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Sep 9th

The BBS era … &SPEED=202

The BBS era for me was roughly 1982 – just crossing into 2001.  I took over the operation of the BBS in the 1983 timeframe, though I had been a co-sysop on it previously. With my main access to a modem being the computer lab in the elementary school across from jr. high, when I was in the 7th grade.. my “co-sysop” abilities were a stretch of the term. I looked forward to the one period a day when I was TA in that computer lab across the street. Besides getting to “leave campus”, I got to use the Apple II’s.  Shortly thereafter I had gotten a modem of my own, though it was a Hayes Micromodem II, it was a lot cheaper than the Apple-Cat II. In the new A+ Magazine there was an ad.. Garden of Eden computers, selling the Apple-Cat II for $269! December was coming up, and that meant extra tips from the paper route .. so I sold the Micromodem II and eagerly awaited the UPS truck with a wad of cash.. back in the era when UPS COD was a kid’s best friend, and the drivers in brown actually took green paper. That was just the beginning of a line of UPS deliveries of Apple II hardware.

One time the UPS driver commented, “If you’re not into computers, you are now.. ” as he recognized the Applied Engineering packing tape, saying he delivers “a lot of boxes from this shipper”.

About 1985 the BBS became full time when the house got another phone line because I kept it tied up. If only they had known what the breakup of AT&T would bring. Those 5 digit MCI access codes were something else. ;) Around 1987 I switched the software to that of what a friend wrote. It was called Elfnet, though it was not a networked system, it was because he was known as the Grey Elf when he ran a BBS in the San Francisco Bay Area prior to moving to Southern California. It was Applesoft based and he was a diehard Hayes modem type, and in turn he got me interested in a Hayes Smartmodem 2400.  I had a multi-format BBS that supported AE and Cat-Fur for transfers, and with the addition of the Smartmodem 2400, every type of connection was supported, with regards to the Apple II. At the time those were 103/212/202/v.22 – 300/1200/2400 & Apple-Cat II.

The Apple-Cat II would detect the inbound ring, and answer at the half ring point. Checking for a Bell 202 connection rate first, , then 103 (300), and if nothing was negotiated, it sent an ATH1 to the external modem that was attached to the external serial port on the Apple-Cat II Expansion block.

Once the Apple-Cat II detected that the Hayes Smartmodem 2400 had picked up the line, it would stop sending it’s carrier and go on hook. The SM2400 would then send the carrier as if it answered at 2400, and negotiate for the 2400 or eventually the 1200 connection. It was done that way because if the Apple-Cat tried for Bell 212 (1200) the caller would get that instead of 2400 if they had it, unless they specifically configured their terminal to not connect at any other rate.

Once that was figured out, the modem driver set a value at a memory location, corresponding to the connection rate. The values were $67, $82, $8A, and $E0.

That was so that the BBS software itself could tell the speed that the caller connected at, and even change it. Though changing it was universal. It could hit any speed, it’s real purpose was to allow for the Apple-Cat’s 202 mode to be used during reading messages and downloading from the G-Files section.

For the speed changing part, a second memory location would be set with the connect speed which is the fastest speed available during that session. If the caller was using Cat-Fur as the terminal program, that value would be $82. All the values are here, and their respective baud rates:

Standard Baud Rate Decimal Hex
Bell 103 300 (Full Duplex) 103 $67
Bell 202 1200 (Half Duplex) 202 $82
Bell 212 1200 (Full Duplex) 212 $8A
CCITT v.22 2400 (Full Duplex) 224 $E0

If the connection was Apple-Cat II based, then the BBS software would adjust the speed accordingly, to send data using Bell 202 which was specifically supported by the Apple-Cat II, and very select few other modems, all external. No other internal Apple II compatible modem supported this rate.

The switching was done at the main loop for data to be sent to/from the modem and the speed was changed using an Applesoft Ampersand (&) extension. If data was being sent to the modem, the memory location of the highest speed was checked, if it equaled $82, then a GOSUB loop was called, if data going out, &SPEED=202 : when the data was finished, &SPEED=103.

