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Apple II Csa2 FAQs: History, Part 14/25

( Part1 - Part2 - Part3 - Part4 - Part5 - Part6 - Part7 - Part8 - Part9 - Part10 - Part11 - Part12 - Part13 - Part14 - Part15 - Part16 - Part17 - Part18 - Part19 - Part20 - Part21 - Part22 - Part23 - Part24 - Part25 )
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Archive-name: apple2/faq/part14
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 2009/12/01

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
The comp.sys.apple2 Usenet newsgroup Apple II FAQs originate from
the II Computing Apple II site, 1997-2010. 

Csa2 FAQs file ref: Csa2HISTORY.txt  rev141 December 2009


 001- Where can I find an in-depth history of the Apple II?
 002- What happened in the final years of the Computer Wars?
 003- How did Woz invent the Apple computer?
 004- What did the first Apple ads look like?
 005- When did the Apple II FAQs begin and who have maintained it?

From: Steven Weyhrich

Related FAQs Resources (ref. FAQs Contents Csa21MAIN2):

R016V1HIST.TXT - R021V6HIST.TXT (plain Text files)

001- Where can I find an in-depth history of the Apple II?

     A comprehensive Apple II History is presented in six volumes:

Volume I
Volume II
Volume III
Volume IV
Volume V
Volume VI

Volumes I - V are the actual history. The Appendices are in Volume VI.


From: Rubywand

002- In 1981 it seems like 'the world' was Apple's for the taking.
     What happened?! What were Apple II users saying and feeling
     in the final years of the Computer Wars?

The Computer Wars Chronicles

     What follows is a series of articles I originally did for COMPUTIST beginning in the late 80's.  They chronicle the end of an era. You will find all of the speculation, analysis, predictions, and hype one might expect in writings which oscillate between recognition of impending reality and a crusade to oppose it.

     The pieces are, roughly, dated by Issue number. The first article appeared in Issue 67 in the late Summer of 1989. I'm pretty sure the last article appeared in the Fall of 1991.

     This collection was recently reprinted in Tom Turley's A2-2000 on-line 'zine. Tom keeps insisting that old A2 writings will be of interest to 1990's computer users. Maybe he's right. It may be entertaining to relive these snapshots of Apple II history.

Jeff Hurlburt, 1997

ISSUE 67/ Revolution

The Missing Upgrade

     Spring has long since sprung and my predicted "significant IIgs upgrade" has yet to materialize. The problem, according to Western Design Center's Bill Mensch, is not available hardware--- 65816's have been tested above 12 Mhz and the '832 will soon be ready for prototyping--- the problem, he says, is that Apple is not particularly interested in an upgrade, or, even, in preserving the II series!

     Unbelievable? Not at all. Neither Commodore nor IBM were willing to upgrade their lower priced lower profit lines; if Apple lets the II stagnate into obsolescence, it will be following a well-worn trail. Elimination of the II line would free the company of any remaining hacker/experimenter influence, cure a chronic case of microprocessor schizophrenia (65xxx vs. 68xxx), and release resources currently devoted to II series development, production, and marketing. Finally, speculation aside, one has only
 to look at what the company has done--- or, more precisely, NOT done--- to support its IIgs...

NEED: Traditionally, upgrades are forced by the competition. By fall of last year, it was clear that lower prices for VGA resolution IBM clones posed a serious threat. The II series would be in serious trouble, I reasoned, if Big Green did not soon introduce a MAJOR IIgs upgrade. The bare bones requirement has to be something around 8 MHz speed, with a mod to access display memory at current "fast" speed,  AND access to 640 x 480 16-color graphics. More sound RAM, a second display block, better disk I/O, a
nd a multi-color TEXT mode would be nice; but, obviously, without speed and graphics parity, the IIgs isn't even in the ball game.

     Such demands are not, as some like to claim, merely a product of users losing out in 'my computer is better than yours' contests. For many applications, it is now possible to define something like speed and resolution 'absolutes': there is such a thing as "not fast enough" or "not enough detail", whatever the competition is doing. Today, no super-res word processor or desktop publisher runs "fast enough" on the IIgs-- the user is always conscious of trading away speed for "power"--; nor can the user o
btain anything like an accurate on-screen view of many fonts. "WYSIWYG" just isn't possible with only 200 lines of vertical resolution.

     Similar considerations apply with respect to many utility, scientific, and entertainment applications. The worry is that continued incompatibility with VGA-developed 'control panels', windowing setups, and artwork will slow the release of IIgs versions; and that, increasingly, speed may become a disqualifier. No one, in short, is talking about 'gilding the lily'; the focus is upon such mundane concerns as decent 'productivity applications' comfort levels and continued access to new products.

     Now, as you read this, it is summer; IIgs sales are on a double-digit slide, and, assuming there is no last minute upgrade announcement, the II line IS in serious trouble. Just how serious became obvious to me when a fellow IIgs devotee, Baywoof (a.k.a. "the Boardbasher"), confessed that he was dumping his Apple and moving to an IBM. He figures that, for the price he can still get for his IIgs stuff, he can buy a complete VGA color '386 clone system.

     I've seen his numbers; and, at worst, the difference is probably less than three or four hundred dollars!-- this for a three or four times speed increase, twice the hard disk storage, faster floppy access, lower peripherals prices, easier upgrades, larger software base, and much better graphics. (BUT, he will, for now, have to give up IIgs-quality sound. Ha!)

     Anyone still inclined to accept the pomp and glitz of Apple group festivals at face value need only peruse a recent "Computer Shopper". With luck, somewhere in a few hundred pages of IBM clone ads and product reviews, you will find Don Lancaster holding forth in the the three or four pages of what qualifies as the "Apple" section.

    "Wait!", you cry, "what about the 'New II in '89' promised at last winter's 'Fest? or reports of a plug-in upgrade?" So far, the only evidence of a "New II" is yet another addition to the malingering IIc series and some talk of a "New IIgs" with in-ROM operating system smarts and on-board MIDI. As for Apple's plug-in upgrade, this is rumored to be a bridge board to partial Mac compatibility. That is, for a few hundred dollars, you may soon be able to turn your IIgs into a Mac Jr.! (Gosh, wasn't it just
 a few months ago that IBM carried off a Fortune Worst Marketing Blunder of the Decade Award for its PC Jr.?)

