The new toy: Apple //c plus

In the mid ’80s the Apple //c were at their height of their popularity. Their size, design and all in one functionality gave them an edge, but with the arrival of the Macintosh and the Apple IIGS, the management team at Cupertino decided to enhance he model adding higher drive capacity (800k 3.5 disk)  and a faster processor (4 Mhz) plus adding the power supply internally,  no more “brick on a leash” as they called it.

Because this model is scarce and expensive, I had not bought one. Also one if its drawbacks was the enhanced speed that made the games practically unplayable, and all the games come in 5.25 disks so also needs an external floppy drive.

Finally somebody offered me a //c+ at a great price, and quickly i acquired it. When it arrived, it was completely yellow and really dirty, i think the previous owner had it stored.

Here are some Before and after Photos:

DSC_2278 DSC_2281 DSC_2285
DSC_2295 DSC_2297 DSC_2299

I’m very happy with my new toy. It is really fast, excellent quality, a different keyboard style and best of all, I have two computers to experiment with.

DSC_2301

Mouse //c

a2m4015When I  started my Apple //c collection,  the main intent was to have a full set of the model with the same design and color. Gradually I added a printer, joystick, external floppy drives and even a modem.

The mouse itself is somehow a complicated piece: Apple for some time offered different models with the //c, showing  different models in  different ads. This made it hard to identify a single specific model for the //c.

Apple has specifically two mouse models for the //c:  A2M4015 that is beige, and platinum color A2M4035 called Mouse IIc.

a2m4035This makes it little confusing because the box for the A2M4015 says Mouse IIc on top, but on the product label shows only the model number, compared to the A2M4035 which displays “Apple® Mouse IIc” prominently on the label.

For some time I had an A2M4015, but the color did not convince me, beige does not go with the platinum //c. Finally I was able to get the precious mouse, and sold the beige.

This mouse looks better and is more consistent, although the small button just like the M0100 seems to me more like a step back than forward.

Joystick Mach III

Mach III karateka ad One of the most emblematic Joysticks of the Apple II era was the CH Products Mach III, even nowadays still appears in some advertisements like the one for Karateka, next to the iconic Apple II.
One of the remarkable features of the Mach III was the fire button at the top of the stick, the calibration dials and the ability to unlock the stick auto center, which is quite useful in many action games.
 DSC_2201
Over the past year I have bought, repaired and sold several joysticks, from the traditional Apple Joystick to the more advanced Mach II and Mach III for both PC and Apple.

Looking to add this excellent device to my //c collection, I searched for a fairly scarce piece: the white version of the Mach III.
This joystick is quite rare, and more for the Apple II model. After several months of searching, I finally found it, and as always, the cleaning and restoration allowed me to get a piece with the same color scheme, fitting perfectly within my collection.

 DSC_2202

Prototype

20130304-191027.jpg

Updating ROM and memory

MemoryNowadays to talk about Megahertz, Megabytes and even Terabytes for computers is an everyday thing, but thirty years ago computers with 1 MHz and 128 Kilobytes (yes, kilobytes!) were the norm, and updating them were not as easy, specially in portables like the Apple //c.

Reading a bit about its history, I learned that there were several updates not only the motherboard, but the ROM, the first to enter UniDisk then to read extended memory, which could be from 256k up to 1 Megabyte.

Apple offered not only memory cards, Applied Engineering actually created a clock, CP/M and memory card, but today those cards are very hard to find. One of the rarest memory expansions is precisely what Apple offered, and today it’s also really hard to find.

So participating on a retro computer forum, I met someone who had an extra original expansion card for the Apple //c, and I convinced him to sell it to me, in fact at a very good price. At the same time, learned that the ROM version of my motherboard was 3, and there was an update that managed some problems with extended memory.

The problem is that you cannot order these ROMs from Apple any more, and they are not for sale anywhere, at least officially. There is a site that advertise them, Reactive Micro, but apparently they have no longer in existence.

After more research I found the images of the ROMs in a New Zealand site, and used a Canadian company, EPROMPro – to “burn” me the corresponding ROM chip.

