BlueFlash: Apple II Bluetooth/Disk Controller/Disk Archive Card

Earlier this evening I was reading posts at the 68kMLA Forums when I stumbled upon one of the most interesting retro computing projects I’ve ever encountered. I am speaking of the BlueFlash board, a combination Bluetooth / Disk Controller / Disk Image Archive card for the Apple II.

This amazing piece of hardware allows data (such as disk images) to be transferred from a host machine to an Apple II via Bluetooth (wirelessly) and executed as if running from an actual Apple Disk ][ 5.25" floppy drive. Vinchysky, the clever man behind this project who began the BlueFlash effort three years ago, achieved this by fully implementing Woz's ingenious Disk ][ controller card in a Xilinx FPGA, driven by an on-board, 57MHz ARM7 processor. Communications are achieved by way of a standard PC bluetooth dongle plugged into the board’s single USB connector. Disk images can be executed from a flash card inserted in the board’s compact flash slot, or from the board’s 512K of SRAM (acting as dual drives) after direct transfer via Bluetooth from a host computer.

The BlueFlash board is not shipping just yet, but should be soon. This feature-packed expansion card retails for $160 (for board + Bluetooth USB dongle) with an extra dongle for host PC going for an additional $10. I have an Apple IIgs with hard card, but assuming this works well with a IIgs, I’ll certainly take one off of Vinchysky’s hands in short order.

An amazing effort and an amazing piece of hardware that certainly goes a long way towards fulfilling that old mantra: “Apple II Forever.”

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13 Responses to BlueFlash: Apple II Bluetooth/Disk Controller/Disk Archive Card

  1. No Spam says:

    Uh….right! It isn’t as if everyone today wants an Apple //e, let alone the idea of using Bluetooth with it.

    Why stop here? Go farther and create a device to output data on punched cards from a wireless connection. See how far it gets you.

  2. /dev/null says:

    The time and effort put into developing this device, much less recreating the disk controller, should be applauded.

    As an owner of another early computer system, I am impressed with his elegant solution to an awkward problem.

  3. Splorp says:

    Amazing. This is a fantastic example of solving the classic “bootstrapping” problem between vintage technology and current computing platforms. Nice work. Getting my Newton to play nice should be so elegant.

    By the way, I love how anonymous posters (and I’m talking to you “No Spam”) just spit and sputter about how useless something is, without considering the inventiveness or utility of the subject in question. If you’re going to comment, make it relevant … dipshit.

  4. “No Spam” is all spam. Its a clean hack, and implementing USB (however a limited capability it might have) is insane enough, let alone the recreation of the Disk Controller.

    Its a tight hack…tempting just to play SunDog!

    Vive la Hack.

    G.

  5. Bela Szekely says:

    It would be nice to Turbocharge a Ford Model T while we are at it.

    Come on who is using an Apple II today? No matter how much we admire the history of it. Put your feet on the ground.

    Sincerely

  6. blakespot says:

    Bela,

    Of my many vintage machines…

    http://pix.blakespot.com/view/computers/comp_room/

    …I use my Apple IIgs…

    http://pix.blakespot.com/view/computers/apple_IIgs/

    …more frequently than most. I had a blast with my Apple //c back in 1984 and still have those disks – 95% of those 5.25″ floppies boot just fine on the IIgs. It’s fun (actually fun, not just wanna-be fun) to replay some of those old classics that I remember so fondly. When the disks die, I can keep writing out new floppies from disk images, sure – but a solution like this might make more sense. Sure, I’ve got a hard disk card in my IIgs, but that’s not a disk image archive manager that will run images like they’re actual floppies.

    Do I use it as my primary machine? Not even close. But it’s great fun to fiddle with, and it actually is a capable computer. Actually, I just purchased an ImageWriter II printer…

    http://pix.blakespot.com/view/computers/imagewriter_II/

    …to share between the IIgs and my Mac Plus…

    http://pix.blakespot.com/view/computers/mac_plus/

    …again, just for fun. Make a few printouts, etc. What can I say? It’s my hobby. It beats collecting shrunken heads (more or less).

  7. Solsys says:

    If you need to ask “Why?” then I doubt that you will ever understand the culture behind this. Making things like this work is as much a creative art-form as music, sculpture or painting, and can be appreciated in exactly the same way.

    Personally I love the idea of an expansion card that is probably more powerful than the host computer it connects to. :-)

  8. macman says:

    This is awesome. Too bad it won’t work with my //c+ though. And I agree with blakespot. Games from the mid to late 80′s were genuinely fun and easy to play in a way that modern games can’t match.

  9. blakespot says:

    Macman,

    A great quote I ran across from Eugene Jarvis (author: Robotron, Defender):

    “For me the retrogaming movement is more than just nostalgia of misty eyed Gen X’ers. It’s a reaction to the current graphical overkill, the simulation obsessed gaming environment of the late 90s. In our quest for absolute graphical realism, we have forgotten the basics of gaming.”

    He’s got the nub of it there, I’d say. Eh?

  10. Sean says:

    I’m excited by the prospects of this card as well, but it was announced too early (over 2 months ago, 06/15).

    Bela, there are thousands of Apple II collectors and retro-computing enthusiasts out there. We’ve had compact flash, ethernet, TCP/IP, and “newer” tech adapted to our machines for years now – just for the fun of it, and because no one at Apple ever thought the Apple II would still be going all these years later.

    Apple ][ Forever!

  11. Justin says:

    I can see this as a neat idea for the sake of novelty, but I don’t think anyone is going to make any money off this. Again, probably not the point.

  12. madmax_2069 says:

    this is amazing, this goes to show you the creativity of some people. i love when people make stuff like this and make it work without a hitch.

    all of these complainers complain cause they dont understand creativity if it smacked them in the face. its people like that that puts a hold on so much that can be done in this world but don’t happen cause complainers like some of these posters.

    Dont ask why cause its for a old Computer. marvel at what this can make a old computer do that some people didnt think it could.

    what it is is they are mad cause this makes a old Apple II more advanced than most modern PCs. and they are to shallow to understand peoples creativity and cant fathom the endless possibility’s of people that have the gift.

    i say to the maker of this board to keep it up, this is awesome. you are awesome in what you can do. don’t let anyone hold you back but yourself.

    I love your creativity

    and to anyone out there than cant fathom this ideal that someone made this for a old computer. get over yourself cause someone did what you could never do.

    this will sell to People that want to keep there Apple II’s alive and want it to make it do something it was not intended for

    again this is a great piece of work and keep stuff like this going

  13. ccharpman says:

    There is a teacher in town who still uses her Apple IIe. So much software for that machine. Even CPM. There is little difference between the educational, first grade software now than back then. Sadly, much of this snazzy new software requires little keyboarding. Kids learn their ABCs and keyboarding at the same time. Not so on your average day “hard driven” software. Apple IIe is not ludite-extreme!

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