     We have, long ago, passed the point where it makes any sense to talk about maintaining II series dominance in software markets. And, since schools must select computers with an eye to what students will use at home, Apple's much-touted education base is about to 'turn blue' as well. The question now is: how much of the current base of users and creative talent can be held while someone (Applied Engineering, Comlog, Laser, ?) puts together a significant, reasonably priced upgrade?

QUALITY CONTROL and SERVICE: Our II+ ran flawlessly for nearly six years before requiring a new power supply and keyboard IC replacement. A veteran of countless experimental mods, it continues to perform well. Our IIgs, on the other hand, is presently on its third motherboard! (Actually, it may be the fourth; it's hard to be sure. I do recall that one of the replacement boards didn't do anything, except short out the power supply.)

     The main problem is an apparently endless supply of sub-spec proprietary IC's (e.g. video and ADB controllers). So, why three (3) motherboards!? Well, Apple does not allow its local sales/service reps to replace soldered-on IC's. Should your ADB controller bomb (or, more likely, you finally discover that it has been sporadically malfunctioning all along), "repair" consists of swapping out the motherboard. If your warranty has expired, the cost is $270 plus your old board!

     As to old complaints-- a II series marketing strategy designed to create a toy image, high prices, slowness in releasing documentation, Mac exploitation of II events, etc., etc.-- elaboration is hardly necessary. The record is one of studied insult, rapacious greed, sloppiness, and dismal neglect.

Let Them Eat Cake

     Does Big Green management truly wish to be rid of the II? I doubt it. As security against future Mac troubles, the II series has proved to be priceless insurance. (Remember, it was the IIgs and solemn oaths to 'be true to our Two' that turned things around in '86.) The Apple Lords appear, instead, to have opted for the no-development-cost, string-the-user-along strategy perfected by Commodore in dealing with its 64/128 line. Unfortunately, the IIgs is priced against '386-class competition, not cartrid
ge arcade machines.

     In the long run, the biggest problem with this 'Mac in red, II gets fed; Mac in black, II gets sack' philosophy may be that it makes for remarkably poor PR. Scan through the message bases of a few local Apple BB's and what you find is the kind of mistrust and ill will that used to be reserved for 'The Phone Company'.

     There is, for some reason, a widespread perception that Apple is perfectly willing to sit on its hands while hefty user computing investments turn to mush. Now, what do suppose is going to happen when many of these thousands of II owners and former owners are asked to suggest company, school, and university computer purchases? Somehow, Apple is managing to convert its most valuable asset into a fatal liability. (It's not nice to skimp on your II insurance premiums!)

Another Way

     Anticipating that, whether by design or accident, Apple may be angling for a Mac-only strategy, several respected II series supporters have joined to combat the shift and develop alternatives. In our conversation, Mensch identified such "Working Group" participants as himself and other WDC personnel, Tom Weishaar, Mike Westerfield, and representatives from Applied Engineering and Comlog.

     While his "preferred remedy" is to persuade Big Green stockholders to force II support, Mensch admits that the group is already exploring non-Apple options. Among these, the simplest calls for third-party development of a speed-up/graphics add-on. For an outlay "well below $500" you would retain access to current IIgs wares and enjoy the benefits of a new, higher performance standard. More dramatic cures call for Apple to 'spin off' an independent II products company or even sign away II rights to one
 or more established manufacturers.

     When asked if a cloner (e.g. Laser) might launch its own super IIgs, Mensch steadfastly refused any comment. From Laser, Grant Dalke's response was a somewhat obtuse, carefully worded observation that, if such a product appeared to be feasible, Laser would announce it when it was ready. (Hmmmmm) "So, are you saying that no IIgs-like product is being developed?" Answer: "No comment". Well, the last time I got answers like these to questions like these was back in the summer of '85 when trying to pin do
wn Bill Mensch about a 65816-based "IIx". IF Jim Hart's rumored 7.8MHz, 640 x 400 resolution, ... "IIgs+" actually exists, a reasonable guess is that it's sitting in Laser's labs.


     We have, it seems, reached the situation narrowly averted only three years ago. Hobbled by inept generalship and beset by swarms of power-packed IBM clones, the II world is moving to an inevitable consensus: Apple has lost the 'Mandate of Heaven'; II leadership is up for grabs. I believe most users would like to see the company rediscover its hacker/experimenter roots and become a 'serious player'; it had better. What remains of the Empire (fat, contented Macsville) is already scheduled for plundering
 by hordes of '486-based monsters.

     The 'bad news' is that, as the battle over speed, graphics, disk I/O, and other needed advances heats up; it will, for a time, become difficult to present software designers with a 'standard II'. Clones, plug-in upgrades, and third-party motherboards (along with firmware and operating system mods) will add to the confusion; some established II suppliers will fold; etc., etc.. (It ain't gonna be pretty, Pilgrim.)  Indeed, once it becomes clear what revolutionaries mean by having to "break eggs to make 
an omelet", more than a few users are sure to bail out and head for the relatively peaceful IBM clone realm.

     On the positive side, just such a state of flux is most likely to produce fierce competition, lower prices, increased opportunities for developers, and significant leaps in performance. One way or another, you WILL get your upgrade. If all this sounds interesting-- even, like it might be fun-- then hang on. You have the 'right stuff' for the II Revolution!

Note: Bill Mensch's semi-informal "IIgs Working Group" plans one or more meetings this summer. To offer comments, ideas, etc., or to otherwise 'get involved', contact Andrew Hall at the address listed in "Vendors".

ISSUE 68/ Keep-It-Simple Upgrade

     If the best Apple can do for its II line turns out to be a "new IIgs" with 1MB of motherboard RAM and 128K of sound RAM plus NO upgrade offer to current IIgs owners... Well, the next "Apple Fest" could turn into the first "Apple Frost". As to movement on the 'II manufacturers upgrade front', I have yet to here a peep from Applied Engineering, Comlog, Western Design Center, or anyone else in the business. (Like, where are the Japanese when you really need them?!)

     So, to get things rolling, here's a specific proposal: Since the big problem with any worthwhile upgrade is maintaining current compatibilities while extracting graphics control and output from the motherboard kluge, why not put everything on a single, slot-pluggable board which also plugs into the motherboard 65816 socket?