It finally arrived, and proceeded to install it fearfully: considering that the ROM comes from a non authorized site, and the person who “burned” the ROM has no way to test it, I’m risking breaking or even disable my valuable computer.

ROM 4

ROM version 4: Memory expansion fix

Replacing the original.

Insertado y listo para probarse.

Inserted and ready to test

The real test: “PRINT PEEK(64447)” and the return number means the version.
DSC_2116

Now for the principal piece: the Apple //c memory expansion, brand new!

Tarjeta de expansión con 1 MB Memoria Apple IIc

preparing for the operation

The expansion port under the keyboard

Instalado y listo para la prueba
Installing and all looks fine
Probando la memoria, ¡veinte veces y todo bien!
Testing, everything fine!

Apple //c clones

 milmar_logo-300x146 At this time I finally had time to enjoy my Apple / / c, so that I could upgrade the motherboard and leave it as new. When I read about the memory expansion for this, I found the link to some clones of Apple II, among the best known is the Franklin Ace 1000 .

Some clones were physically very similar to the Apple IIe, but there were three specifically based on the Apple / / c: Franklin Ace 500 Laser 128 – laptop, similar in form and function to the / / c by the handle laptop, the keyboard on the front, side and peripheral floppy back up external power source.

found-03-laseriic But the newly discovered and that really impressed me was the Milmar Laser / / c, it is an exact copy of the chassis, up to the position of the block, in fact I’m pretty sure used an original chassis to create this, therefore the position of the screws, and the space for the label is identical specifications. The letters of the logo are the same, which changes the thing is on the keyboard and the rear ports, very crude.

Judging from the pictures and what I read online, had no integrated floppy, but external ports for different drives. it was motherboard Applle II clone. Apparently this was not very successful thanks to the boost in PC IBM Latin America, both in the education market as corporate.

 apple-laser-c-milmar-epoca-da-apple-tk-cp-msx-atari_MLB-F-3372026509_112012  apple-laser-c-milmar-epoca-da-apple-tk-cp-msx-atari_MLB-F-3372025102_112012  found-05-3-laseriic laserii_imagem_traseira

New Motherboard

 DSC_2048 In my passion for retro computers I have managed to collect many items related to Apple //c, my favorite computer. There are a couple of items that I still need to complete it: the LCD monitor and the bag to carry it, but the excessive cost when sold I have not made them.

DSC_2031 But a few days ago browsing eBay I found an article that caught my attention: a genuine and brand new motherboard upgrade, including roles at Apple.

The novelty of this card is that it includes an expansion port to which you can connect a expansion up to 1 GB of memory .

 comparative after a bidding war against another ten opponents, won the prized piece.

It finally arrived yesterday, and proceeded to replacement.

Definitely the card is new, I compared both cards and the date is different principle: three years apart. This indicates that not only are more current components, but the ROM version is newer.

The change was very fast and smooth, had previously updated the original ROM (255) to version 0, which supports the UNIDISK, which is determined by the way writing when booting diskless “PRINT PEEK (64447)”, and display a number corresponding to the version of ROM:
255 – Original ROM
0 – ROM version ‘0 ‘
3 – ROM version ‘3 ‘
4 – ROM version ‘4 ‘

DSC_2046 The new motherboard contains Version 3, which improvements are:
Redesigned Motherboards
Port 34-pins added to connect memory card up to 1 MB
AppleTalk Support
Keyboard color changed from beige to Platinum

Be really no big deal what is added in this new card, but it’s almost like having an Apple / / c new, with the opportunity to add a memory card if you ever find it.

Apple Scribe printer

Printer before retrobriteContinuing the retro theme, the design of the //c was based on a cream color, parallel lines and buttons with sloped buttons.

Both the CPU, the external drive and a little UniDisk share those looks. To use the power supply lines and creamy. One of the last peripherals that shared this style was the Apple Scribe Printer.

This printer had the same style buttons on the //c, was based on heat transfer, using a tape with four-color inks wax that “burned” it on paper resulting in higher quality printouts than dot matrix printers. The problem was that the tape was very short and expensive, besides being very slow.