Could you do &SPEED=224? Sure. Would the connection drop? Sure. Aside from the Apple-Cat II, switching speeds was just not something that was done, not until later on with higher speed modems like the US Robotics Courier, Telebit Trailblazer and Hayes V-Series.

In 1987 I got the US Robotics Courier HST 9600 and for a short time I had the HST on the Apple-Cat’s serial port at 9600, and had the BBS available at baud rates from 300 to 9600. Shortly after the ROM 01 upgrade became available, I switched to ProDOS one night. Did I mention I was one of those die-hard refuse to switch from DOS 3.3 types? So much so that a few of us even considered hacking ProTERM to work under DOS 3.3.

Along with the ProDOS switch meant switching BBS software. Before the custom Apple-Cat supporting BBS software, I was using T-Net BBS, which was compiled with Microsoft TASC. Eventually I had made a T-Net modem driver for the ProDOS version of T-Net BBS that worked very similarly to the previous one, but when the HST 14.4 came, I decided to switch to using the inbuilt IIgs modem port instead of the serial port on the Apple-Cat, and eventually dropped the Apple-Cat from the system all together when I switched BBS software again after that.

The BBS was known as /<-Mart, (The Krack-Force), Project TerraForm, the CPU (Central Phoenix Underground) and the Space Bar, from 1982 through sometime in 2000, when the modem last  answered. It started as a part time BBS, with night time hours in area code 714, which changed soon after to 619, and later on to 760.

loadedgs

The photo above is from 1988-1989 when the BBS was in the 602 area code for about a year, you can see the Courier HST just off to the side. All of that hardware was not hooked up at the absolute same time, but it was all usable. The Sider’s and two Xebec “Trustor” (Thrustors), being SASI were actually all accessible at one time, as they were setup as single ProDOS volumes, and one of them was DOS 3.3. The Corvus OmniDrive was where the BBS software resided, and that was accessible on both IIgs’s, another one was on an adjacent desk out of view.

The Tallgrass DC600 tape drive worked in place of the Sider backup drive, and was used to backup those Siders, and the 8 inch drive had an SVA (Sorrento Valley Associates)  8″ Controller. The Disk II stack was from the original BBS/AE days, and utilized two Rana Systems quad drive controllers, and an additional Disk II card, for a total of three slots.  Whatever hardware was on the BBS storage wise usually stayed with the computer. The beige 800K drive up top actually has the daughter card from a UniDisk 3.5″ stuck to the top of it, and it’s hooked inline with the two AppleDisk 3.5″ drives below.

One of the “annoying” things about the Sider was how you had to setup “all four” common file systems on the drives, and waste “a little” bit of the drive, and also have two ProDOS volumes. Since the Sider was the same system as the Xebec, when Xebec worked to make the whole sub-system cheaper and went on to mass-market it, skipping the whole dealer network and selling direct, that meant that while the Xebec drive had a lot less friendly software, the user had to do math, keeping track of heads/cylinders/blocks and set up the partition map manually, the Sider did all this for you with a graphic interface. You just allocated portions of the drive to each file system, and it set it up for you.

But what if you didn’t want any of that? You wanted the whole thing to be DOS 3.3, or one ProDOS volume?  If you put side 2 of the Sider disk in, and BRUN INSTALL PT#4, and after hitting return, press the ‘R’ key once. When the program loaded, if it found that ‘R’ in the keyboard buffer, it would allow you to manually setup the Sider like the older Xebec drives. You could leave off Pascal, CP/M and do just one single ProDOS volume.

The BBS was in the dinning room of the apartment and it was quite “whiney” in there with all those drives running. The maintenance guy fixing the air conditioner one day commented that “no wonder it broke”, and “this place looks like NORAD”.

The box to the lower left is the Rana Systems 8086. One way to describe it is an “External PC Transporter”, though not nearly as capable, and actually able to be a stand alone PC.  With it’s interface card, it could be used to transfer files between the two operating systems and it’s drives be used for the Apple II.

I still have most of that stuff, and even a couple of Coca-Cola Classic cans. I could probably set up that whole scene again, and take better photos, better than a scanned print from Longs Drug’s Fuji Film Fotolab equipment.

A post on the Facebook Apple II Enthusiasts triggered this as a response, and I decided I’d post it here instead .. as it grew a little long. :)

Until next time .. hopefully with more frequency..