    "Everything" includes an 8-10 MHz 65816, cache RAM, 640 x 400 (at least) x 256 colors graphics controller, an input (via a short jumper chord) from 'old graphics' output, video output & switching circuitry, ROM's, 1MB of RAM, duplicate sound system with 256K RAM, sound input for 'old sound' output (via another jumper chord), and a mini-connector to drive a 'to be developed' improved disk interface. The board amounts to a vastly improved IIgs which can, when asked, take over the motherboard and work lik
e the old machine-- NOT, to be sure, so dramatic an approach as some might wish; but then, the idea is to 'keep it simple'.

ISSUE 72/ No Foolin'

     Last year's Apple II predictions were, mostly, on-target. According to a Reuters News Service release, II series shipments fell nearly 52%. Many new games have not been released in a II format, some users have defected, and a few established publications (notably dear old CALL Apple) disappeared. On the other hand, the Great Apple Dump predicted by some, turned out to be a 'Dump-ling'; net user base probably held or increased. Most product releases continue to include, eventually, a II version; and, s
everal very attractive products are available ONLY for IIe or IIgs. In Star Trek terminology, the II series took a 'direct hit' in '89; and has come back stronger and tougher.

     Which brings us to the other half of the infamous Issue #67 commentary. True, we do not see curls of smoke rising from Cupertino, circling vultures, and fat barbarians bidding for the crown. We do see lower profits, dropping stock value, and declining market share. Big Green, as in the days just prior to its last II series 'rediscovery', needs a major, attention-getting, marketing success. Some "industry analysts" have suggested a low-priced Mac; but, aside from being a contradiction in terms, IF a fo
r-real '90's technology Cheapo Mac were offered, the first casualty would be the current high-profit-margin Mac II. A not-for-real sub-performing Cheapo would, of course, merely repeat IBM's PC Jr. fiasco.

     In following through with release of GSOS 5.0, Apple demonstrates that it is not quite ready to fall on its sword. Whether Big Green has forgotten how to wield it remains to be seen. A vast market is still wide open, ripe for plucking by the first manufacturer able to tell a "PC" business machine from a genuine "Home Computer". Apple used to know the difference; and, with Spring in the air and just a bit of prompting from its II users, may be on the verge of remembering.

ISSUE 74/ (Report from the Computer Wars)

     When the great wheel of the small computing universe takes a major turn, wobbles, and settles into a new plane, there are bound to be many users who will doubt the evidence of their senses. ("Did the earth tremble? Did the stars shift? WHAT happened?!")  Hence, the 'last minute' decision to compress this month's reviews and issue the "Report'".

Report from the Computer Wars

I. Tsunami

     What promised just last summer to be a PC wave has become a rolling tsunami. One minute you're strolling down a city street, considerately stepping over and around islands of PC hardware; the next, you're running for your life in the shadow of a churning skyscraper-high wall of machines and circuit boards. Something important has happened in Computerville; a milestone has been reached. When? Sometime between last fall and this spring. What? Nothing less than the end of Computer Wars I!

II. Myth

     During some fifteen years of competition among names like Altair, Southwest Technical, Imsai, (Ohio Scientific, Tandy, Atari, Apple, Commodore, ...), it became an article of faith that the outcome would be THE dominant computer maker. Presumably, the manufacturer of the best machines would attract the overwhelming majority of users and that would be that.

     Much to the delight of TRS-80, Apple II, and Atari 800 makers, the Microcomputer Club soon gave way to product-specific groups of true believers determined to expand membership and win immortality ("II Forever!", etc.) for their machines. It was entertaining; but, of course, it was mainly hype.

     Even were users willing and able to flit from machine to machine like butterflies, no major manufacturer was particularly attracted to anything so intangible as Computer Wars "victory". The corporations (believe it or not) were aiming to maximize profits, not user numbers! Both Apple and Commodore built up large, enthusiastic home user bases, then neglected them in favor of the lower volume, higher profit business market. So much for "winning the world".

III. Sluff-off

     For home users, developers, software publishers-- for everyone, in fact, with a stake in the "low end" machine-- such half-hearted support has always been as puzzling as it is frustrating. We invest hard cash in an Apple computer, join Apple clubs, subscribe to Apple publications, (slap Apple stickers on binders, use an Apple key ring, ...), fill shelves with Apple software, and buy Apple peripherals. Apple, in return, drags out development of a IIgs operating system, pours money into its business mac
hine, and adopts a 'dog in the manger' position which all but kills any chance of a timely third party upgrade needed to maintain IIgs performance parity with the competition.

     To be fair, Apple has behaved no worse-- indeed, on the whole, much better-- than other home user 'flagships'. Each new II model has preserved broad downward compatibility; and documentation, from early manuals through the current Addison Wesley series, has been among the best. Finally, both the IIgs and its operating system benefitted from recent minor upgrades. It's no wonder home users are confused. If Apple is at all concerned about its II series, why isn't it concerned enough?

     After the near brush with collapse in '85, we reasoned that Apple (now also "Big Green" the business machine maker) would forever regard holding onto its II home user base as a high priority. Surely, Apple had learned its lesson.

     So it had, though not the lesson we supposed. IIgs revenues were a help in those troubled times; but the more important contribution was an industry-wide confidence that "Apple is back". Stock values rose, capital rolled in, the Mac II was launched, and viola!, Apple WAS back! The lesson for Apple was clear enough: 'everyone' still equated corporate health with II prosperity. It had become captive to its low end, low profit product line.

     There are several reasons why Apple might view this situation with alarm. Of these, the popular notion that a IIgs resulting from a series of forced upgrades might impact Mac sales is probably the most over-rated. As Apple's own marketing people have adroitly demonstrated, it is entirely possible to render a product "business invisible". Your ads merely assert that the IIgs is a home/school computer and that the Mac is for business. Once the systems are bundled with appropriate software and the price 
tags slapped on, few IS managers would consider filling an office with IIgs's.

