All posts by paulhagstrom

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.

Links:

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.

Links:

 

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:

 

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!

Episode 12: Martin Haye has created a M0N5T3R

On this episode, we talk with Martin Haye about his experience writing an assembler/disassembler for the Apple /// as his HackFest entry at KansasFest 2015. Martin is an experienced Apple II programmer, who decided to spend KansasFest familiarizing himself with the Apple ///. After initial forays into SOS didn’t go well, and realizing that in order to write assembly language programs on the Apple /// it would be useful to have a system monitor more like the one familiar from the Apple II, and a mini-assembler for 6502 code as well, Martin dug into the ROM code and wrote M0N5T3R, a small mini-assembler and disassembler for the Apple ///. And it boots instantly, too! Although it’s small, it was written in the space of a couple of days as part of the HackFest contest (and won second place!) at KansasFest. But he learned a lot from the experience, and we learned a lot from talking to him about it. Martin also gave us some first-hand descriptions of his trip to the Stanford archives of Apple documents (which we had discussed a bit in the previous episode). We also talk of one of the first e-books, written on an Apple /// and uploaded to The Source in real time, and an Apple /// found in the woods.

Some interesting links:

Episode 11: Fort Stanford, b/w Phase III: Dr. Melvin Astrahan

We’re back for Episode 11. This time, we talk about really very small advances in booting a /// from a flash drive, the Cursor /// joystick and the history of The Keyboard Company, and a visit to the Stanford archives of Apple materials to get the real scoop on EMI/RFI emissions and the timeline of the /// plus. After that, another talk from the 1987 Phase III conference, this one by Dr. Melvin Astrahan, author of Draw On /// and the Mr. Sandman game, talking about the graphical abilities of the Apple ///.

The trip to the Stanford archives yielded two interesting Apple ///-related documents. More about these on apple2scans.net (link will be retroactively inserted here when it’s ready over there), but here are the documents themselves:

Links of Interest:

Episode 10: III Drives Diverged

In this episode, Paul and Mike talk about the wooden Apple /// sculpture featured on the cover of Apple Magazine v2n2 and an email interview with Tom Eckert, the artist who created it. Other topics include the issues and ultimate success in booting an Apple /// with only an SD-card drive emulator, the feasibility of using alternative CP/M cards, the new firmware for the Floppy Emu to do UniDisk 3.5 emulation, and some preliminary discussion of the variants of the Cursor /// joystick.

Interview with Tom Eckert
Plamen Vasilyov’s SDFloppy II
Nishida Radio’s UNISDISK
Big Mess o’ Wires’ Floppy Emu
BMOW announces firmware update for Apple II compatibility