Archive for April, 2012

There are a few dates I try to remember each year

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

One of them is ANZAC Day.

Missed anniversary

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

I didn’t realize this until today, but Monday was the 35th anniversary of the Apple ][ computer. I bought one in 1978; it was the first electronic computer I owned (I owned a Digi-Comp I when I was younger).

My Apple was serial number A2S1-2174. I bought it used for $1000, and it came with 16k of RAM and only the cassette interface for mass storage. I eventually got it upgraded to dual floppies and 48k of RAM, but it took a couple of years. Most of that time, I was in the West Indies, and computer parts and peripherals weren’t available. I felt good about it because I managed to get two floppies while they were still in short supply, and I only paid $150 for each 16k RAM expansion when Apple was charging $300 each.

I had a lot of fun with that machine. I had one program distributed by the 6502 Group, and I had another program published by the Apple Puget Sound Program Library Exchange (A.P.P.L.E. – I guess the “S” in “Sound” was silent). I also had an article published in Dr. Dobb’s Journal of Computer Calisthenics and Orthodontia (the October 1979 issue), but they weren’t able to print the source code listings I submitted, which was very disappointing to me. At the time, though, I was in the West Indies, and the printouts I sent were from a huge, heavy, line printer, and I had no floppies, so I sent them hardcopy on green-and-white fanfold paper, as well as a cassette with the code. I believe that they’d have been able to handle a floppy, but they couldn’t deal with the cassette, and retyping from my listings was, I’m sure, quite unappealing.

I’d ordered a computer before the Apple, though. There was a company in the Boston area called ECD, which was started by some MIT people, if I’m remembering correctly. They were offering a computer called the MicroMind, which sounded incredibly advanced for the time. Unfortunately, they produced very few of them. I think it’s because they decided to go head-to-head against DEC in the business market. I consider myself lucky to have gotten my money back from them before they went under.

I’ve never been big on games, but there were a few I enjoyed, and would like to still have available. One was called Ricochet (no relation to the PC game). It had paddles that would flip, and launchers in the corners of the screen. When it was your turn, you could move one or more paddles (all in the same direction), or you could launch a ball from either of your launchers. When a ball hit a paddle, it would be reflected at a 90 degree angle, and the paddle would flip from vertical to horizontal, or vice-versa. You’d also get a point for each paddle the ball hit. If the ball hit a launcher, it was disabled for a few turns. It was a lot of fun. I don’t have the game anymore, but I think I may still have the documentation that came with it.

There was also a space shoot-’em-up game called Alien Ambush (I think – it’s been a long time). It had a basic similarity with Space Invaders, in that you controlled a ship at the bottom of the screen, and would shoot at alien ships that entered from the top. However, instead of marching ranks of aliens these ships would swoop and swirl and launch bombs toward you. The advertising catchphrase for the game was, “You haven’t lived until you’ve died in space.”

I remember staying up one Friday night until about 3am with a friend, working together until we beat the chess program Sargon II. There’s no way I’d have beaten it by myself; I’m not that good a chess player.

I kept that Apple until around 1990, then gave it, and almost all of my magazines and software, away. I did keep a few things, such as my copy of the “big red book” that’s signed by Steve Wozniak and Randy Wigginton. Sometimes, I wish I’d kept the rest.