     No, the simplest explanation for Apple's concern is also the one which best fits the facts. Well before the '85 crisis, Apple had decided that costs of its II series were beginning to outweigh rewards. Selling all of those computers, disk drives, and printers to create a large home user base was great fun. Customer service, support R&D, and selling upgrades to maintain it was not nearly so profitable. Apple wished to be free to deal with its II series on its own terms. Most certainly, the Lords of Cup
ertino were determined to be rid of a situation which allowed home user complaints, doomsday editorials, or expressions of teacher dissatisfaction to rock corporate pylons at the foundation.

     By 1988, an aggressive ad campaign and expanding Mac II sales had solved the problem. Apple shed its "home computer maker" skin and became "Apple, the maker of pricey, high class business computers". Whether the II line is spun-off, sold, or merely "supported" at current low levels, one thing seems clear. The odds are very slim that II users will ever again be an important part of Apple's empire. Consider yourself sluffed.

IV. IBM: Grud-maker

     IBM's first PC was chiefly remarkable for what it was not. It was not a closed-box, highly complex machine packed with proprietary hardware. Featuring an out-of-the-Intel-manual design with slots for peripheral boards, it was virtually Apple's II+ 'done in business grey'.

     From the start, PC's simple, straightforward profile proved both a blessing and a curse. The blessing was that flocks of third party manufacturers quickly began to fill the machine with performance-enhancing boards and peripherals. The curse, from IBM's point of view, is that it proved impossible to protect PC from hordes of grud-like cloners.

[Note: In case you missed playing "Dark Forest" or a sequel, gruds are short, green, swarthy, fast-multiplying reptiles-- sort of a one-horned ninja turtle without the shell.]

     Anybody could make a "PC compatible" and, from AT&T to one-garage assembly shops, 'anybody' did. Worse still, as IBM moved first to the XT and then the AT, it encountered successively more cloners taking progressively less time to develop better copies at lower prices! When, at last, Big Blue moved to its supposedly less clonable PS/2 platform, it was already widely understood that the best grud AT's were at least as good as the IBM original AND cheaper.

     Had the Mainframe Moguls set out purposefully to create a dangerously competitive computer making sub-culture, they could hardly have improved upon the course followed. Faced with such inept meddling, the Apple Lords must have felt a bit like the old Sorcerer watching his Apprentice chop the animated broom into a million pieces. Naturally, by the time Big Blue ran for the hills, the small computing landscape was knee-deep in gruds. (Even today, it is said, Apple's Consummate Enlightened One will awake
n in the dead of night, sit up bolt straight in his bed, and scream "Why must I lose to such idiots!")

     For good or ill, IBM had delivered big manufacturer technology and the market to go with it into the hands of countless small manufacturing free enterprise fanatics. Here the "big names" appear on metallic stickers slapped into square indentations thoughtfully provided by PC case manufacturers; and you're only as good as your prices are low.

    Though, in this maze of interlocking board makers, assemblers, and sellers, each component may come from almost anywhere, by 1988 the cloners had managed a 'stock' AT featuring VGA color. Soon there followed compatible '386 models, low cost Ad Lib sound; and (barely months after the chip became available) the first '486 machines were ready. Incredibly, the no-name gruds had moved beyond mere clone-making without missing a beat.

V. Outcome

     Computer Wars I did not pick a winning manufacturer; it did pick a winning, standard platform: the "PC AT or compatible". Just look at unit sales, the quantity, quality, and range of software releases, peripherals variety, and newspaper/magazine advertising. The clincher is a pattern of plummeting prices, increasing performance, and rapid adoption of cutting-edge technology. It all adds up to the same thing: a 'standard computer'. Today, when you say "computer", everyone knows you mean "PC".

     As of summer 1990, the 'typical PC' is an 8-16MHz '286-based machine with 640K-1MB (zero wait state) RAM, 1.2 MB 5.25" floppy, and 40-60MB hard disk. Featuring VGA color and Ad Lib sound, the system also includes "enhanced keyboard", VGA monitor, and cards for serial & parallel I/O, disk controllers, clock, and joystick ports-- all for about $1400. (33MHz '386 versions sell for roughly $2000). If current trends persist, by late fall prices will have dropped 10-15%.

     Where does this leave II users? As of this spring, IIgs users sat atop a large, divers software base. As of summer, very little has been added. While you can reasonably expect continued releases in such areas as utilities, languages, and education, the outlook for productivity wares is rather poor. As for major vendor entertainment releases, don't ask! Just take last summer's predictions and slap on a "You are Here" sticker.

     Though loyal, literally, to a fault, II users are not likely to long tolerate a situation which not only saddles them with sub-par performance, but also shuts them out of the major vendor software stream. Mainly, you 'won't take it any more' because you don't have to. Look at the economics: As a IIgs owner you are probably looking forward to a speed/graphics upgrade and the addition of a 40-60MB hard disk. Well, at normal Apple stuff prices (and assuming a graphics upgrade becomes available) your plan
ned outlay comes painfully close to the total cost of the "typical PC AT"! This much seems clear, by next summer many (perhaps most) II owners will also be PC users.

     Doom? Gloom? The 'end of forever'? Not at all. In fact, the gruds may have delivered what Apple only promised: practically unlimited II continuance. One of the ironies of the present situation is that the very forces which make taking the PC plunge so appealing (e.g. low prices) also make dumping your IIgs stuff unattractive. Even as the junior partner in a two-machine installation, your IIgs is worth vastly more to you than it is likely to sell for. (Besides, all of your records are in Appleworks fil
es; little Suzy just started "Dungeon Master", etc., etc..)  So long as II's remain in the hands of skilled users there will be no lack of interest in performance enhancements, peripherals, and new software.

     The gruds may be dancing in the streets, but the biggest winner in Computer Wars I is the computer user. Proprietary fiefdoms and semi-monopolistic pricing are being swept away; and, for the first time, we can look forward to a unified software base spanning home, school, and business users. Granted, this was a conflict that ended, not with the clash of cymbals, but the toot of a kazoo. The big name manufacturers, assorted publications, and many others will, naturally, try to pretend that it's 'busine
ss as usual'. It isn't. Computer Wars I is history. Computer Wars II is a whole new ball game!

ISSUE 75/ One More Time?!

     After four years of minimal 'gs support, Apple's Consummate Enlightened One has issued an inCider encyclical assuring II users of the company's continued commitment. The letter mentioned such worthwhile achievements as an improved operating system and the imminent II Hypercard (but neglected to specify where the company had been committed or how long the treatment is expected to last). Fine; but, why now?

