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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 8th

the Albert Computer, a unique Apple II Clone

The Albert Computer Company in Thousand Oaks, California saw a good thing and tried to ride the wave, and make it better. Unfortunately for them, they probably did too good of a job and that got them a little too much attention. Apple Computer, Inc. came down hard on them and it didn’t last long. Their goal out the door was to offer a complete system for just a little over what the basic Apple //e cost. While a bare-bones Apple //e included just upper/lower case and 64K, over what the Apple II Plus shipped with, the Albert Computer included that and a whole host of other things.

With a feature set that includes serial and parallel ports, an A to D converter, useful to scientists and hardware hobbyists. Enhanced graphics modes and Analog RGB support right out of the box,  and an AppleWorks-featureset like package, all for just $1,595.00, they clearly were aiming for the heart of the consumer. For just $50 more you could even get a battery backup option that integrated with the computer. If you were using the A to D capabilities for an alarm system, you would not be unprotected during a power outage.

Albert Computer said theirs was not a copy, but an improvement. The courts on the other hand, were not convinced and they ended up retreating. Despite their soft-boot method, perhaps they were just a few years too early as Video Technology (Laser Computer) managed to finally figure out how to do it and launch a product a year later.

No extra cards to buy! With the most commonly needed cards inbuilt, purchase decisions were easy. Just pick your choice of printer and head for home! Voice Recognition? Albert’s got it! Your wish is my command. Just say it and it’s done. As long as your name isn’t Dave .. they claimed that it even could be configured to work with only certain voices. Turn on the lights, turn off the TV.

Digitized audio in 1983, for the masses? Surely, you can’t be serious. Right? If anyone ever told you back then, that you’d be playing with 5 second pieces of sound from various movies you’d probably have laughed, and imagined yourself still laughing about it years into the future. Well? … think about some of those system alert sounds, ring tones and such that we’ve been hearing for many years now. I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.

The Albert Computer has inbuilt graphics features that it took Apple another two years to offer with the Apple IIgs. Instead of the 16 color option that the Apple II has, the Albert Computer offered 256 colors and color worked across text and graphics modes combined. Something that no other Apple II offered until the IIgs, and that isn’t quite the same. Sounds great doesn’t it? ..and probably looks great too, if only .. but wait. The Albert Computer also included an RGB interface.  Similar to the inbuilt graphics display capabilities of the Apple ///, the standard configuration included Analog RGB support for a 140 x 192 pixel display. The Apple //e has double high-res, at 280 x 192, and at a premium price as the Apple Extended 80 Column RGB card and AppleColor 100 monitor were a pretty penny back in the day.

The other unique feature included with the Albert Computer was a graphics digitizer tablet, much like a CAD (Computer Assisted Design) operator would use, but included with the base package, again ready to go when you get home.

Some years ago I came across one of these systems in a thrift store. What caught my eye was the disk drive unit. I recognized the Super 5 logo, but it was green instead of red, and when I picked up the unit  I saw ribbon cables hanging out of it. “Neat, a dual drive cabinet”.. here in the thrift store. Then I saw the other two pieces that were the same color and realized it was a set, as the price tag was marked “X3″ which meant there’s there pieces to this set. So I put them all in the cart.

It did not have a power supply, and I’ve never tried to do anything else with it all these years. The computer was designed to use a DC power supply, presumably as it was simpler to make a world-compatible product by just substituting the proper wall-wart style brick.

When I went to the Apple II Enthusiasts group on Facebook to post the announcement of the opening of the General Files section, I saw a blurb asking about the Albert Computer, and said “I have one of those… ” and got it out yesterday and took some pictures. I’m not exactly sure which model it is, they’re not really labeled. I knew it needed a pre-boot floppy, and since I didn’t find any in the thrift store with it, and I scoured the place, the book shelves, and such for any more stuff that might have gotten separated from it. Floppy disks were not an uncommon sight at this particular store, either. So it wouldn’t have been out of place. You just had to sort through them like records, books and tapes, and they were sold for a quarter each, or a fistful for a sawbuck.

So, here it is.. if the disk is around, I’ll setup a switching power supply for the unit, as I’ve heard that using the OEM power board isn’t a good idea :)

The photos are among the first to be added to the Reset Vector Retro-computing Image Gallery, and there will be plenty more coming. They can be found under the Apple II – A2 Clones sub-heading.

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.

Feb 28th

A belated … Happy II Year!

2012 already gives me the feeling of it’s not slowing down for the Apple II. 34 years after the it was introduced, rose to a market leader, and returned to the hobbyist market that started it. 12,686 days.

34 Years, 8 months and 23 days.

A lot has come and gone, and a lot is still with us in little ways we might not even realize. The Apple II set the standards for a lot of the personal computing industry as we know it today.

Trade shows, publications, user groups.. and more. Almost everything has a following. People have interests in all kinds of things. From Elevators to Exhaust systems. YouTube is loaded with shorts on these two subjects. Seems that people even collect wheeled trash carts and can tell you all kinds of stuff, what city used this kind first, and seek to collect them, even repair/refurbish them, and get a thrill out of seeing them getting tipped. (As in the truck picking them up and dumping the contents into itself.)