…end Of phile…

Mar 20th

KansasFest After Dark .. A Look back to the Beginnings

For me, half the fun of KFest has always been getting to and from Kansas City. The other half is KFest itself, and the other half is what goes on after the day’s sessions and presentations are over with. Wait, that’s three halves! There can’t be three halves you say? Must be Reaganomics. Anyhow as for getting there,  just hopping on a commercial flight to get there just has never appealed to me.  On the other hand, flying myself there, now that’s a different adventure, for another installment.  Stay tuned for the upcoming A2-Airlines aviation related blog ..

Otherwise, getting to KFest and having access to transportation of your own while on site just makes things all the more interesting. There’s always some form of late night/early morning runs going on. Be it Denny’s, Wal*Mart, Steak ‘n Shake .. but it wasn’t always like that.  In the early years of the A2 Central Summer Developers Conference, when the outings were inbuilt by the event planners, which usually included a visit to Oceans of Fun or a Royal’s home game, a core group of us usually had other ideas … that usually resulted in just us hanging around back at the Halls of Avila and sharing stories. Stories A2 related antics of the 80′s, and such. Like the era of War Dialing to find things to dial into with the modem, or when I was looking for the dial in to the DEC mainframe at my high school because I thought it would be great to be able to do my homework … completely from home :)

Thus began another part of the KFest rituals, the sessions in the Halls, the roaming of rooms, and gatherings on the floors and couches in the commons that would last well into the evening, the night, and the wee hours of the morning. Thus began the Great Experience of Sleep Depravation. Back then vs. now, things were really different in the area. Like how here in California, even in the 80′s, there were ATM’s all over the place. However one day, one of the Apple IIgs System Software engineers attending KansasFest expressed a desire to get some cash from an ATM to buy some hardware and I said, “sure, I can take you … to the mall, where there just has to be an ATM.” We hopped in the car and went a lookin’, and the first place was over to Bannister Mall only to come up empty, and driving around, the few ATMs we did find didn’t share the same ATM network. We visited two malls that day, the other being Blue Ridge Mall, both of which now are long gone.  But all was not lost, eventually a bank was spotted along Holmes Rd at Red Bridge, and we decided to go to the Sun Fresh market that was nearby and on the way in I spotted the typical racks of free periodicals, community newspapers, and such.  One in particular caught my interest ..

Applied Engineering, the long time, fairly popular Apple II peripheral manufacturer  had long matured and in the process of branching out to the Macintosh and Amiga markets to supplement their business, as in 1991 it was fairly obvious that the Apple II marketplace was diminishing, it was not as strong as it used to be just even a year earlier. Applied Engineering was a trend setter, and had been around nearly as long as the Apple II, going on 12 years. Very early AE catalogs and advertisements made it known that they were available to take orders ANYTIME. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They wanted to be sure they caught all those impulse sales opportunities. Something that you wouldn’t see even in the booming x86 and Macintosh markets for years to come. Later on AE settled on 7AM to 11PM, 7 days a week for ordering. Tech support was always available just during the week. AE positioned itself as a staunch Apple II supporter, going so far as to include letters of protest in their products urging Apple II users to boycott AppleFest, and inCider Magazine because they started including Macintosh coverage.

Some people thought there was a bit of irony there because AE themselves marketed Macintosh and Amiga peripherals. But in their open letter to Apple, they clarified that they advertised the Macintosh products in Macintosh venues, Amiga products in Amiga venues and thought that the Apple II’s being pushed aside at regional and national events like AppleFest was not in the best interest to the Apple II platform. Imagine the surprise when AE took the Apple II community by storm when they migrated Apple II tech support to a 900 pay-per-minute service, even for products under warranty as they really made no effort to differentiate. Macintosh and Amiga users could continue to call the same standard 214 area code number.  Of course, this was long distance, but at an average of 1/8th of the price. For a company so dedicated to the Apple II, this certainly was a strange move.

