Episode 19: May Wait No August

As August 2017 draws to a close, here is an episode we recorded in May with a lead-in we recorded earlier in August. It’s been a busy summer. Topics include: Martin Haye’s Satan Mode disk, Reactive Micro’s universal power supply, Paul Rickards’ WiFi232, Big Mess o’ Wires’ Floppy Emu, John Morris’ Applesauce, Great Plains Hardisk Accounting.

Here are some of the links that relate to the stuff we talked about.

Cult of Mac article: Today in History, Apple Introduces the Doomed Apple ///.

Martin Haye’s HackFest 2017 entry (“Satan mode” boot disk)

Reactive Micro’s universal power supply kit for Apple ///

Paul Rickards’ WiFi232

Nishida Radio’s UNISDISK Air

Toshiba FlashAir WiFi-enabled SD card

FlashAir SD card developers site

Floppy Emu

John Morris’ talk about Applesauce at KansasFest 2017

Apple ///s crunching election data

Open Emulator on Github

Apple Orchard scans on yesterbits.com

  • v5n6 July 1984 (last Paul’s ever laid eyes on) will be there (and on archive.org) shortly.

Great Plains Hardisk Accounting and related links

[A couple of these links are I.O.U.s, like the Apple Orchard and Hardisk Accounting links, which will come later, but we just wanted to get this episode finally posted.]

Episode 18: Don Burtis

We’re back, with an episode that was three months in the making. Mike and Paul talk (in November 2016) about the state of things in our Apple /// worlds, and then speak at some length with Don Burtis (in December 2016), who designed (among many other things) the Microsoft SoftCard III.

Don Burtis, who is probably most prominently associated, in the eyes of the Apple II and III enthusiasts, as the designer of the Microsoft SoftCard, a Z80 coprocessor card that enabled the Apple II series computers to run CP/M software. As Paul Allen indicated in his book “Idea Man,” this was strategically important for Microsoft early on, as VisiCalc was beginning to take off on the Apple II for businesses, as it would allow Microsoft’s existing software to run on the platform without the delay and investment of porting the software to the 6502. Microsoft had a run at the project internally but was having trouble with the design, and Don Burtis (of Burtronix) was called in to design the board. And later, the SoftCard III for the Apple III, as well as several other peripheral cards for the Apple III (including the Floppycard III, Protocard III, Printercard III).

If you’re here just for the conversation with Don Burtis, it starts at minute 52.

But before we talked with Don, we talked about several of the following things:

Apple III ProFile Sales Kit

Apple Orchard

Apple National Account Program brochure (April 1982)

Universal PSU from ReactiveMicro

Apple /// (to /// plus) upgrade

Axlon RAMDISK 320

Gibson Light Pen system, manual scans

Apple /// SAM

Chris Zuhars’ homebrew Apple ///

Quinn Dunki’s Veronica

Hantarex CT 2000 monitor

Charles Mangin (Retroconnector) news:

A few Apple III images from Ian

ADTPro 2.02

Taylor Pohlman interviewed by Computer History Museum

And here, finally, are links to many of the things that came up in our conversation with Don Burtis:



Hantarex CT 2000 monitor

Back in October, there was an eBay auction for a Hantarex CT 2000 monitor. If you are reading this sufficiently close to then, you can see the auction itself, although eBay removes these links after a while. This monitor has a design that is very nicely matched to the Apple ///, however. Until better photos are available (and there were some on the Apple /// Enthusiasts group on Facebook: here, here, here, and here, if you are a member of that group), here are photos from the auction:

Episode 17: PSUs, KPIs, RPS, and more!

In this episode, Mike and Paul chat about various things that were newsworthy when the recording was made. Replacement power supplies, insights from the last Apple /// product manager, Apple ///-themed iPhone cases, drivers, Record Processing Services, and more.

For those following along in real time, this episode was recorded a long time after the one that preceded it, but even longer before it was actually released. There were some technical issues with the recording that required a fairly laborious amount of reconstruction, and, well, life kept happening as well. But, we’re still here.

So, here are the linky links.


Episode 16: Taylor Pohlman

In this episode, we interview Taylor Pohlman, who joined Apple in 1979 and became the Apple /// Product Marketing Manager in 1981, managing the “Reintroduction” of the Apple ///. He is also well known for the series of columns in Softalk magazine (“The Third BASIC”) introducing concepts in Business BASIC programming. Later, he left Apple to found Forethought (the company responsible for FileMaker and PowerPoint), co-founded Regent Systems, managed the development of GS-BASIC for the Apple IIGS, and then returned to Apple from 1986 to 1992, and is currently principal at Rohner & Associates, having worked with Sybase and Autodesk along the way.

We talked with Taylor about the innovations the Apple /// and SOS brought to the computing landscape, the launch at Disneyland, frustrations and missed opportunities with the Apple ///. We also heard about several other things, not specific to the Apple ///, such as the early days at Apple, interactions with Steve Jobs, launching the black Bell & Howell Apple II, using an Apple II to rock a baby cradle triggered by sound, Apple employees storming the Lisa building in Halloween costumes, the short-lived Apple IV, and lots more.


