I am working through them to fill in some of the holes in the collections on the net. I have started scanning on the tail end of the run, partly just because they were the easy ones. As of the March/April 1989 issue, the format of On Three was reduced to more of a newsletter, only 16 pages long, without the nice colorful covers that they had previously. The audience for Apple /// products and news had taken a sharp downturn, and On Three dropped their 800 number, shrank the magazine, and moved to Chicago. There are still nice articles in these last few issues, but it is kind of saddening to see it dwindle out. Despite that, the enthusiasm continues to show through, but it’s clearly an era ending, when the machines were getting well obsolete and when Apple’s support was essentially entirely gone.

From the 1990 issues, I have only the first and the last, the last of them being only 8 pages long. I don’t know if it continued beyond that issue.

OnThree1989 03 04 OnThree1989 05 06
OnThree1989 07 08 OnThree1989 09 10
OnThree1989 11 12  
OnThree1990 01 02 OnThree1990 11 12

Space War, Road Race Game. Wow.

One of the tapes I recently got was this one. On the front it says “Road Race Game”, copyright “WOW”. Ok. I’m appropriately awed.

Wow road race tape

Flipping it over, I saw that the other side contains “Space War” and that “WOW” is short for “Wise Owl Workshop”.

Wow space war tape

I’d never heard of Wise Owl Workshop before. And Google barely has either. There are a couple of passing references to them, but they seem mostly unknown to the internet, and not really represented at all in online software image collections. So, it’s actually kind of likely that this tape hardly exists anywhere else, and that the images I made of it are the first to hit the internet. WOW seems to have written some education and science related software for Apple II, TRS-80, C64, some on tape, some on disk. The fact that they just used a standard data cassette with a typewritten label stuck on it suggests to me that they were a pretty small operation. At least at the time they were distributing this tape.

Anyway, on to the programs. Below are WAV and AIFF files, and I’ve tested the AIFF files in Virtual II. The DSK files below are for use if you just want to play the games without monkeying around with the tape interface.

In Space War, you can play against another player or not, and you can either be shooting at the other player, or the “stars” between you.

Space war start

In two-player mode, each player is controlled by a paddle, and you shoot horizontally, either missing entirely, or hitting the other player or a star in the way. In “shoot the stars” mode, you just shoot at the stars.

Space war play

In two-player mode, this has the potential to be kind of engaging, I suppose.

Road Race Game is a road race game. When you start it up you are presented with some options. The course complexity I believe controls how sharp and frequent the zigs and zags are. If you choose the standard course, I assume you get the same course each time, and otherwise the zigs and zags are randomized. I have not tested these hypotheses very thoroughly but it seems true and sensible.

Road race start

You control a car with the paddles. Paddle 0 controls the horizontal position and paddle 1 controls the throttle. Button 0 applies the brake, and button 1 just ends the game. If you don’t end the game intentionally, it seems to end after 2 minutes (after the clock reaches 120). The goal is to keep the car between the posts, which zig and zag, and points are awarded for progressing and taken away (quickly) for being off the track. The game is a bit like Night Driver, though more primitive. It doesn’t seem like a very hard game, though I didn’t spend much time playing it.

Road race play

Anyway, another tape saved for posterity, though I don’t expect posterity will really spend much time playing either of these games. Still, somebody put work into writing them, and now that work is at least not lost.

What happens in Cupertino stays in Cupertino

Back when the Apple II was new, there wasn’t a lot of software available for it. On the earliest price list I’ve seen, April 1977, Apple listed the Apple I™ and several cassette tapes for it, and the then new Apple II™, but with no software available. The next iteration of the price list, October 1977, dropped the Apple I entirely, listing only the Apple II, but still with no software available. One thing that I found interesting about those two early price lists is they contain the only explanation I’ve seen for the coding system that Apple used for the things it sold. Here is the legend from the April 1977 price list (cropped from the scan made available by The Mothership):

Apple codes

So, if you’ve ever wondered about the A2M0003 on the disk drives, or the A2T0008X on cassettes, this was the rationale. A is for Apple (that’s good enough for me) and 2 is for the model, both of which are basically fixed after the April 1977 price list, since no mention was made of the Apple I after that. Until we get to the Apple ///, which did use the designator A3. The next letter indicated Tape, Literature (manuals), Module (external peripherals, which would include the Disk II, A2M0003, but also smaller things like memory and the Programmer’s Aid #1 chip), Component (like printer paper), Board (back when you could order the Apple II as just a board, and also including peripheral cards), System (board in a case with keyboard, power supply, speaker). Once disks appeared, the D designation for software on disk was used. For boards and systems, a three digit code indicating the amount of memory, and an X “for future use.” For things other than boards and systems, the four digit numeric code was a sequence number in essentially the order of release.