     If letters, BB postings, etc. are any indication, many II partisans believe the explanation is to be found in continued 'unstoppable' PC market share advances. Supposedly, The Computer Company MUST play its 'II card' yet one more time or face extermination.

     In the best of all possible worlds, Big Green's new Macs would sell like hotcakes; AND a portion of the capital generated would go into a serious II-based assault on the home/school market. (As even PC devotees will admit, the smugly confident PC universe could stand a good scare.)  In the Real World, our experience has been that the level of attention to II user concerns is inversely related to Mac success. Small wonder, then, that The C.E.O.'s latest proclamation resembles less an assurance of suppo
rt than a trial balloon. (Basically: "Just in case things really get bad; what will it take to jump-start your interest in Apple products?")  Fair enough; and, it goes without saying, any trial balloon from the First Apple Lord merits a response.

Dear C.E.O.:

     First comes THE upgrade; then, we can talk about hypercards, frame grabbers, CD interfaces, Mac links, and other such embellishments. Our needs are modest enough; say an 8 MHz '816 motherboard with 2 megs of main RAM, 256K or so of sound RAM, and capabilities for 640 x 400 256-color graphics. By way of compensation, you are encouraged to rip out the network of expensive, glitch-prone kluges designed to promote IIe compatibility. (This should help with costs; and, you can always market a IIe plug-in fo
r old-II diehards.)  An in-ROM '816 BASIC would be nice; but, for now, an empty socket and a promise will suffice.

    Price is very important. Not only must the individual IIgs owner be convinced that the upgrade represents a good buy; he/she must also believe that other IIgs owners will feel the same. So far, my polling indicates a number somewhere around $300. Naturally, when we bring in our machines to buy the new board, we shall wish to keep our old boards. They're no good to you anyway, and will supply many experimenters with endless hours of fun (to say nothing of generating countless interesting articles for Ap
ple user publications).

     A tad costly? No doubt. Stll, a few hundred mil to reinvigorate your IIgs base and attract new buyers is a bargain. (Like, it sure beats losing the whole ball of wax!)  In return, we'll buy your products, enlist recruits, kick stock prices up ten or twenty points, and save dear old Apple-- one more time.

Your pal, Jeff

ISSUE 79/ Home Again


     Last fall the lone remaining advertiser-supported Apple II-only monthly announced the intention to "include Mac coverage". At the time, there seemed little reason for comment. Unlike, say, a TI-99 bulletin board I've called, a computer magazine can not be content with discussions of summer vacations and fishing trips. If a publication can't find enough II products 'action' to pay the bills, it has to find something else to talk about.


     My reason for mentioning the II-to-Mac shift now is that inCider's move is symptomatic of maneuvering we must expect and be wary of in the post-Computer Wars I world. Regular viewers of the weekly PBS computer-stuff show "Computer Chronicles" have already heard the new 'party line'. Basically, it goes like this: "For years the home computing market has been in the doldrums. Recently, however, Apple and IBM have re-discovered the individual user! They are coming to the rescue with powerful, low-priced 
products like the Mac LC and PS/1."

     Okay, so what is the pay-off in being "re-discovered"? First, the PS/1: It is a compact, attractive, AT-compatible '286 machine which requires an optional box to accommodate standard PC/AT peripheral cards. At $2000 for the basic color version, PS/1 is priced near the limit of what most home buyers seem to be willing to 'go for' in an initial purchase. It is also priced above faster '386 no-name (a.k.a. "grud") AT's with more RAM and larger hard disks and far above equivalent grud '286 systems.

     Mac LC is an attractive, compact, Mac-compatible 68020 machine which, with the addition of a low-cost IIe card, can run IIe software. At, roughly, $3000 for the basic color version it is priced far beyond the typical home buyer's initial investment limit. However, as inCider noted in it's "Meet the Mac LC" face-off with an equivalent hard disk II system, the IIgs can end up costing as much as the base 'LC plus IIe card (assuming the IIgs purchaser makes a series of remarkably poor buying decisions).  
Same-price grud competition includes a new crop of much faster '486 AT's with more RAM and much larger hard disks.

     It was, I believe, Abraham Lincoln who once observed: "You can re-discover some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time... " At least "'Chronicles" avoided references to the "little people" and "unwashed masses"; but the meaning is clear enough. Technological trickle-down has proved out, we have been noticed by the big name manufacturers! The "doldrums", of course, refers to THEIR home markets-- understandable, when you consider that no major manufacturer has paid any real
 attention to home users for the last five years. THE home market has been flourishing since 1989, when home buyers began to snap up no-name VGA+AdLib PC/AT's like they were going out of style.

     They were (going out of style). First came the '286 wave; and now, as of spring '91, higher speed '386 systems are selling for well below $2000. A good barometer of what's hot (and what's not) is the computer advertising in your newspaper's Sunday "Business" section. This, typically, is where all computer stuff advertisements (with prices!) appear. I checked ours; and, believe it or not, in five or six pages plastered with computer ads, neither the PS/1 nor the Mac LC were listed. The word "Apple" did
 not appear even once! (Yes; I have, in the past, found an 'LC ad. Prices were NOT listed.)

     Today's home programmer/ game-player/ composer/ author/ educator... is learning to shop for speed, power, and upgradability (i.e. slots!) regardless of brand name. Any suggestion that he or she is willing to settle for PS/2-1's, "Low Cost" Macs, or other sub-business-class machines is not merely off-target, it is the reverse of the actual situation. Typical office applications have little need for quality sound, large color palettes, or exceptional speed-- all areas under continual pressure from desig
ners of entertainment products. The home computer MUST be a relatively 'hot', versatile performer; and, there are all sorts of reasons why the home purchaser, in particular, aims for the 'most machine' he or she can reasonably afford.

     First, of course, he or she is buyer AND user. Shopping for five or ten word processor/office machines someone else will use is one thing; buying the one YOU and family members will be using is quite another matter. Other home user motivators include an interest in a wide range of steadily more demanding software, peer pressure, and concern that younger family members truly have 'the power to be their best'.