Episode 15: Baseball and Business BASIC

Mike came across a reference to “The greatest baseball game never played”, a well-hyped simulated baseball game broadcast in July 1982, pitting National League and American League stars of diverse eras against each other in an ultimate fictitious game—simulated using a custom-written program on an Apple ///. The game was later pressed as an LP, and contains not only the game but a description of the mechanics and technology as well.

Other various topics of interest are touched on as well. Chris on the Apple /// enthusiasts group uploaded an Apple /// parts list sourced from the Level 2 service manual, for help in repairs, replacing capacitors, etc. ReActive Micro is contemplating adding Apple /// support to its universal power supply, designed to replace the innards of our aging Apple ones. We talk a bit about the Wico trackball and locating the drivers for it, inspired by Robert’s post on Facebook, and about Apple magazine volume 3 number 1 from May 1982, and about On Three pulling the 65802 replacement kits after discovering matching individual 65802s to individual Apple ///s to be extremely hit-and-miss.

And, we close with Taylor Pohlman’s talk from the Phase /// conference about the history and development of Business BASIC, including a challenge he posed to the community for developing a method for using menus and window overlays, taken up by On Three magazine as a programming contest (announced in volume 5 number 7, entries due by December 1, 1988).

The audio on this talk is not great, but it is possible to hear it. The section of the talk that was incorporated into the On Three contest was quoted in the magazine as well.



Episode 14: Daniel Kottke, Diving into SOS.DRIVER, Misc., and Etc.

We begin 2016 discussing the “Driv3rs” python script with its author, Mike Whalen, some miscellaneous topics, and a phone interview with Daniel Kottke, from some years ago.

Mike Whalen’s Driv3rs script will take an SOS.DRIVER file and extract information about all of the drivers contained within, and we talk about using the script, finding drivers, the format of drivers within the SOS.DRIVER file, and other related things. Other miscellaneous topics include recapping power supplies, Apple /// prototyping boards, being foiled by copy protection, Monitor /// designs, the TRS-80 Models II and 4P, and probably other things.

Daniel Kottke is surely well known to anyone listening to this podcast, but he was an Apple technician in the very early days, working on the Apple /// project up until about when it shipped (then moving over to the Mac team). Daniel speaks with Mike in a phone interview from several years ago about various interesting features of the Apple /// and its development, and the general atmosphere within Apple before its launch.

Within the episode, various links were promised for the show notes, and they are as follows:


Dr. Sander on the Clock chip and Applelogic.org

Here are the relevant sections of the email from Dr. Sander, as mentioned in show #13. First, on the infamous clock chip:

“The Clock chip chosen was state of the art for the time and worked pretty well for the timeframe, the problem was that National notified us just as shipment started that their QA labs had determined that their production line had contamination problems and the parts were not reliable. Since there was no second source we were stuck.”

On this Applelogic.org article, “What Really Killed the Apple III“:

“I had not seen the page you referenced but a real problem with his analysis is that the boards he evaluated were not the original fine-line boards that shipped. In fact it would be very hard to find the original boards since Apple replaced them all about 6 to 9 mos. after the original shipping. My recollection is that the number of boards replaced at that time was a few thousand, the old boards were recycled and the parts reused. He clearly looked at the improved memory connector as the original had a single wipe connection and his description fit the replacement main board. Both boards were 2 layer boards but the original used finer lines and had a large number (about 25 as I recall) wires on the back to complete the wiring. Both the original and replacement boards were 2 layer boards, the replacement design was simply the result of applying more time to the layout to use looser design rules and fewer wires (I think a couple were still there). There were also a few functional changes on the second board such as the ability to add a switch to provide an interlaced display. The replacement program was quite thorough so by the end of the first year there almost no unreliable Apple III’s in the field. An original board probably exists somewhere but I don’t know of any. Apple III’s were widely used inside Apple and replaced most of the Apple II’s fairly quickly and there were no problems observed with reliability after the early boards were replaced.”

And on the issue of loose chips on the PCB:

“I believe the source of the chips coming out of the sockets is based on the following. The system would freeze and not run so the user would remove the board and push down on the chips and it would start working again. The chip might even have not been fully seated from production and the user would feel a slight motion and think that is what fixed it. What really happened was the the board flexure from pushing on the board caused enough motion in the memory connector to clear the open. This type of failure is caused by oxidation at the contact point due to insufficient force and the slightest motion will clear the oxidation. Lifting the computer and dropping it usually also cleared the oxidation. As indicated in the article the replacement connector had multiple high force contact points and provided a very reliable connection.”

Episode 13: Wendell Sander

This month, Paul’s Apple /// has trouble connecting with the world outside, so he speculates on possibilities for WiFi connectivity, and Mike’s Apple /// has trouble connecting with any worlds at all. So, we turn our attention to literature, including the full Apple /// patent, a survey of Apple II users, an early interview with Trip Hawkins, and books on the Apple ///. Paul’s gotten himself a Cursor /// and some late-era PFS software, and unexpectedly managed to get a CMC Quick-20 drive working, Mike’s gotten an Axlon 320 RAMdrive. And Charles Mangin has created a miniature Apple ///.

The second half of the episode is an interview Mike conducted over the phone with Wendell Sander, designer of the Apple ///, from a couple of years ago, covering things like the Apple-internal interactions between departments, problems and solutions to initial reliability issues, the RAM design and peripherals. Recorded from a speaker through the air for added retro sound quality, but very interesting indeed!