It’s a nice scheme, though they didn’t entirely stick to it. The three digit memory code turned into a four digit code, with the first digit distinguishing between standard Apple II (as of the introduction of the red label, the model number was printed on the bottom, with a “0” in the first digit, then the three digit memory code) and Apple II+ (where the first digit was a “1”). The “X” for future expansion was for some reason explicitly included as part of the model numbers printed on the cassettes, and it was used at the very tail end of the Apple II+ (model number A2S1048A). Apple “Special Delivery Software” had codes starting with “C” rather than with “A”, then a 2 or 3 (depending on whether it was for the Apple II or Apple ///), a sub code indicating Education, Home, Business, or Science, and then a sequence number basically counting up in the order of release.

The first price list where I found software listed for the Apple II was June 1978, at a time when the Disk II was still new and all of the software was on tape. Which brings me to A2T0008, new in the June 1978 catalog, containing Blackjack and Slot Machine.

002 0011 00 black jack a2t0008x

002 0011 00 slot machine a2t0008x

The Apple tapes have an additional number on them, this one has 002-0011-00. It’s not entirely clear to me what these signify, but I expect that the 002 was originally designating software for the Apple II. Later on in the production of the tapes, they would use 600 here instead, with sequence numbers like 20xx, and my suspicion is that the 600 designation was for tapes that were included as a set with the computer. There are also a few tapes that have 685 here. So the Startrek/Starwars tape, while always being part number A2T0002X, exists at least as 002-0006-00 and 600-2013-00.

But that was all a kind of long-winded introduction to what was really intended to be a post about Blackjack and Slot Machine. I have done the audio imaging of the cassette, and the audio files (in WAV and AIFF format, the AIFF having been tested to load fine in Virtual II) and disk versions made to simplify use in emulators are below:

Slot machine splash

Slot Machine is a simulation of a standard, quarter-taking slot machine, drawn in lo-res graphics.

Slot machine start

The mode of interaction is kind of neat, you “pull the lever” by swiping the paddle (or horizontal axis of a joystick) from one side to the other. This may have been more effective with the original paddles that Apple included with the machine, which were essentially the paddles below from the Adversary console—they actually had a “paddle” form on a one-dimensional track. Spinning a standard later paddle wouldn’t have quite the same feel, though a joystick works well to recreate the effect (as long as you hold it turned 90 degrees).

Adversary paddles b

All you do in the game is wiggle the paddle back and forth to spin the dials. You win some, you lose some, though the house gets killed. You win far more often than you lose, so you can walk away with as many virtual quarters as you have time to accumulate.

Slot machine play

The Blackjack game on the other side of the cassette is quite a bit more interactive. You start by telling it how much money (in whatever your favorite denomination is, it’s only interested in the number) you wish to start with. As far as I can tell, this makes little difference to anything. The game doesn’t stop when you reach zero, it will happily continue playing when you are down. In fact, the game doesn’t stop at all.

Blackjack start

On the play field, the dealer’s cards are shown in the top row, and yours in the second row. From here, you choose whether to hit, stay, double, or split.

Blackjack play

If you bust, you lose your bet. Here I am, 470 drachma down.

Blackjack bust

You can win it all back the next time, though, if you’re lucky and skillful…

Blackjack win

…or, if you cheat. If you’re worried about owing your Apple II hundreds of kroner, just bet a negative number and bust, and you’ll be doing fine.

