May 182012
 

After going through a pile of label images that I’ve been collecting in the recent past, it seems like I can start to make some generalizations. They might be right. [Warning: a lot of these pictures have just been lifted from eBay auctions, most of them aren't mine.] [Warning 2: I may occasionally add more labels to this post as I see them.]

The oldest Apple ][ label I've seen (or at least have a picture of handy) is in this style, A2S1-4625:

A2S1-4625

That one enclosed a motherboard with date code 8040, which I have no reason to disbelieve based on the chip dates, which are all 1978-1980 that I could see. Which pretty much means that the motherboard was replaced along the way.

8040

Here are a couple more. A2S1-8576, A2S1-16122 (7903, sadly the ][ lid was replaced by a ][+ lid during an upgrade), A2S1-16784 (8068?, replaced, appears to be a ][+ board, rev 4), A2S1-27105 (7919), A2S1-39587 (but motherboard was replaced with a ][+ board):

8576

Label 16122 trim

Board date 7903

Label 16784 trim

Board date 8068 trim

27105

Board date 7919

39587

The next set of Apple ][ labels I've seen are the newer squarer ones, in red. Here the images I have jump to the 60000s, and perhaps there was a serial number "jump" somewhere here. But here are the red ones, A2S1-61786, A2S1-64313, A2S1-66077. I don't have board dates for any of those. And in any event, there's at least some cause for caution in trusting that the board that's in there is the one it shipped with. Note that A2S1-4625 had 8040 in it, while A2S1-27105 had 7919 in it. The 7919 board matches the timeline better, it's basically certain that the 8040 was a replacement. However, I've also seen 8022 and 8025 with all the hallmarks of an Apple ][ board (chip under slot 6, 16K select, flanged slots).

Label 61786

Label 64313

Label 66077

Moving on to Apple ][+, the serial numbers begin to start with A2S2, but the earliest ones are still in the earlier sticker style. The oldest one I've got an image of (update: now "second oldest one I've got an image of," see A2S2-10087) is A2S2-11547, board date 7945 (along with what I originally took to be an "x", but which I now believe to be a "plus", signifying that this motherboard was built as an Apple ][+ rather than as an Apple ][, since it could have been either at the point of assembly). This board also has what I called above having "all of the hallmarks of an Apple ][ board", which leads me to suspect that it was an Apple ][+ fashioned from an Apple ][ (by adding the Autostart ROM chip), though on the other hand I think all of these characteristics can be present on the earliest of the (actual) ][+ motherboards.

Label 11547

Board date 7945

Next comes A2S2-18606, same style. Board date hard to make out, but in the little bits I've blown up 4x, it appears to be 79xx. And same deal on this one, it looks like an Apple ][ board that was turned into a ][+ by adding the chip.

Label 16806

Open language card 79xx

Power supply top 79xx

Open language card 79xx 4x

Power supply top 79xx 4x

Then a big jump, new label style, lowest one I have encountered is A2S2-65001, board date 8006. But still the old hallmarks of an Apple ][ board.

Label 65001

Board date 8006

I have various examples of this label style, all of these others seem to have newer revision boards where I can tell, with "N" pattern under slot 6, non-flanged slots, no 16K select chips, RFI attachment screws. A2S2-66915, A2S2-93277, A2S2-109180, A2S2-115091, A2S2-120955 (board replaced, had an RFI shield, and dated 8519, also oddly enough had a ][-non-plus lid), A2S2-122481, A2S2-149143 (8102), A2S2-161227 (8110), A2S2-164919, A2S2-174147, A2S2-179992, A2S2-359691, A2S2-362495 (0182), A2S2-403239.

Label 66915

Label 93277

Label 109180 trim

Label 115091

Label 120955

Label 122481

Label 149143

Label 161227

Label 164919

Sticker 174147

Label 179992

Label 359691

Label 362495

Label 403239

The penultimate one there is interesting in that the motherboard inside it had a different date code style, listed as 0182, and stamped on rather than written on by hand (I don't have any evidence one way or another for the last one above). Somewhere between 161227 and 362495 this practice must have changed. All dates I've seen before this are in YRWK order (or at least YRxx for some xx, there is a single example I've seen (shown above among the Apple ][ labels, where the board has a date code that appears to be 8068, which is clearly not YRWK unless it is a sloppily written 8008, which it could possibly be). Perhaps it was simply just the practice in 1982 and beyond, since I have a couple of (poor) examples above of 81xx dates as well.

