The Apple //c Makes It to the Office…Again

The //c in its new homePanorama of the //c in its new settingAfter three years of working for myself at home, I’ve returned to the world of enterprise web development. I’m back in an office these days (starting this past December, actually), working as the Senior Front End Developer for the NCTA in the district. I’ve been here about eight months and, so, it felt like it was time to transplant my Apple //c to the new office.

I acquired this //c back in 2005 with the intention of putting it in my office, then at the AFL-CIO. I had a lot of fun with it there, and when I left that organization, I brought it home and set it up in my basement office, and there it has lived these three and a half years. The series of links that follows covers my past adventures with this //c:

And, now, the Apple //c occupies a corner of my desktop in DC, the oldest computer in the building, certainly. I put together a quick little video of the transport and setup of the //c and its peripherals for those who may be interested.

This //c is still in very good shape, though it has yellowed a bit during its stay at home in “the Byte Cellar,” which seems a little odd to me as it’s quite dark down there (though, indeed, yellowing isn’t caused only by light). At any rate, the 30 year old Apple //c system is one of the loveliest works of industrial design ever created, and it’s nice to have it sitting here, ready to boot up programs, help out as a serial terminal, and simply be a conversation piece.

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It Was More Fun When Stores Had Arcade Games

I don’t mean arcades, I’m talking about retail stores like grocery stores, drug stores, 7-11 and other mini-marts. Yea, back in the ’80s they basically all hosted a couple of arcade cabinets. As a kid being dragged around from store to store by my mother way back when, it was great to be able to count on a little video game fun for a quarter at every stop. It was quite a different scene than today.

I had my first encounter with many of history’s most notable games in stores rather than arcades. To try and share a glimpse of how things were when I was a kid, I thought I would share a list of stores and the games that I got to know in each. I grew up in southeastern Virginia (the Hampton Roads area), so readers will surely not have heard of several of the places in the list. Here we go.

Wornom’s Drugs in Grafton Shopping Center (Grafton, VA)

  • Satan’s Hollow

Rite Aid drugs (I think…) in Newport Square Plaza (Newport News, VA)

  • Gyruss

Safeway grocery store in Newport Square Plaza (Newport News, VA)

  • Moon Patrol
  • Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Centipede

Giant grocery store (I think…) in Heritage Square (York County, VA)

  • Robotron: 2048
  • Defender

BJ’s Ice Cream in York Square (York County, VA)

  • Pole Position

Pizza Hut in Heritage Square (York County, VA)

  • Ms. PAC-MAN (cocktail table)

Plaza Roller Rink (Hampton, VA)

  • Tempest

Every time I play any of these games or see them referenced in the retro media, I think of these locales where I played them first. Every time. As for the rest, it was pretty much standard mall arcades.

Got any similar stories? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Posted in Gaming, Just Rambling | 9 Comments

Apple Shows Its True Colors in Recent Mac Video

Upon returning to Apple in 1997, Steve Jobs set forth to pull the company back from the brink and turn it into the most influential company in the world. And in the course of his 14 year (second) reign, he did just that. Along the way he made lots of hard decisions, cut products, brought forth new products (some highly successful, some less so), and took the company into entirely new markets. And, all the while, he held firmly onto his “we don’t look back” mentality.

After Jobs’ passing, the company continued to hold tight to that notion, as demonstrated by Apple Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller’s response to computer historian David Greelish’s call to Apple to create a small museum of sorts in its forthcoming, futuristic headquarters to showcase the company’s roots to the public.

“We’re focused on inventing the future, not celebrating the past…It is not who we are or who we want to be,” Schiller replied.

As time passed Apple continued to prosper under the leadership of Tim Cook and company, at first by strictly following the Jobs plan but, more recently, by hitting a new and promising stride, making certain moves that seem right in today’s landscape, but that might be hard to envision under Jobs’ command. I think this recent evolution at Apple is summed up perfectly by Josh Topolsky over at The Verge.

While I watched Apple’s WWDC 2014 opening keynote on Monday morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about the infectious mixture of fun and confidence everyone onstage seemed to be exuding. It was something new for this era of Apple, and it felt like a mirror image of the announcements being made. The message was loud and resonant from where I sat: We’re back, we’re ready to play, and we know who we are.

And, now, to the point of this post. Apple has been prolific of late with it’s iOS video ad campaign, but it is a recent Mac ad that has me writing. The video in question is entitled “Stickers” and it highlights the way many users have been personalizing their MacBook Airs with stickers of all shapes and sizes. (I, myself, keep it fairly simple and to the point.) The spot showcases well over 100 eclectic designs, and one of them shows a pixellated rendering of the original six-color Apple logo amid a field of Galaxian space insects — just for an instant. As I watched the video, that jolted me and had me smiling wide as the rest of the sticker parade flashed quickly by. What happened next, however, blew my mind. As the ad wrapped up, the MacBook Air rotated and then closed. “The notebook people love.” “MacBook Air” And then, as expected, came the black Apple logo on an empty white field.