Blackjack bet 6502

Apple on Apples

At a few different times in its history, Apple has published magazines of a sort. These were not just catalogs, although they did of course promote the Apple cause. The Apple magazine lasted for a few issues in the early 1980s, and I will be posting scans of those at some point in the future. Later on, there was an Apple magazine issue that made an appearance in 1997, but as far as I know was just a single issue and then the project was dropped again. In between, Apple produced two issues of Apple on Apples. I don’t believe that there were any more than those two. Apple seems to keep thinking this is a good idea, but then changing its mind and just going back to publishing catalogs. The second issue is undated, but the events list suggests it is from early 1983, so I’m going to guess January 1983.

The Apple on Apples issues are quite short. The first one has only a couple of contentful articles, amounting to a profile of a couple of companies using Apple II Pluses to run their businesses, and an interview with Mike Markkula. The second issue is more developed, with articles on Logo, the Lisa and //e, online and local networking with the Apple II Plus, an interview with Paul C. Dali, profiles of Allen Dziejma and Paul Lutus, and tips on integrating Visicalc and Apple Writer on an Apple ///.

Each issue features a “puzzler” as well. In the first issue, the questions included “What is the weight of an FCC-approved Apple II?” and the answers were provided. In the second issue, Apple was more ambitious with the puzzler and made it a contest, six winners being awarded “I solved the puzzler” T-shirts. I have no idea if those were ever given out, or what the answers to the puzzler were, because there was no issue number 3. One thing I don’t understand about the puzzler is that in issue 2, they list the winners of the last puzzler, yet the puzzler in issue 1 gave the answers and didn’t provide anywhere to write in. Did they just make those winners up? Very strange. [Update: see below.]

In any event, they’re sort of interesting, and they’re quite uncommon in the wild.

Apple on apples v1n1 Apple on apples v1n2

For the record, the problems I found in the “puzzler” were: One disk has its media access slot sideways, the logo and the feed advance wheel on the Silentype printer are on the wrong side and the plug comes out the back not out the side, the Monitor III is essentially upside down, though the switches are at the top instead of the bottom and are red, there is no useful need for antennae above the monitor, the keyboard is wrong in various ways (missing a row of keys, the space bar is red, some keys are elongated where they shouldn’t be. Anyone have an “I solved the puzzler” T-shirt?

Update: Turns out, there were actually two versions of Apple on Apples v1n1. The one I scanned and discussed here says “October 1982” on the cover, and has the puzzler as discussed, with the answers. The other version does not give a date on the cover, has an additional introductory “About this issue” note, and has a trimmed-down “puzzler” section that actually does give an address to send answers to. Unfortunately, my copy of this second version has some water damage, but I will add a scan of it here shortly.

Dear Educator, we live in exciting times!

Pretty much right from the beginning, Apple marketed itself heavily to children and the educational market. Through a happy accident I wound up with what seems to be an untouched Apple Curriculum Materials Kit, from February 1979. From what’s inside, it seems to have been sent out to schools (on request) to persuade them both of the value of having microcomputers in the classroom (as opposed to larger timeshare machines in computer rooms), and promoting the Apple II as the computer that would fit the bill, with a future and plenty of established material already.

IMG 3617

In this kit is a cover letter introducing the materials, an outline of why microcomputers and the Apple II in particular is a great step forward for education, some ideas for computer awareness and literacy units for various grade levels, a price list (effective February 15, 1979), a list of dealers, a list of users groups, and a reply card to get on the mailing list.

For grades K-3, it is suggested that the children might like nice friendly games like “Sink-the-ship” or “Shootout” or variations on “Hangman,” while in grades 4-6, it is suggested that children might enjoy destroying submarines.

Unfortunately, the original version of the reply card referred to the “educators mailing list” and it seems that somebody got nervous about sending this out to educators, and behind the scenes of this little card you can just feel the wheels turning.

Hmm. “Place me on your people mailing list” doesn’t sound right, so “educators mailing list” must not be quite right. “Mailing list for educators” would probably be best, except the cards are already printed. And this is 1979 for heaven’s sake, we’re aren’t anywhere close yet to being the most valuable company in the world. We can’t just print a whole new stack. Well, maybe we can salvage it by saying it’s the “educators’ mailing list.” That sounds nice, kind of personalizes it for them. Ok.