Board date 0182

Board date 8102

Board date 8110

Board date 813x

At this point, the labels switched style again, to the newer, busier one, with a dot matrix serial number. A2S2-448225, A2S2-472596 (3782), A2S2-512896, A2S2-544771, A2S2-546018 (4782), and the highest two serial numbers I have actually seen, A2S2-569185 and A2S2-588496 (on empty cases).

Label 448225

Label 472596

Label 512896

Label 544771 trim

Label 546018

Label 569185

Label 588496 trim

Here are my own newer two Apple ][+es as well, for comparison, A2S2-412783 (1782), and A2S2-542439 (4682).

Label 412783

Label 542439

One thing I observed here is that somewhere between 512896 and 542439, the model number changed (from A2S1048 to A2S1048A). There is no reason to think that this disrupted the serial number ordering, however, just as there is no reason to think that there was any serial number reset along the whole A2S2 line. In fact, looking back I think it might even be true that the serial numbers weren't reset even between A2S1 and A2S2—both A2S1s somewhere before 61786 and A2S2s somewhere before 65001 had the older style labels, then both switched. So, since we know any what that Apple ][ and Apple ][+ co-existed for a while, I expect that the serial numbers were still unique per machine, regardless of model.

Wikipedia reports that the Apple ][ was introduced in June, 1977 and discontinued at the beginning of 1981, an estimated 40,000 having been sold. It also reports that the Apple ][+ was introduced in June, 1979, and apple2history.org reports that it was discontinued in December 1982. I can't seem to find a source for the number of Apple ][+es sold. However, the estimate of A2S1s sold is quite a bit lower than the 66077 represented in the latest serial number I've found, suggesting that A2S2s were eating up some of the serial numbers.

Next up are the Bell & Howells. They took on A2S3 as a designation. These, unlike the A2S1s and A2S2s, seem to have their own serial number stream, and had model numbers like A2S10xxB. The earliest one I've found is A2S3-001522 (no backpack). The rest are A2S3-008426 (no backpack), A2S3-011082 (backpack), A2S3-016147 (no backpack), A2S3-021075 (no backpack), A2S3-022390 (5281, no backpack), A2S3-023165 (no backpack), A2S3-031522 (backpack), A2S3-033219 (backpack). The last two are also extremely high serial numbers for a Bell & Howell, usually the estimates are of about 20,000 sold, but it looks like maybe it was over 30,000. Also interesting, perhaps, is that the Bell & Howell label for the late-style label is slightly different, redesigned to fit the late-style Apple label underneath.

Label bh1522

Label bh8426

Label bh11082

Label bh16147

Label bh021075

Label bh022390

Label bh023165

Label 31522 trim

Label 033219 trim

That last three are kind of interesting in that they use the last style of Apple ][+ labels. Also, it appears to me that the ones the came with the backpack (sample size above: 3) had the Bell & Howell black and silver sticker stuck overtop the Apple sticker. Perhaps this makes sense, since the backpack is what allowed the thing to be UL listed and suitable for use in schools? Anyway, the sample size increases to 4 for this generalization when I add in my own (below), A2S3-011472 (backpack). I think by now I'm relatively confident of the correlation.

Label bh11472

Actually, having written this much, I remembered this post from 2007, which did a similar kind of forensics. For A2S1, he has never seen a black on white sticker above 40000, or a red on white sticker below 60000. My labels conform to this, perhaps there was an actual jump to 60000. I have also not seen a green on white (bigger, simpler) sticker on an A2S2 below 65001. Perhaps 60000 to 64999(?) were printed as A2S1 and 65000(?) on were printed as A2S2? It could be, although that means that that 65001 is a pretty special machine. I've beaten his record high on A2S2 (which was 544703), though: I've got a picture of 546018 (4782). I have a picture of two that are even higher, 569185 and 588496, both of which were on an empty cases. Which I'm now suspecting were never used in building a machine, production having shut down first. My terrarium motherboard is rev 4, I'm pretty sure, which doesn't match his specs (my terrarium board is 8050, he'd capped rev 4 at 8030).

All of this brings me back to my oldest ][+, the terrarium, however. Which is the real reason I got into this: What in the world is going on with this label? A2S2-1497165 (8050)?

Label 1497165

That sounds crazy. The sticker style and board date and the old-style board should have put this somewhere around 65000-149000. We know 65001 (8006) printed ok, and the next serial-board pairing I have is 149143 (8102), which is in the neighborhood of 1750 machines/week assuming no variation, so perhaps it should be around 142000 (as long as it is assumed that 66915, 93277, and 115091 had their motherboards replaced, since those were all RFI boards). So was this supposed to be A2S2-147165 and an extra "9" got in there?

Later note: The serial number on the box of the Apple ][+ listed at vintage-computer.com (1492548) is a similarly crazy one, so my machine might not be the only one. No picture of the actual label or the motherboard to allow me to compare it, though.

