Category Archives: Show notes

Dr. Sander on the Clock chip and

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 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 7: Colette Askeland

This episode consists of a telephone interview with Colette Askeland, the board layout designer who did all of the layout work on the Apple /// motherboard. We learn about the incredible challenges and accomplishments that went into creating this layout, and about the process, the community, and the environment at Apple at the time. Lots of things have been said about the Apple /// board, but mostly those things have been the same couple of critiques repeated over and over again. This interview leaves quite a different impression, one of a major accomplishment and no shortage of innovation and hard work, with a result that was truly impressive. If only. If only.

A couple of notes on what she talks about (spoilers!):

The Apple /// motherboard was the last at Apple to be designed by hand, rather than with computer layout tools. The computer layout tools were at the time unable to do a board as dense as the Apple /// without adding layers.

Wendell Sander, Colette Askeland, and Daniel Kottke worked as a team in the design and prototyping phase of the Apple ///, with Wendell getting all the communication from outside on specifications and doing the design work, then working with Daniel to breadboard it, and then passing it on to Colette to lay out the traces and components. Colette was the only one at Apple doing printed circuit board layout, and quite early in her career as well.

The process first involved creating a layout and routing traces on a drafting vellum, which involved a great deal of pencil work with component templates and electric erasing. By the time the project was done, the vellum for the Apple /// was in fairly sorry shape. After that, mylar versions were created by laying the mylar over the vellum and running miles of tape for traces and stickers for components. Then the mylar is sent to photography, and the photographs sent to the board producers. The vellum and mylar stages are all at double scale, so quite large.

Colette had the vellum framed and donated it to the Computer History Museum. She has photographs from when it was appraised, which we will post here when we get them.

Colette reinforced what we’ve heard before: the Apple /// board was incredibly dense for the time, with everything so crowded together that they had to use new experimental components and do a fair amount of “thinking outside the box” to get the thing to fit inside the box, at the expense of some fairly tricky manufacturing processes.

And plenty of stories about working there at Apple back in the very early days.

Episode 6: Don Williams at Phase III

The Phase III conference was organized by the Third Apple User Group in Chicago, held October 2-4, 1987. Dave Ottalini located and digitized his audio recordings of some of the sessions at that conference, and provided them to us. We have been cleaning them up as best we can, and will release them here on the podcast feed.

Don Williams had a long history at Apple, which he describes a bit in this talk. He is the author of Desktop/Plan, later sold on to VisiCorp, and was the founder of the APDA (Apple Program Developers Association). He worked at Apple doing software design from about September 1979 until early 1982, and then returned in early 1983 for another year, as National Accounts Sales Manager. The talk here is actually the second talk he gave, a more impromptu reminiscing about the marketing and sales of the Apple ///. Earlier in the conference, Don had a scheduled talk, also about the history of the Apple ///. The audio of that talk will require more work, so it will be posted to the feed later on. As it turned out, Don was not aware of the Phase III conference until he ran into his neighbor, Rupert (Robert) Lissner (author of 3 E-Z Pieces), who was very concerned about what he was going to talk about at the conference. In the end, Lissner did not attend the conference, and Williams went instead, with about two days’ notice. But we are all glad he did, even if it would have also have been nice to have heard from Lissner.

Episode 5: Dave Ottalini

In this episode, Mike and Paul had the opportunity to speak with Dave Ottalini, co-founder of the Apple /// Special Interest Group of the Washington Apple Pi user group. The entire episode is devoted to this conversation. And stay to the very end for an extremely interesting announcement!

A couple of related links:

Episode 4: WAPster Diving

This month, Paul performs Pascal programming and plays games, while Mike mines the WAP DVD and finds hidden treasure.  We discuss the latest MESS emulator developments as they apply to the Apple /// core, music and sound, driver and much more. Join us, won’t you?

Episode 3: Dream machines, with Egan Ford (apple3rtr)

In this episode, we talk about some introductory and demo materials, consider some Apple /// “dream systems” and talk with Egan Ford about the work he has done preparing the Apple /// “Ready-to-Run” quick start package for the MESS apple3 emulator.


Episode 2: MESSing with drivers

In this episode, we walk through getting the MESS emulator started with the assistance of Egan Ford’s Apple /// RTR, discuss the System Configuration Program, and the Apple /// Dimensions newsletter.


Episode 1: Until the Cows Come Home

Welcome to the show notes from the premiere episode of what is undoubtedly the premiere Apple /// podcast on the internet today.

Your hosts:

Links along the way:

Write to us. We are Apple /// users. We are lonely.