And so, somebody drew in apostrophes on the reply card so that it reads “educators’mailing list.” I don’t think these were hand drawn on each card, but it’s possible. It’s hard to say for sure. But it is clearly hand drawn after the fact.

Anyway, the shape that this kit was in was truly remarkable, given that it took nearly 34 years to wind up in my hands. So, here are the scans.

Dear educator cover letter Microcomputers in education
Microcomputer classroom Apple price list feb15 1979
Apple authorized dealers Apple users groups
Apple v1n1 currkit cover Curriculum reply card

The Rising Star

Almost certainly the biggest player in the Epson QX-10-specific software world was Rising Star Industries, the creators of Valdocs and its various successors. Valdocs is an integrated software suite that (as I understand it) was generally packaged with Epson QX-10 machines. RSI pretty much tied its future to the QX-10 (and to the QX-16) with Valdocs, and when the QX-10 lost favor with the public, RSI went down with it. But in its heyday, they produced a newsletter called The Rising Star, with some articles on the background of the company, tips and tricks in Valdocs, new versions, etc.

I have gotten ahold of four of these. I don’t know if there are others out there anymore, but here are the ones I have:

Rs v1n4 1984 fall Rs v2n2
Rs v2n4 Rs v3n1

Set phasors to “Zap”

Here is Programma’s Phasor Zap cassette, another game of the “shoot alien spacecraft in space” variety.

Phasor zap tape

Here are the audio files. I have not tested the WAV files but the AIFF file loads fine in Virtual II. I have also put it on a disk.

Phasor zap splash

The premise of this game is pretty simple. You control the aim of a phasor, and space is full of enemy ships that you must destroy. You only have a certain number of shots to do it in, before you run out of energy.

Phasor zap instructions

One thing that makes this game particularly difficult is that you don’t actually have any kind of crosshairs that show you where you’re aiming. So you operate mostly blind, the only way to know where you are aiming is to fire and see where it goes.

Phasor zap fire

Even given the no-crosshairs handicap, sometimes you can still hit the enemy ships.

Phasor zap explosion

And in case you were worried that maybe we should have tried diplomacy instead, they do shoot back. If you leave an enemy on screen long enough for it to reach the middle of the screen, they will shoot you, which you are alerted to via a big “ZAP” screen flashed up overtop the play field.

Phasor zap enemy hit

Even without the crosshairs, I was able to get an intuitive feel for where the aim was going to be pretty quickly, and in the end I think I did ok. My current high score after only playing it a couple of times is 390, taking 6 hits. My guess is that will stand as my high score for some time to come.

Phasor zap gameover

A dazzling display of purple and green

I got two copies of Programma’s Kaleidoscope, which seem to straddle the point in time when their tape packaging changed, and for the better I’d say.

Kaleidoscope 347 tape

Kaleidoscope 435 tape

I took audio images of both tapes, but there do not appear to be any differences. I didn’t do a byte-level analysis, but they look the same when running. I found that my audio image for both of them had the property that the first load failed, and the second load worked. On pretty much all the Programma tapes I have that I’ve looked at, the program is included twice on the tape, probably for just this reason. So I have more audio files than usual to share here. First, just the actual audio images I took, which will load on the second try in Virtual II, and I haven’t tried the WAV files, but the AIFF files work. Then I have a reconstructed version of the newer one in which I just copied and pasted the second audio overtop the first, so that it will load on the first try. Finally, a DSK version that will load the program as if from tape.

The audio is actually kind of interesting to listen to, I wouldn’t normally recommend listening to the audio files, but this one is pretty groovy.

Kaleidoscope splash

As for the program, it’s pretty simple. You can choose a couple of different types of mirroring, and then it draws. Until you tire of it.

Kaleidoscope instructions

You also have the option of controlling the speed with the paddles, or pressing R to restart the pattern or C to change the colors (where the colors are chosen from among white, green, and purple). That’s it. To start it in motion initially, just press R.

Kaleidoscope running

You can list the (Integer BASIC, with some support calls in machine language) program if you like. Just press Ctrl-C to get out of the program (Reset will reboot).

Spoiler: A happy home life in the making

Old cassettes continue to show up at my door, today we’ll look briefly at Ancient Tarot from Programma International.