I don’t think there’s going to be any way to tell, without hearing a story from someone who saw this glitch happen, if that’s what it was.

Mar 092012
 

Having just learned a little more about how to identify old pieces (from parts of Tony Diaz’s retr0blasting talk from KFest 2010), I’m now seeing that in the pictures I have of the terrarium ][+, it is actually pretty old. I didn't think the serial number looked that old. True, it was originally sold as a 16K machine. But now I don't understand the serial numbers. This old one has an old sticker that says A2S2-1497165. My own Apple ][+ has a newer style sticker and a lower number, A2S2-542439. Yet I think there is no doubt at all that the terrarium ][+ is significantly older.

Terriiplus a2s1016 trim

Myiiplus a2s21048a trim

The RAM chips I can see here, that were added later (given that the label says model A2S1016), are all dated from the early-to-mid 1980's, and the 74LS257 is from early 1979, and the 75LS51 is from late 1978.

Terriiplus keyboard attachment

Terraiiplus chipdates

It also has 16K memory select chips in there, which my newer ][+ does not have.

Terraiiplus 16kmemselects

The board indicates that it was assembled in December 1980, and the ROM D8 and ROM D0 were manufactured in mid-1980.

Terraiiplus boarddate

Terraiiplus romd8d0

So, everything I can see from the limited photo set that I already have indicates that this is mostly as originally assembled in early December 1980, with the remaining RAM banks filled not long afterwards. According to the Apple II history site, the Apple ][+ ran from June, 1979, to December, 1982. The board date on my Apple ][+ is mid-November, 1982, which confirms my belief that my own Apple ][+ was one of the last ones made. And apparently, the terrarium ][+ was one of the early-middle ones.

Myiiplus boarddate

I still don’t understand the serial numbers, that’s just weird. Maybe they started over (or started lower, anyway) when the model number switched from A2S1048 to A2S1048A?

Mar 092012
 

Frustrated with the extent of the goop on the motherboard of the Apple ][+, I started pulling out the chips, with the idea that I would just take the motherboard home and stick it in the dishwasher. There are a lot of chips. Eventually I got them out, with no new casualties beyond the broken pin from before.

Myiiplus chips out

It took a long time and a lot of effort to get the keyboard disconnected from the motherboard, the keyboard connector having been very close to goop ground zero, and once I got it out, it seems to have very goopy pins. But at least I didn't lose any.

Myiiplus keyboard pins goop

I put it in a big static shielded bag and was preparing to go, when it occurred to me that there is a shower in the basement men's room in my building.

Oh, what the heck. One thing I am not (and this could wind up being the death of some of these machines detailed here on this blog) is patient. I'd have to bring the board home, then bring it back, keeping it from being damaged on the T in the process. Why not just put the thing in the shower? That's a rough approximation of a dishwasher. So, off I went to the shower.

Before:

Myiiplus before slots

After:

Myiiplus after slots

Interestingly, that goop that just wasn't coming up through long, annoying scrubbing with alcohol and Q-tips washed right off in the shower. Oh the time I wasted. The SE/30 boards are going straight in the shower next time I crack those machines open, at least assuming that the Apple ][+ winds up ultimately working.

Myiiplus after spcl b

Unfortunately, I also discovered after the board shower that I somehow missed a chip. So, maybe that was a casualty too, though I don’t know how specifically this would have damaged it. I pulled it out anyway.

The little lab space I have all this stuff in, being in a basement, has been equipped with a dehumidifier, so, I set the motherboard upside down on some paper towels to drain (after having shake-dried it and patted it down with paper towels), with the blower of the dehumidifier pointed at it. And went home.

Myiiplus dehumid

Next time, I’m going to have to start dealing with the chips, a few of which (near the original home of the goop) have some pretty dodgy-looking legs. Maybe I’ll just soak the legs for a bit in alcohol to loosen whatever it is and try to wipe them off. Hoping that will work. The amputated leg from the 74LS194AN is still sitting in the socket, and I may have to try to get that off. Oh, and actually, there was one socket (why did I not record which one??) that I actually accidentally pulled slightly off the board as well. It slid up in much the same way that chips slide out of their sockets, and there was no visible damage when I pushed it back down. It felt as if it were sliding back into place. So, I’m hoping that I didn’t permanently break some necessary connections. I think there may still be a bit to do with this machine even after I put the chips back in, particularly with respect to the broken 74LS194AN and its socket, but I feel like the time when I can actually turn this machine on and see if it powers up is now within sight.