And then it winked at me. The modern, monochrome Apple logo winked out every one of its beautiful, original six colors — green, yellow, orange, red, purple, blue — laid out right there in the classic horizontal stripe configuration, in the designated logo spot. I saw the pixellated bit earlier in the video, and that was great, but this was in the official logo spot. At the end of that video Apple took the symbol that represents all that they are, and they winked at us. They winked (and, I think, nodded) to the past.

This is, indeed, The New Apple, the Fun Apple. And I like where it’s going.

Posted in Apple II, Macintosh | 5 Comments

NeXTstation Turbo Color Battery Swap

I recently rearranged the computer room a bit to bring the NeXTstation Turbo Color (which I picked up from a refurb outfit in Frederick, MD back in 2000) to the fore, having spent a good bit of time with NEXTSTEP on my HP 712/100 over the past few weeks. I swapped out the 21-inch NeXT MegaPixel Color Display for a 19-inch LCD (hanging off of a 13W3 to VGA adapter), and with that 75 lb CRT out of the way, I took the opportunity to change the ancient motherboard battery.

I have undertaken more exciting projects in my time, but I filmed it. And here it is. Enjoy, if you can.

Posted in NeXT | 1 Comment

Susan Kare’s EG 2014 Talk – I Spy Something Familiar…

The other day I was listening to my favorite podcast, RetroMacCast, during lunch at my office desk (which is my routine) when John & John made me aware of a 20-minute presentation given at EG 2014 by legendary digital artist Susan Kare who, as a key member of the Macintosh software design team, created the icons and fonts for the original Mac, worked as Creative Director at NeXT for Steve Jobs, and has been involved with countless projects since.

The presentation, as expected, is excellent and informative, but it’s the final slide that I enjoyed most.

Let me step back and share a bit of history. Soon after joining the Macintosh team, Kare began to create portrait icons for team members using the same 32×32 Jobs: Pixel and fleshpixel grid as the original Mac desktop icons, just for fun. Everyone wanted one of themselves except, of course, Steve Jobs. But, she drew one anyway (and he ended up liking it).

As one who has, for decades, appreciate Kare’s work, it was this 1024-pixel rendering that I looked to, upon the Apple co-founder’s untimely death, to mark the passing of the visionary who had, in no small part, helped shape my life. I had Kare’s grid of pixels inked upon my right forearm (by Dave Waugh of Jinx Proof in Georgetown), in a location that would keep it frequently in view.

After getting the tattoo of the icon, I sent a photo to Kare who, I’m happy to report, responded with amusement and enthusiasm and even added it to her Kare Prints Facebook page. And then, this past Christmas, she was kind enough to send me a rather lovely present, which I will reveal and write up (after framing) very soon, I promise.

The Last Slide

Now, back to the presentation. Towards the end of her talk, Kare presents a few slides showing her work found out in the wild—Space Invader street art, murals, Lego renderings, and…tattoos. Her final slide shows three examples of her work put to flesh, and Steve and my forearm are among them.

In closing her talk, Kare says that she considers people choosing to honor her work with tattoos and the like, “such a nice compliment.” That’s a nice thing to hear from this amazing woman.

My other blog posts to do with Susan Kare:

Posted in Just Rambling, Macintosh, NeXT | 1 Comment

Magazine BASIC: “Hacker’s Rap” Circa 1984

Apple BASICThe other night I was flipping through my boxes of Apple II floppy disks looking for the driver software for my Apple //c’s Cricket! soundbox (that story’s coming soon, I promise) when a certain floppy caught my eye. It was a two-sided disk full of BASIC programs I typed in from magazines sometime in 1984 (most of my Apple II floppies are from 1984-85). I booted it up in the IIgs and ran a few of the programs I’d entered—some that I remembered, some that I didn’t.

One of the programs that I did remember is a pretty corny little number entitled “Hacker’s Rap.” Judging from the nature of the thing, I’m guessing I typed it in from an issue of Family Computing magazine. Looking at it, I’m not sure what compelled me to take the time to type this one in, but hey, I was 11 years old.

Have a look.

I fear the song’s promise may not have held, in my case…

Posted in Apple II | 1 Comment

Hey Look, It’s ‘Flappy Bird’ for the TI-99/4A!

You’ve probably heard of the game Flappy Bird, which has had a controversial life in the iOS App Store. Well, here it is ported to the TI-99/4A, my very first computer. (Pardon the video quality; I had a camera in one hand and a space bar in the other.)

This simple, high-profile title has actually been ported to many retro computing platforms. But, the TI will always have a special place for me.

(And a special thanks to @VintageVolts for sending me the physical media, along with some helpful utils that have really opened up my TI-99/4A.)

Posted in TI-99 | 1 Comment

The Lisa 2 Took to the Stage For “Motorola 68000 Week”

The latest contest over at /r/RetroBattlestations was “Motorola 68000 Week.” To participate, contestants had to post a photo or video to the subreddit of a Motorola 680×0-based machine with a short greeting displayed onscreen (or written on paper and taped to the screen in the case of a broken machine). Five winners were chosen to win the standard prize of two retro computing stickers.

There were lots of submissions—43 in all—ranging from Macs to Amigas to calculators to arcade boards. As I saw the entries file in, I began to consider which of my machines containing a member of the 68K family to tap for the task (I believe I have twelve).