     In the same broadcast, "'Chronicles" notes that home markets are becoming more attractive because "business markets are becoming saturated". Again, we are dealing with THEIR business markets. One can expect to sell just so many $4000-$6000 name brand units when more powerful machines are available at half the price. Eventually, buyers for oil corporations, universities, etc. were bound to wise-up. (Does anyone still blow $49.95 on a box of ten For-Sure-Certified diskettes?)

     I do not doubt that IBM, Commodore, Apple, Compaq, etc. WANT to sell piles of machinery to home users. I do doubt that any of them knows what this market looks like. If the big guys and their media placidly presume home computists to be both less demanding AND less informed, it does not augur well for their home market showdown with the gruds.

Where Are You?

     You are here! Should "here" mean "primarily a II+ (IIe, IIc, II clone) user", then you are acutely aware of being out of the mainstream of personal computing. (Either that, or you've been 'out' for so long that you're starting to think you're 'in'!)  Not only is very little new software coming from the major vendors; but nothing looks as good as the super-res and VGA stuff you've seen on other machines. You CAN upgrade the II, even to the point of adding a VGA display; but the biggest problem isn't YO
UR hardware. It's the thousands of other 'old II' users who must be persuaded to make the same changes-- that is, if you wish to create a recognizable 'super II' user base, develop and trade programs, attract vendors, etc., etc..

Recommendations: Keep your II, use it, enjoy it; and, when opportunities arise, improve it if the costs are not too steep. Hardware experimentation is a valuable, time-honored II owner activity. Given the rapid pace of microprocessor and component advances, there really is no telling what you might be able to achieve. Should you decide to sample the era of modern store-bought personal computing, go for the best, most II-like machine you can afford. As of Spring '91, this probably means either  1. take a ri
sk on the IIgs  OR  2. grab a PC-owner friend and shop the local grud establishments for a '386 PC/AT.

    "Here" may be the joyful realm of PC-ville. Your 'big problems' are deciding whether to

     1. add another 2MB of RAM (to handle "Windows 3.0" stuff), and/or
     2. fill that little vertical panel slot with a 1.44MB 3.5" drive, and/or
     3. swap out your old 40MB drive for a 120MB unit, and/or
     4. dump your old VGA card plus the non-multi-sync monitor and replace
        with extended VGA equipment.

Recommendations: Yes, Yes, Maybe, Not yet. It may also be a good idea to keep your weekends open and your car gassed-up, just in case someone calls about doing some shopping.

     If "here" is IIgs-ville then you already know the 'old place' isn't what it used to be. I've lost track of the number of IIgs projects "cancelled for lack of market interest", deceased hardware suppliers, and major vendor PR persons who (politely) barely refrain from laughing when I ask about "availability in IIgs format". As to national/international publications which actually devote hundreds of column inches to II coverage on a monthly basis...; suffice it to say you won't need base ten numerals to
 count them.

     A sampling of local bulletin board listings pretty well sums up what has happened. In a printout from 1986, of 70 boards, 17 (24.3%) are listed as "Apple" BB systems, which ties with PC for the lead. By December 1990, of 298 boards, 8 (2.7%) are "Apple" BB's. Amiga and Atari shares are even smaller; C-64/128 (4.4%) and Mac (3%) come in a bit higher. PC's share is 81.5%.

     You (we) were entirely justified in expecting Apple to make a major II series effort long before now-- if only to prevent nearly complete dominance of unit sales, peripherals development, and software releases by a platform with which no Apple product is compatible. Think back to the late '80's and you can see that the threat of a strong, improving IIgs was the last barrier to a no-name PC/AT sweep. When, by mid-'89, the "threat" evaporated, Amiga, Atari, Mac, and even IBM each had good reason to be v
ery very concerned. If they weren't then, you can bet they are now. Mac's big watchword used to be "Friendliness"; today it's "Connectivity". IBM, who used to believe IT decided PC standards, dares not market the PS/1 without offering an optional expansion box to hold AT-compatible cards!

     So much for spilt milk. As they say in the beer commercials: "Well, Pard, (slurp) it don't get no worsen this!" 'It' could; but, evidently, it won't. Several bright spots on the horizon point to, if anything, the beginnings of a IIgs upturn. First, there's the Mac LC. Last Fall, according to "industry watchers", 'LC was destined to displace IIgs and, thus, signal the inevitable demise of the II series. Instead, as we now know, 'LC positions color Macs, more or less permanently, OUT of IIgs territory. 
Big Green's Mac cards are on the table. When Apple makes a serious low-end market play, it will be the 'IIgs card'.

     Every IIgs user is aware that most major software vendors are not releasing 'all of that great PC stuff' in IIgs format. Too little attention is given to the continuing strong support from sources like Beagle Bros, Roger Wagner, Byte Works, and MECC. Nibble and SoftDisk-GS regularly release quality software and individual programmers continue to produce useful, innovative shareware.

     Two recent product releases are especially encouraging. Apple's GS/OS 5.04 may come on as "just another revision of old, familiar GS/OS" to IIgs owners preoccupied with hardware needs. No problem; the 'Rule Book' says that if you use a machine, you're supposed to carp about the operating system. Meanwhile, PC/AT users are falling all over themselves in glee at the thought that they may soon have something like GS/OS.

     The other release is "Platinum Paint" from Beagle Bros. It's the kind of product that could have "mainstream users" wondering where the mainstream is. If the IIgs is dead, at least it's attracting some very classy flies. If it's not, what might we look forward to when the upturn REALLY gathers steam?!

     Though inCider's "Meet the Mac LC'" piece made no recommendations and was hardly enthusiastic-- well, actually, it reads like something one might come up with in a Mac prisoner of war camp-- even so, Roger Wagner responded with a full-page rebuttal. One comment was especially thought provoking: "The IIgs is the best platform with which to enter the '90's."

     My first reaction was something along the lines of "Poor RW. He's finally blown a 'higher functions' LSI chip. How can IIgs be the 'best platform' if it's not supported?" But that, of course is RW's point. Viewed 'in itself', instead of "Will it be around next year?", "Is it smart buy?", etc. the IIgs has remarkable potential. For starters, it is the ONLY platform to offer both an abundance of expansion slots AND sophisticated firmware. It is also a compact machine widely regarded as the best looking 
computer ever produced by anyone. (Well, it never hurts to be good looking.)