Myiiplus after broken pin b

Mar 072012
 

I got a chip puller, and pulled up a couple of chips that were sitting in the goopy area of the old ][+. There is some that has gotten under the bigger socket, as I’d feared. I’m starting to wonder if I need to really just plain wash/soak this board, and stop messing around with Q-tips.

Homeiiplus chipgoop2

Unfortunately, the goop grabbed hard, and I wound up accidentally amputating one of the legs off one of the smaller chips. I think that may be fatal, I’ll have to see if I can get a replacement, though maybe I can solder it into the socket. Though maybe I also need to figure out how to replace the sockets themselves. (The chip looks to be fairly replaceable, though I’m not really an expert at reading chip numbers. I don’t know what the significance of the “8124” is, but otherwise the 74LS194AN seems to be available from a number of sources.)

[Edit: I now know the significance of "8124", thanks to a comment made in the middle of Tony Diaz's retr0blasting talk from KFest 2010, the chip I killed was just about to turn 31 years old, having been made in the 24th week of 1981.]

Homeiiplus amputee chip

Homeiiplus amputee chip number

The goop has gotten all over the legs of the bigger chip (which came out intact, eventually). I’m hoping this one is salvageable, since this is less likely to be easily replaceable short of finding a spare parts machine. (Of course, I do have two ][+es, but I was really hoping that I could get them both to work.)

Homeiiplus dirty legs

It’s still not clear how optimistic I should be here.

Feb 292012
 

I spent a little while going after “the freakish horrorshow that lives under the keyboard” of my childhood Apple ][+, and I have two comments. First: to the extent that I’ve managed to lift it off, it appears at least as if the PCB below is undamaged. Second: that is some stubborn goop. I’ve been soaking it with isopropyl alcohol and scrubbing it with Q-tips, and eventually a lot of it came up. The picture below is more of a progress report than a completion report, there is still enough around the edges and between a couple of chips that I still want to clean further before I run power into it. I’m a bit concerned about what might be under the chip sockets, too, so I may ultimately pull those chips out and try to clean inside as well, though given the stubbornness of this whatever-it-is I think it’s pretty unlikely that I’ll ever be able to get all of it up.

Iiplus home open

Iiplus home cleaner

Apple ][ minus

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Feb 102012
 

Along with the “READY GO” clone I posted about previously came our original Apple ][+.

Iiplusmn logo

It looks pretty good. These machines generally do. They don't turn yellow like the //es and Macs do. This is, as I recently learned, because they're actually painted that color, and the paint doesn't turn yellow.

Iiplusmn overview

This is actually a fairly late Apple ][+, as far as I can tell. With a serial number of A2S2-542439, it's not far under the the highest serial number this poster in 2007 had ever seen (A2S2-544703).

Iiplusmn snsticker

This machine has been mostly stripped of its cards. I'm really not quite sure how this happened, I do think that there was a time that both machines (this one and the "READY GO" clone) were operational, and we had enough disk drives to go around. Maybe somewhere there's a box with another controller card and another disk drive and an Apple-Cat ][ modem and a 20MB hard drive. Maybe I gave them away to somebody at some point. If they’re still in our possession, they’re very well hidden. All that’s left in this computer is the 16K RAM card.

Iiplusmn overview inside

The 16K card is not actually an Apple 16K card, which surprised me somewhat, since I didn’t even realize we had a third-party 16K card. But, there it is. The internet doesn’t seem to know much about these Ace Electronics 16K expander boards, but I assume it’s completely compatible with the Apple 16K card. It is possible that this card actually came with the “READY GO” machine and I swapped them, though I’m not even sure why I would have thought that worth doing.

Iiplusmn ace 16k card

But, now. Take a look in the lower right corner of the overview of the inside of the computer above. There’s a spot in front of the third 74LS161 from the left. It doesn’t look healthy. It looks even less healthy close up.

Iiplusmn small board spot

It’s possible at least that this is just… goop. That a bit of isopropyl alcohol will bring it up without incident. I’m kind of hoping so. There are a few more of these spots as well.

Iiplusmn small board spot2

However possible it might be to fix those little spots up, though, I’m not at all as sure about the freakish horrorshow that lives under the keyboard.

Iiplusmn subkeyboard blotch

That might be a real problem. There may well be stuff that’s simply eaten away under there. Clearly it is going to take a lot of cleanup before I would risk putting power into this board. I have no idea what that is. I don’t even really want to speculate. But whatever it is, it doesn’t belong on the motherboard.

So, this one is going to take a fair amount of work to bring back to its feet. I’ll do what I can when I get a chance and see what I can manage. But I also am not going to hold my breath. It is conceivable that what I really have here is a parts machine.