Lisa 2/10

One of the rarest 68K-based units I’ve got down in my “Byte Cellar” is the Apple Lisa 2/10. The Lisa family were the first computers with a graphical user interface to arrive in the consumer market. And what’s more (and I thought this was a pretty neat detail), it utilizes one of—if not the—slowest implementations of the Motorola 68K series ever released; it sports a 5MHz 68000. (For comparison, the 68000 in the original Macintosh is 7.8MHz, the Amiga 500/1000 is 7.14MHz, and the Atari 520ST is 8MHz.) And so, Lisa it was.

My Lisa 2/10 is in great shape and boots right up but, unfortunately, I found the vertical hold a bit out of range when I fired it up for the competition. I had to go in and adjust one of the CRT control pots inside the case to get things back to stable. (Happily, replacement pots can easily be sourced and soldered in if the situation worsens.) Of course, I filmed the whole adventure.

So, there you have it, my Motorola 68000 Week submission. And I was a winner! (My Apple ][ and TI logo stickers are sitting on my desk, waiting for me to pick the right spot on the wall.) Oh, I also made a bit of a goofy, secondary contest submission as well. The 486-class DOS PC I recently put together contains an advanced SCSI controller (the DPT-PM2021), which is powered by a 10MHz on-board 68000, and so I submitted it for laughs. But, I’m pretty sure it’s the Lisa that got me the stickers.

Reddit’s /r/RetroBattlestations is a good bit of fun.

My previous contest efforts:

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MacDouble D-D: Two Internal Floppies for the Original Macintosh

I was just flipping through an A+ magazine (looking for a particular Apple ad that I recall) when I stumbled across a writeup detailing an unusual aftermarket modification to the original Macintosh. I recall, upon first seeing the article and photo decades ago, finding it at the same time practical and somewhat bizarre.

The modification in question is known as the MacDouble D-D and was offered by the Custom Computer Company of Irvine, CA. You shipped your Mac to C.C.C. and in two days they would mount what appears to be a standard Apple external 400K floppy drive into the right side of the computer — faceplate and all. The company also offered two different internal cooling methods to help keep the internal temperature down, what with the unconventional, additional hardware.

The text of the write-up, which appeared in the July 1986 issue of A+ magazine [see the scanned page], follows.


Custom Computer Company (C.C.C.) is now offering an alteration service—MacDouble D-D—that converts a standard single-drive Macintosh computer into a single unit with two internal disk drives. The company performs the alteration on the user’s computer in two days.

C.C.C. can also install Mac Clean Air, a cooling system that pulls cool air through a dust filter, distributing it over the power-supply board. The system uses a low-speed, low-noise fan built into the top of the computer. Available as an alternative to this cooling system is Mac Hummingbird, a piezoelectric air mover that reinforces the computer’s convection cooling and counteracts the buildup of hot spots. Both these products are also available as do-it-yourself kits. (List Price: disk-drive installation, $189.95; Mac Clean Air, $129.95 installed, $89.95 kit; Mac Hummingbird, $99.95 installed, $59.95 kit; complete MacDouble D-D system including computer, two disk drives, and filter, $1995)

Requires: Macintosh
Custom Computer Company
3601 Parkview Lane
Suite 1-C
Irvine, CA 92715
(714) 786-3418

The MacDouble D-D seems an interesting mod, and I’d love to see a clear photo of a Mac so altered. I’ve never run across one on eBay, and Google searches are coming up empty. Has anyone encountered one of these dual-internal drive Macs in the wild? Did C.C.C. actually get started with these mods? I’d love to hear more.

Posted in Macintosh | Leave a comment

A Song for Steve Jobs: “Vision in Black” by Nathan J. and The NeXTsteps

At the risk of making this seem like the Blog of Amusing Computing Promos of Yesteryear, what with my recent posts, I wanted to share something I ran across the other day.

That crazy HP Series 700 promo video I posted a few weeks back actually inspired me to get my HP 712/60 PA-RISC workstation back up and running. (I even upgraded it to a 712/100, but that’s for another post.) Since it is up and running, I’ve been downloading and installing “Green” / “Gecko” NEXTSTEP apps and having fun with a rather unique (and fast) NEXTSTEP platform.

One of the sources of these apps I’ve come upon is the Nebula Quad-FAT two-CD set (NEXTSTEP apps that run on all four platforms: NeXT, Intel, PA-RISC, Sun). There are lots of interesting apps of all sorts contained within, as well as a variety of documents and media. It’s one of the media items that I’m posting about, today.

Buried in a sounds directory on one of the CDs is a NeXT .snd file recording of the 20+ year old song “Vision in Black” by Nathan Janette & the NeXTsteps (from the album The NeXT Wave…). It’s a rather heartfelt number that laments the prospect of NeXT getting out of the hardware business (which they did, back in 1993) and makes a plea to Steve: “…please, don’t kill the cube!”

I’ve converted the .snd file to an MP3 and have posted the accompanying lyrics .rtf document so you can sing along with poor Nathan as he croons his tale of woe.

Related Links:

Posted in NeXT | 3 Comments