..and people think computer collectors, hobbyists and historians are nuts? Whatever. That’s right, whatever it is, someone probably collects it, tracks it’s existence and can tell you exactly what they were doing when each variation was released, even if it’s not standing in a line waiting for one themselves.

Welcome to the ResetVector.com, and what I hope becomes a periodic blog of technology now, and then, and what ties it together.

Got a request of an A2 related topic to cover, a correction to something you see here, or .. something that you just can’t stand?  Use the contact form to let me know!

Until the next post…

Apr 26th

A loss, at an unexpected time.

I guess there’s a reason why Monday’s tend to suck. Finding out someone you know passed on, on a Monday morning, probably doesn’t help.  It had been a while since Ryan dropped into IRC on the Apple II side of things, but during the tsunami warning for Oahu that resulted from the Japanese earthquake disaster, he did drop in to let everyone know their status.  I remember one July late night waiting for Ryan to arrive from Hawaii, only to get a call from Union Station L.A., “there is no train, they said the next one won’t be for a couple hours, and I have hardly any battery left, and the cleaning lady gave me crap about plugging in.”  I would have gone in the airplane to get him like I did in a previous year, except that transit between LAX and Union Station had quit for the night, too. The alternative was a rip off cab ride from hell, probably. I told him to stay there. I’ll be there in an hour. At 1AM it was pretty quick to get there.

Ryan had been into a lot of things, over the years of telling stories on bicycle adventures, and rocky trails, and the like back in the days of GEnie A2, way before the Yovelle Renaissance purchase, (or as we used to call ‘it, ‘Yowreckum’), and later IDT takeover. He’d come in and tell how he nearly rode of the side of a cliff or some other harrowing hair raising adventure. I always figured that would be his end, someday we’d come into A2 and hear about how he’d gone missing.

It’s 2011, and .. well, no bike, just a morning hike.  Rest in Peace, Ryan.

When I looked at the IRC session, I had to scroll back a little after reading a few lines. just to make sure I wasn’t reading what I think I was reading, and .. in a parody of your immortal words. “This Sucks!”

You were and inspiration, and this morning I’ve realized that even more than ever.

http://www.hawaiiweblog.com/2011/04/24/ryan-suenaga

The first podcast will be dedicated to you.

Aug 22nd

An excerpt from Apple2.info …

The 1st Post Place Holder -

Not trying to steal any thunder, I think Ben Heckendorn’s portable IIgs definitely raises the bar. No questions there. But.. if there had been an Engadget in the days of GHB’s loosing election for a second term, I think I would have been there with it. It’s really hard to believe it’s been that long. But the first portable IIgs I built using an Otrona luggable CP/M machine as the case made it’s debut at the Apple Expo East, at The Castle Expo Center, Boston, on Oct 2nd, 1992. Just weeks before the national elections. What made that event memorable was in the very same hotel that the Apple Expo was based out of, was right across the street from some high level Republican convention in Boston the same week and the hotel was busy giving all our rooms out to higher paying reporters and the like. GWB was on site while the Apple Expo East was going on. The SS was all over the rooftops, we were looking out a window from the 8th floor when our phone rang, “Close the Window”, they said. Diz and Burger Bill were in the room with us. We decided to walk to China Town, and while making our way through the protesters that had gathered at the base of the two hotels, we all started chanting “Apple II Forever!”. Why not, everyone else there had a cause and since national TV was near, why not. A few of us even had some signs. When we opened the window, a portion of the crowd was singing, “Na-na na-na.. hey-hey.. good-bye ..” and “six more weeks! six more weeks!” But anyway, as I prepared the day and evening before my flight from Carlsbad, CA to LAX and then to BOS, I was doing final preparation on the Apple IIgs Portable, tweaking the amber monitor just ever so much to get the perfect picture. My flight from Carlsbad was a very short one, the IIgs fit just perfectly on the belt and they were definitely curious.. of course, it was carry-on. At LAX I had about a 3 hour wait for the flight east. I practiced the now modern day activity of seeking out a spot near an electrical outlet. It wasn’t hard back then. Hardly anyone travelled with anything that needed plugging in.. except me. I had been known to sit on the floor in a terminal during long layovers with an entire IIgs system plugged in.

Anyhow, there I am sitting with the IIgs Portable, I’m playing the IIgs version of Ultima I on it… a massive crowd goes past and I hear this voice, “hey, thats Burger Bill’s Ultima I for the IIgs!” and see a hand waiving from the crowd..

At the Expo, the Macintosh version of Lemmings was released, and they were there at the Expo with it. I had appropriated some of their marketing materials and positioned them at my Apple II booth with added captions, “port us to the IIgs”, and the like. I still have those items, and at one time I presented some of them to the Brutal Deluxe folks some years later during one of their visits to California.