     Granting that IIgs is in the "Best Platform" running; what's the problem? Why isn't the Best Platform doing BP-type stuff? This one's easy. Just imagine that you've switched-in a bigger power supply and crammed a 1MB model IIgs with the best available performance enhancers. What is missing? Exactly! Until we can either swap-out motherboards or plug in a card to obtain 'state of the world' graphics capabilities, non of the other add-ons will be enough to spark a full-scale IIgs swarming. Conversely, on
ce super graphics ARE in place, all of the other add-ons and the IIgs itself will immediately become vastly more attractive.

Recommendations: Keep, use, enjoy, and learn about your IIgs. It could wind up as one of the big winners in Computer Wars II. Speed-up, math co-processor, and similar enhancements are worth a serious look, so long as you are willing to accept the risks (i.e. future compatibility) that come with 'leading the pack'.

     As to user hardware experimentation, why not? Your Apple club's IIgs VGA card project could be THE way to crack the graphics logjam. ("What about the CRT monitor and 'old IIgs' super-res?" Easy. We buy multi-syncs, plug them into your new super IIgs VGA card and 'standardize' IIgs as a dual color monitor machine! Now, what sort of programming, flight-sim, CAD, and adventure game software do you suppose THAT would attract!!)

ISSUE 82/ II to Two

     By now it should be clear that, for the active computer user, access to a PC/AT machine is a 'given'. Along with your radio, TV, and telephone, it has become 'standard equipment'. Interestingly, it has not attracted much experimenter interest nor anything like a fanatic user group following. Today's generic PC/AT IS a good, solid machine and, by far, the best price/performance personal computing value-- besides which, it continues to absorb an overwhelming portion of major software vendor attention. I
t has not, however, replaced the Apple II.

     Why? Many reasons; but, to keep it short: you can't and/or won't do "Apple II" stuff on your PC. This especially applies to experimentation and one's willingness to try out enhancement products from a growing list of new 'garage shop' suppliers. Ironically, when a II user moves from II-only to "two"-- i.e. adds a PC-- there is more enthusiasm for enhancements and, after a brief dip, time spent using the older machine actually increases! For whatever reason, the "endless Apple II" does seem to be on th
e rebound. Two computers really are better than one.


From: Charles T. "Dr. Tom" Turley

Related FAQs Resources (ref. FAQs Contents Csa21MAIN2): R010APPLE1.GIF (GIF pic of Apple I)

003- How did Woz invent the Apple computer?

Following is a Steve Wozniak interview which appeared in the Summer 1997 issue of II Alive.

Looking Back: Woz Tells: "How I Did It!"

Charles T. Turley, interviewer

     The recent flurry of speculations surrounding Apple Inc.'s future seems to have stirred up questions concerning birth of the Apple II. Some writers have reported that coding of the first II ROMs was a fairly simple affair since, "of course", Steve Wozniak had access to an assembler and terminal. Similar "obvious" and "easy" comments have surfaced about the decisions to use dynamic RAM and include a BASIC interpreter. I decided to ask Woz for all the facts.

C.T.: You've seen the report; how much is accurate?

Woz: The author of the report I received from you is wrong when he says no ROM of large size was assembled by hand. I could never afford an assembler for the 6502 which I bought for $20.

     First, I connected the 6502 to Static RAM and a video terminal of my own design. I then wrote a short "monitor" program to watch the keyboard and display characters, both under interrupt and polled. We didn't have 256 byte PROMS, just 256x4 PROMS at that time. I used two of the ones we burned for calculator development at HP. The first hardware bringup had a few frustrating hours but I got it working with polled keyboard that night.

     I then wrote a 256 byte "Monitor" program which watched the keyboard for hex data entry (address:data data data) and hex display and program initiation ("Run"). I got very good at typing in hex and very very good at checking data entry carefully, character by character. I still can't read a credit card number without a high expectation of mistake, but I have good habits to this day.

C.T.: Even Commodore's Vic20, which appeared years later, uses easy-to-design-for static memory IC's. What was behind the decision to use dynamic RAM?

Woz: I switched to dynamic RAMs when someone at our club sold some for a couple of bucks each. After all, in 1975 these were the first RAMS cheaper than core memory, the 4K dynamics. I bought some 22 pin AMI ones, there were three vendors.

     Virtually none of the other hobby computers around that time used dynamic RAMs, I decided it was because of the hobbyist technician sense of most fans I met, they weren't true engineers. Also, they were familiar with low-cost routes like surplus stores where the favorite RAM was the 2102 static. But for me, designing for the dynamic RAM was a piece of cake and I had fun at that which I excelled, combining MSI chips in clever ways.

     Steve Jobs asked what did I think of the Intel dynamic RAMs. I told him I felt they were the best. Although they required more driving circuitry for Row and Column addressing (not just a wire from the CPU for each address line) they were in a smaller package. I had for some time measured the worth of my IC designs in terms of how little board space they took, not how few chips. So these 16-pin Intel chips, plus some row/column multiplexers and timing signals, actually took less board space than the 22
-pin AMI RAMS. And saved some transistor clock drivers as well.

     I felt we could never afford any Intel chip, having heard how the 8080 was $370. But Steve got a rep to give us 16 samples. So the Apple I started with the best possible RAM choice, even before it was certain how things would go with RAMs. When the 16K dynamics appeared in the Intel compatible format we were luckily on the right track.

C.T.: How did BASIC come to be part of the first Apple computer?

Woz: The book "101 BASIC Games" made me think that the right higher level language for these low cost computers was BASIC, even though I'd never used it. I referred to an HP BASIC manual to develop my syntax diagrams. Hoping to be noted as the first with a 6502 BASIC, I left out floating point. But what I wanted was games, logic simulations, puzzle solving, etc. and integers are fine. Most of my college programming was numerics done with integer only operations for large accuracy.

     I wrote the entire BASIC by hand with no assembler. I kept thousands of pages of my hand-done work from day 1. The final Apple II Rom code was entirely done by hand and is in a notebook. The Apple II was the first product to ship with 2K Roms from Synertek. 4K total of code. I built in a disassembler and wrote a mini-assembler (no symbols, only absolute hex or decimal addresses and constants) which shipped either in the Apple II or in a later Rom addition.