Ancient tarot tape

In the Spring 1980 Programma catalog on the Brutal Deluxe Programma site, this is listed as “Tarot Cards” (AP122), which matches the splash screen, but on the tape itself and in the running program, it calls itself “Ancient Tarot”.

If you wish to join in the enlightenment, I have created AIFF and Wave files, though I have only tested the AIFF file. The AIFF file loads without incident in Virtual ][. Since this is written in Integer BASIC, the DSK version (designed to be run on a 64K II+ or later) will load the language card, then load the Ancient Tarot program as if it had been loaded from tape.

I don’t have any materials for this apart from the tape itself. I have no reason to think that there ever was much else, though perhaps there was a tape cover once. Long gone if so, I’m sure.

This is actually quite large for a cassette tape program, occupying almost 24K on the tape, but it contains a lot of uncompressed text. As is common, the procedure for loading it is to drop to the monitor and load starting at the keyboard buffer, 200.6000R. This allows the tape to “autostart”—the keyboard buffer is stuffed with “220G”, the splash screen loads into the screen buffer, the rest of the program loads into the BASIC area, and then execution begins at 0220. This program is essentially just written in Integer BASIC, and it can be listed if this is interesting to you.

Tarot splash

Once the program starts up, you are asked whether you’d like instructions. We would, thank you, yes.

Tarot intro

Then follows two screens of text, which really aren’t instructions at all, but more of a justification of how a computerized tarot reader could still give you accurate results.

Tarot instructions1

Tarot instructions2

Once the instructions have been displayed, you are taken to the screen where you wait until you feel the time is right. The random number generator is (I am presuming, but probably correctly) seeded based on the number of microseconds it takes you to press a key.

Tarot randomize

When I felt the time was right, I pressed a key and my unique results were displayed:

Tarot result 1

After this summary, each of the past, present, and outlook were interpreted, based on the cards that came up. In my past, apparently, unexpected good luck came my way, and my accomplishments are admirable (but lest I get caught up in them, I am reminded that further such accomplishments will require work). There was that one time I found a $20 bill in a parking lot, maybe that was the unexpected good luck to which it refers.

Tarot result 2

Presently, I seem to be undergoing some changes in my way of life. Perhaps I’m sleeping more?

Tarot result 3

My outlook tells me I can look forward to a new beginning, a breakthrough in spiritual understanding, with wealth, prestige, prosperity, and a happy home life in the making. I’ve recently discovered that most of the things I’ve scanned using my scanner’s default settings were compressed more than I wanted them to be and show artifacts, and I’m on the verge of deciding that I need to scan basically everything over again. A new beginning indeed! And scanning does provide lots of time for contemplation. And it keeps me at work a bit longer, where I prosper and gain wealth, and that’s not always completely detrimental to the happiness of home life. This thing may be on to something.

Tarot result 4

You can if you like, continue to gather information about your past, present, and outlook, without limit. But I’m happy enough with the results I got, so I’ll stick.

Softalk’s historical scoop: Apple joins the Dark Side

Prompted by discussion on the Softalk Forever!!! Facebook group, itself prompted by the initiation of an ambitious data mining project (The Softalk Apple Project) using Softalk as its base, I present the one full scan I’ve done since the last round at the beginning of the summer.

It’s a nice one to have, though, it’s issue number one, September 1980, which started it all. My copy is not perfect, but it’s not bad. It is, however, a bit aged and quite brittle. So, although the issue is not particularly long compared to what issues would become, it was a challenge to get it to look even as good as this does.

Softalk1980 09

Welcome to Softalk. Whether you’re a hobbyist or a businessperson, a programmer or a nonprogrammer, Softalk is designed for you, because each of you has chosen Apple for your computer; and so did we. (Straightalk, Softalk Sep 1980, p. 3).

Addendum: actually, I’m seeing a lot of compression artifacts in this scan at high magnification. Though it might destroy this issue to go through the scanning process again, I might try once more to see if I can get a cleaner scan. I don’t really think it’s a dpi issue, since my 600dpi version of this has similar artifacts. Might require some experimentation. This version will stay here for now.