Back to the store visit, and KansasFest, so on the way into the store, the publication that caught my eye was a local singles newspaper entitled AE Singles. The part of it that was amusing was how the cover had ‘AE’ using the same Alpha Epsilon Latin diphthong logo as Applied Engineering, and it was even in purple. So I was like… huh, what the heck is something computer doing in the entry of the grocery store?  But upon  closer examination it wasn’t computer at all. :)

You see, when AE went to the 900 line, 900 lines were popular with, and widely associated with phone sex services. So of course, there were rumors afoot that AE was running a phone sex service after hours on their 900 service. Of course you’d have thought that we could just figure it out by calling it, right? D’oh! But no one wanted to call it and give them any satisfaction of getting any money. So .. the rumors just lived on, and on .. and on.. Besides, it was more fun that way. Just think of the logistics though, someone calling for RAMWorks support .. at a few minutes after and talking about RAM .. um, NOT that kind of RAM.

On the way out of the store I grabbed a thick stack of them. Figured they’d be fun items back at the Halls of Avila. Various KFest 1991 Related Paper items, publications, etc.I wanted to see if the purple AE that dominated the front above the fold would catch anyone else like it did me.. They got passed around for a few hours, every once in a while a new “group” would discover some sitting on the tables in the common area, some thought they were Applied Engineering sales propaganda sitting around. After several hours of that, the group now fairly laid back and relaxed decided to have a little fun at the suggestion of someone from GS+ that thought it would be a fun photo opportunity. As you can see, it certainly was. It ended up on the cover of the next issue with KFest coverage, with a description of “On the Cover – A group of Kansasfest attendees take a look at the latest offerings from AE. From left to right they are: Joe Wankerl, Brian Winn, Nory (in the background), Chris McKinsey, Nate Trost (kneeling), Derek Young, Jim Maricondo, Bill Heineman, and Jason Coleman.” .

..and of course, right here in the General Files section is a scan of the front page from that issue of , you can make your very own if you wish.. and as promised, when I’ve added a few other things to the General Files section, since we’re talking about Applied Engineering, I’ve added an , that has some inserts of early 1984, that quotes the 24/7 ordering ability on several pages, with a Dallas, TX PO Box address, which is different than a similar catalog that only has ordering until 11PM and a Carrolton, TX PO box address. In their first glossy print catalog offered in 1985 is where the familiar 214/241-6060 phone number was cited, though the address was the same PO Box. Another AE document is a  from July 1986

Until next time …

…end Of phile…

 

Mar 6th

The General Files Section

In an ode to the BBS era, the General Files section was where you could find files that were other than programs or graphic images. the Reset Vector’s new General Files section aims to pay tribute to this, and serve as a hub of memories, flashbacks and information for newcomers to the Apple II platform, and other things of the era of the Apple II.

Instead of ASCII text files, in a modern twist, the GFiles section will mostly be PDF, Additions will come periodically, and be whatever shows up in front of the scanner next.  Along with the additions will be a blog entry about the item, it’s use, compatibility, trivia, or whatever relevant information we can present along side the release.

The General Files Section will be a part of the Reset Vector and the content here will be mostly coming from my archives of literature, pamphlets, handouts, documentation, and general paraphernalia of the era, as well as submissions from others. Blog entries will introduce both newly added items and the initially seeded items, both of which will include a little about the items themselves, the manufacture, author, etc.

The organization will be mostly just by manufacture/vendor/author or some easily identifiable mark, and where attributable to an individual, the person’s last name will be the first part of the file names as to provide grouping in the directory listings. The directory listings will be browsable, and some content will be blogged about individually,  others would be compiled in a new post just for the mention of posting.

A little about the compilation, and the site contents.

Of course the idea is to disseminate information to the masses for preservation, and of course there are those who feel that they just have to download everything. That’s fine. I’m even guilty of that. Of course, resistance is futile. I’d spend more than an average lifetime of hours tracking stuff down and policing it. It’s just not worth the hassle. If something has attributions to it’s source, creator, author or such, please leave these attributions in place and reference them in a like manner where the items are placed. Therefore, where applicable among this collection, the compilation, descriptions, presentation is being released under a Creative Commons Attribution – Non-Commmercial, No Derivatives License.

Of course I retain all rights to my created content.

…end Of phile…
Creative Commons License
The Reset Vector General Files Section by Tony Diaz (tdiaz(-at-)apple2()org) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.