When I was a kid, one of my very first experiences with any computer was with an Apple II. In our elementary school library, we had three of these bad boys. This was 1984-86, so they were probably II+ or IIe, but I cannot remember the exact model. If we stayed out of trouble and kept our grades up, we would get to play The Oregon Trail by MECC for a 30 minute history lesson about once per month. Even then, I knew there was something special about these computers. With their green monochrome screens and their 8-bit monophonic sounds, they were just plain cool!
Over the years, I have had many computers. Being in an IT job for the last 19 years has afforded me many top of the line laptops, servers and desktops to play with. (Right now, I am typing this on a 2016 MacBook Pro with Touchbar.) I have almost always chosen Macintosh computers, however I have also had many PCs over the years, as well as some very odd and unique computers as well. (Sun Sparkstations, MIPS Rx400 machines, etc.) But I have never owned an Apple II like the ones we had in the elementary school library.
After many hours of casual online classified site searching (another hobby of mine,) I have purchased a Platinum enhanced IIe in great condition. It has an 80 column/64k expansion card, a DuoDisk dual 5.25″ disk drive and matching controller card, and an Apple Monitor II pumping out that sweet green monochrome eye candy! Opening it up, it was very clean, but not so clean that it had been cleaned up for the sale. All of the port covers were on the back, no open holes. It was clearly very well taken care of. Even better, Jason (the guy selling it) was willing o let me plug it in and test it a bit. I first met Jason a few months prior while gathering parts for a Mac SE that I rebuilt earlier this year. Jason is a great guy who loves repairing Apple/Macintosh computers and getting them into the hands of the people who will love them as much as he does. He must have 300+ Macintosh computers in his garage in various states of repair, and most of them are vintage!. After asking him to humor me with the bootstrapping thing for the better part of an hour, I purchased the IIe from Jason and thanked him for being so good to me on this deal and the parts for the SE a few months back.
When I got it home, I connected my 2016 MBP using a USB mic/headphone adapter to the tape in/tape out on the IIe and I was bootstrapping ProDOS and ADTPro the first night. (http://adtpro.sourceforge.net) The first issue I found was that when ADTPro wrote to a disk, I would receive a “disk error” every time, as soon as it would start writing the first blocks. It would read the blocks with no issues, but it would fail to write them within the first five blocks. A quick Google search led me to very simple instructions on how to clean the heads on the DuoDisk drives, as well as check out all of the mechanical components, gears, etc. Everything inside the drives looked very clean and tidy with no obvious signs of wear or failure. Using cotton swabs, 91% Isopropyl alcohol and some compressed air, I cleaned the heads, crossed my fingers and started another disk copy… It worked! Since then, I have made about 8 disks, including ProDOS and ADTPro Client as well as a few games – PacMan, Donkey Kong, Maniac Mansion and of course, The Oregon Trail.
My next Apple II adventure is going to be building my own analog gamepad. I will be using the schematic by Quinn Dunki (http://quinndunki.com/blondihacks/?p=2225) Here is Quinn’s schematic:
I have ordered all of the parts and most of them have already arrived. I am waiting on the last remaining part to come in – the two 470 Ohm resistors. When they arrive, I’ll set in to building my gamepad and will create my second blog post.