C.T.: What about peripherals like the printer interface, cassette, and disk? I guess these were all coded using an assembler; right?

Woz: By the time the Printer card was done with it's 256 byte ROM I may still have been coding by hand or we might have gotten our first assembler. It's unusual to this day that you plugged in a printer and it attached itself to the op-sys by means of a driver in ROM on the printer card. True plug'n play. Possible to this day but rarely done (I've heard of some Newton exception).

     The ROM op-sys of the Apple II could direct output and input to any of 7 slots. Mass media was read and write an entire cassette file at once.

     The floppy brought a very tight hardware design, coupled very tightly to the lowest level access subroutines which I wrote without an assembler. Randy Wiggington wrote the "Read Write Tractor Sector" routines, a step higher. Randy and I began a full op-sys but we farmed it out to Shepardson associates. Needless to say, none of that was done by hand!


From: Jason Aubrey Wells <>

Related FAQs Resources (ref. FAQs Contents Csa21MAIN2):
  R001a2ad.htm (html text of ad)
  R003ADGPIC.GIF (GIF picture of ad)

004- What did the first Apple ads look like?

Below is the text of the Apple II advertisement which appeared in the September 1977 issue of Scientific American.

The home computer that's ready to work, play and grow with you.

Clear the kitchen table. Bring in the color T.V. Plug in your new Apple II*, and connect any standard cassette recorder/player. Now you're ready for an evening of discovery in the new world of personal computers.

Only Apple II makes it that easy. It's a complete, ready to use computer--not in a kit. At $1298, it includes features you won't find on other personal computers costing twice as much. Features such as video graphics in 15 colors. And a built in memory capacity of 8K bytes ROM and 4K bytes RAM--with room for lots more. But you don't even need to know a RAM from a ROM to use and enjoy Apple II. It's the first personal computer with a fast version of BASIC--the English-like programming language--permanently 
built in. That means you can begin running your Apple II the first evening, entering your own instructions and watching them work, even if you've had no previous computer experience.

The familiar typewriter-style keyboard makes communication easy. And your programs and data can be stored on (and retrieved from) audio cassettes, using the built-in cassette interface, so you can swap with other Apple II users. This and other peripherals--other equipment on most personal computers, at hundreds of dollars extra cost--are built into Apple II. And it's designed to keep up with changing technology, to expand easily whenever you need it to.

As an educational tool, Apple II is a sound investment. You can program it to tutor your children in most any subject, such as spelling, history, or math. But the biggest benefit--no matter how you use Apple II--is that you and your family increase familiarity with the computer itself. The more you experiment with it, the more you discover about its potential.

Start by playing PONG. Then invent your own games using the input keyboard, game paddles and built-in speaker. As you experiment you'll acquire new programming skills which will open up new ways to use your Apple II. You'll learn to "paint" dazzling color displays using the unique color graphics commands in Apple BASIC, and write programs to create beautiful kaleidoscopic designs. As you master Apple BASIC, you'll be able to organize, index, and store data on household finances, income tax, recipes, and re
cord collections. You can learn to chart your biorythms, balance your checking account, even control your home environment. Apple II will go as far as you imagination can take it.

Best of all, Apple II is designed to grow with you. As your skill and experience with computing increase, you may want to add new Apple peripherals. For example, a refined, more sophisticated BASIC language is being developed for advanced scientific and mathematical applications. And in addition to the built-in audio, video and game interfaces, there's room for eight plug-in options such as a prototyping board for experimenting with interfaces to others equipment; a serial board for connecting a teletype, 
printer and other terminals; a parallel interface for communicating with a printer or another computer; an EPROM board for storing programs permanently; and a modem board communications interface. A floppy disk interface with software and complete operating systems will be available at the end of 1977. And there are many more options to come, because Apple II was designed from the beginning to accommodate increased power and capability as your requirements change.

If you'd like to see for yourself how easy it is to use and enjoy Apple II, visit your local dealer for a demonstration and a copy of our detailed brochure. Or write Apple Computer Inc., 20863 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino, California 95014.

Apple II is a completely self-contained computer system with BASIC in ROM, color graphics, ASCII keyboard, light-weight, efficient switching power supply and molded case. It is supplied with BASIC in ROM, up to 48K bytes of RAM, and with cassette tape, video, and game I/O interfaces built-in. Also included are two games paddles and a demonstration cassette.


   * Microprocessor: 6502 (1 MHz).
   * Video Display: Memory mapped, 5 modes--all Software-selectable:
        o Text--40 chars/line, 24 lines upper case.
        o Color graphics--40h x 48v, 15 colors
        o High-resolution graphics--280h x 192v; black, white,
          violet, green (16K RAM minimum required)
        o Both graphics modes can be selected to include 4 lines of
          text at the bottom of the display area.
        o Completely transparent memory access. All color generation
          done digitally.
   * Memory: up to 48K bytes on-board RAM (4K supplied)
        o Uses either 4K or new 16K dynamic memory chips
        o Up to 12K rom (8K supplied)
   * Software
        o Fast extended Integer BASIC in ROM with color graphics
        o Extensive monitor in ROM
   * I/O
        o 1500 bps cassette interface
        o 8-slot motherboard
        o Apple game I/O connector
        o ASCII keyboard port
        o Speaker
        o Composite video output

Apple II is also available in board-only form for the do-it-yourself hobbyist. Has all of the features of the Apple II system, but does not include case, keyboard, power supple or game paddles. $598.

PONG is a trademark of Atari Inc. *Apple II plugs into any standard TV using an inexpensive modulator (not supplied).


From: Rubywand

005- When did the Apple II FAQs begin and who have maintained it?

     The first comp.sys.apple2 (Csa2) Apple II FAQs Keeper was David Kopper. He put together some Q&A and posted the first FAQs on 28 Nov 1990. The FAQs was distributed via net.answers (now news.answers) starting on 17 Dec 1991.

     Csa2 FAQs Keepers and periods of activity are ...

David Kopper     Fall   1990 - Summer 1992

Dan DeMaggio     Summer 1992 - Summer 1996

Nathan Mates     Summer 1995 - Summer 1998

Jeff Hurlburt    Winter 1997 - current

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