I got this wonder on the popular auction site eBay, and end up paying $16 for it, a real bargain. The printer was in perfect condition, plug it and it worked at first try, but the ink as expected was old and dry, so printed with spaces and failures. Fort the age the plastic was in very good condition, just a little yellow, which improved immediately after a few hours of Retrobrite.

Printer after retrobrite

More Raspberry Pi

For some time I have kept the Raspberry Pi under wraps, being focused on other projects like my collection of Apple IIc.I have not used this little wonder, but have heard of new implementations that have come out lately, in the field of “Media Center”.

Anyway, last week I decided to revive it, using the news of the creation of a “Turbo” mode that speeds up to 1 Ghz processor.

With this in mind I went to the page RaspBMC, (my favorite version of the Xbox Media Center), and found that it’s now in version 4, which I proceeded to download and install on my SD card.

After a long installation, XBMC loadedand to my great surprise that not only runs faster, but all the past problems were corrected.

My greatest joy was when I installed a couple of scripts, the “TV a la carta” to view TV from Spain, and “Navi-X” active worldwide channels and videos “on demand.” Everything works great, and with great emotion disconnect it and went back to my old install on traditional television, using the video outputs and stereo audio RCA. Everything worked perfectly, but of course, the XBMC is optimized for digital displays, and text in a traditional TV is very small and thin.

Without taking this into account, I took the “Airplay” to see some videos from the iPad, check Navi-X and I must say I am very happy with the miraculous device. True, it’s not perfect: a few times and was locked that “reset”, and having to use a USB keyboard (I have one wireless, which is at least more comfortable) runs and handles decently. I guess version 5, very early out according RaspBMC page, will implement the turbo mode so I hope to match the speed of AppleTV2, and is a tough contender.

Meanwhile I will enjoy this excellent device in my old TV, and continue to report success.

I welcome your feedback.

Unidisk 3.5, or the strange case of the elusive gear

Apparently my passion for retro computers have become an obssesion. The problem is that the Apple II model in particular had a very attractive design, and peripherals for this were also very asthetic pleasing. There was a line dedicated specifically to the Apple //c, consisting of CPU, three monitors (color 14″, Green 9″, LCD flat panel 11 “), mouse, joystick, external Drive 5.25, UniDisk 3.5, and AppleScribe printer. All shared the same cream-colored parallel lines, inclined buttons and curved lines.

Of these peripherals, over time some have become rare pieces that are hard to get: the most expensive of all is the LCD, which have been sold around $ 400 dollars, followed by the color monitor (ColorMonitor IIc) and external disk UniDisk 3.5, which sell for $ 100-200 depending on their condition.

The Undisk 3.5 is a floppy unit for 3.5 inch disks, cream color, but by itself is very special: it is a smart drive, as it contains an 65C02 CPU, memory and firmware on board.  it sets the interleave to 4:1. to handle the slow data transfer rate between the drive/card and the //c’s system bus.

For this reason UniDisk readers are difficult to obtain. I was lucky enough to get one through a site dedicated to these systems, where a user it sold an extra good price, $ 35.

20130325-142640.jpgA few days later, the person who had sold me the monitor contact me offering me the same unit, but broken. Just bought it and start to repair it. It turns out that these drives have an automatic loading and unloading system for the floppy, make use of an internal motor with gear sensitive plastic, which does break. There is even a video showing this.

Exactly this was the problem: an engagement was broken in half and getting a replacement was a complete ordeal. Online course is very difficult to get a specific gear. I searched hobby stores, where they have parts for remote controlled models use small gear as I need. I managed to get one almost the same, but was an inch bigger and does not allow rotation.

DSC_1311I have several options for fixing the engine:

buy a used unit and remove the gear

keep looking at scale models stores

buy bags of gear hoping to find the right size

make a new one in a 3D printer

DSC_1310This last option I like, by the novelty and fun they mean. I have found in my city a “Maker Shop” is a kind of warehouse where they have tools and 3D printers, cutters, etc. for people to go and work on your electronic projects and prototypes.

For now I was lucky to find a pair of discs for Mac for $ 20, I bought and replaced the mechanism so that I have both drives working. I will put on sale one of the UniDisk to recover my investment, and soon go to “Shop Maker” to create the elusive gear and fun as only a “geek” knows how.